GERNARD W. SAWYER is one of the better known members of the Western Kansas bar, and has been practicing law at Liberal for about ten years. Mr. Sawyer is not yet forty years of age, and yet life has brought him abundance of experience such as seldom comes to the individual of twice those years.
He was born near Plainfield, Indiana, May 11, 1879, and is of that good and honorable lineage which is associated with people of Quaker religion and ancestry. He was only six years of age when the death of his father deprived the little family of the normal means of support, and the widowed mother was left alone with her one son and two daughters. The father, Theodore K. Sawyer, was born near Monrovia, Indiana, and grew up on a farm, was a country school teacher, and later was a traveling salesman for a mercantile firm of St. Joseph, Missouri. He was only twenty-nine when he died. He married Sarah Ruth Hadley, daughter of Zimri and Loretha (Brown) Hadley, who came to Indiana from Ohio and more remotely from Pennsylvania. The Hadleys were of Quaker stock. Mrs. Sarah Sawyer is still living, making her home with a married daughter in Oklahoma City. Her two daughters are Essie and Arminta. Essie is now Mrs. Ernest MacDougal, of Myton, Utah. Arminta is Mrs. George J. Hickox, of Oklahoma City. Mr. Gernard W. Sawyer as a youth and young man helped defray the expenses of the education of both his sisters, and that was only one of the many responsibilities he assumed at an age when most boys have much to do to look out for themselves alone.
Mr. Sawyer lived on a farm in Indiana with his grandfather and uncle until he was twelve years of age. He then entered the public schools of the Town of Plainfield, and after one year in the high school became a student in Central Academy, a Quaker institution, from which he graduated at the age of eighteen. He was not supplied with abundant means while in school, and in fact had to work all the time he was a student at other things than his books and the regular curriculum. While in school he made his home with Dr. Jesse Reagan and in summer vacations he worked in harvest fields, clerked in stores, learned the tinner's trade and had other employment that rounded out his experience and brought him such a varied knowledge of men and things.
In June, 1898, at the age of eighteen, Mr. Sawyer left Indiana and started his career among strangers. He went to Perry, Oklahoma, which was still a comparatively new and frontier district. His intention in going there was to teach school. During the summer while getting acquainted he worked with a threshing outfit, and in the fall took an examination and was granted a two year certificate. He taught his first school at Compton, Oklahoma, and he made himself so indispensable to that community that he was also assigned the duties of postmaster, worked in a country store mornings and evenings and Saturdays, and occasionally freighted some goods from Perry to Compton during the winter. After this busy experience, in the spring of 1899, at the close of his term of school, he entered the Normal and Business College at Chillicothe, Missouri, where he reviewed part of the work of the teacher's course and graduated in shorthand and typewriting. This technical equipment and proficiency he used when he returned to Oklahoma in the fall of that year to secure a position in the law office of Hon. Dick T. Morgan, one of Oklahoma's present delegation in Congress. He worked as a stenographer in Morgan's office at Perry and was with that eminent Oklahoman for six years. At the same time he diligently read law and especially familiarized himself with those branches of legal knowledge that were chiefly required for the practice of law in the territory of Oklahoma. He was admitted to practice before the Department of the Interior in the territorial courts and also passed a government examination as law clerk. When Mr. Morgan went to El Reno to open booths for land registration at the Kiowa Comanche opening, Mr. Sawyer accompanied him and had charge of one of the several booths fixed for that purpose. He remained in El Reno until 1903, when he was offered a better position by the McAlister Fuel Company, becoming their employe under their general sales agent J. G. Puterbaugh, as his general stenographer and office man. He was there a year when he was offered and accepted a position as contest clerk through the influence of Mr. Morgan, who in the meantime had become register of the United States Land Office at Woodward, Oklahoma. On this recommendation Mr. Sawyer was appointed contest clerk by the secretary of the interior, and began his duties in January, 1905. He filled that position until Oklahoma was granted statehood and resigned in September, 1906. During his service in the land office he gained perfect familiarity with the routine work and practice of the local United States Land Office, and familiarized himself with the United States homestead, mining and townsite laws. The passage of the Oklahoma Enabling Act, turning the balance of the vacant lands in that district over to the state for school purposes, practically put an end to further entries of public lands and relieved Mr. Sawyer of the duties and responsibilities of his office. At this juncture he therefore sought an opportunity for the practice of the legal knowledge he had been acquiring during the previous seven or eight years.
Thus in the spring of 1907 he came to Liberal, Kansas, and looked about with a view to locating here for professional work. In October of that year he moved his family to Liberal, and from that time until January, 1911, was employed in the office of Judge Grinstead. During these years he was actively engaged in land law practice and was furthermore preparing himself for admission to the bar in Kansas. He was admitted January 19, 1911, by the State Examining Board, and at that time he selected his law offices in Liberal from the blue prints of the building in which he has since had his office.
About that time Mr. Sawyer brought a contest on a tract of land in Beaver County, Oklahoma, which had been fraudulently entered, and he took his family to this land to insure his legal rights, and for two years his farm was his legal home, from which he went back and forth daily to his law office in Liberal. He finally proved up the claim by commuting and then sold it and since 1913 Liberal has been his legal place of residence as well as the center of his law practice. Mr. Sawyer now has a general law practice, and has a clientele from all over Western Kansas and parts of Oklahoma. He practices frequently before the State Supreme Court.
Mr. Sawyer in recent years has had no share in politics as a matter of his individual distinction or honor, and works only for the benefit of good government and his friends. Some years ago he declined the appointment of private secretary to Congressman Morgan in order that he might give himself unreservedly to his work as a lawyer at Liberal. He was reared in the republican faith, cast his first presidential vote for President Taft in 1908 and has remained steadfast in that party affiliation through all the differences and schisms of recent years. He is a past chancellor of the Knights of Pythias, is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and was reared in the Friends Church. He has been one of the most active in promoting civic improvement in and around Liberal. He has been identified with the Commercial Club of the town, and Governor Capper appointed him a delegate to the National and State Council of Defense. He is one of the legal advisers of the local board of registration.
At Oklahoma City April 18, 1903, Mr. Sawyer married Miss Blanche Bradford, daughter of Isaac and Charity (Mills) Bradford of Bridgeport, Indiana. Mrs. Sawyer has a brother, Clifford C. Bradford, of Elkhart, Kansas. Mr. and Mrs. Sawyer have a little family of four children, Clifford C., Gernard Hilden, Don Kenneth and Carl Wyman. Clifford C. graduated from the Liberal grade schools at the age of fourteen.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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