Edward Bertrand Sawyer of Hyde Park, son of Joshua and Mary (Keeler) Sawyer, was born in Hyde Park, April 16, 1828. His education was obtained in public and private schools, to some extent under the care of a tutor, and during one term at the People’s Academy. His father was his first instructor in the law, the study of which he commenced at eighteen years of age, reading also in the office of Hon. W. W. White, then of Johnson. Appreciating the defects of his early schooling, he adopted a system of self-education, taking Fowler’s “Self Education, Complete” for a guide and Benjamin Franklin for his model.
Three years of his early life he spent with a brother who was engaged in trade in the Province of Quebec, and while with him he received a somewhat varied business training, but he had a fixed inclination to the practice of the law, and after the preparatory study above referred to, was admitted to the bar of Lamoille county, at the June term of 1849, and immediately commenced to practice with his father. The same year he was appointed clerk of the court, which office he held, with the exception of two years, until September, 1861, when he resigned to enlist for the war. He again held this appointment from 1868 to 1875, when he a second time resigned, and since then has continued in the practice of his profession.
In 1865 he interested himself in the artificial breeding of trout, and was probably the first man in the state to engage in this enterprise. Two years after he abandoned this undertaking, to purchase the Lamoille Newsdealer, a paper which he revivified and edited for three years, devoting a large share of its columns to the advocacy of the Portland & Ogdensburg R. R. In 1870 he sold this journal and varied his experience by becoming the proprietor of the American Hotel, and after seven years’ management of this concern, retired to resume his professional labors, and since 1877 has given these his exclusive attention.
Mr. Sawyer devoted all his time from the beginning to the end of the war to the service of his country. He enlisted Sept. 14, 1861, having first raised and organized Co. D, 5th Vt. Regt., and raised Co. I, 1st Vt. Cavalry. Upon the organization of this body he was unanimously elected captain, and in the retreat of General Banks down the Shenandoah Valley received a severe injury by a fall off his horse. Having been previously promoted to major, though disabled, he did not suffer his energy to remain idle, but recruited two hundred men for the regiment at large, and in addition organized Co. L and Co. M, forming the sixth squadron of the regiment, of which he was colonel, when not in charge of a brigade or detached on special service, until he resigned. He was placed in the command of the 2d brigade of Kilpatrick’s division when that general made his raid upon Richmond, and upon that occasion and many others was complimented for his efficient services by his superior officers, though no record can be found of his asking for promotion. In September, 1863, he was wounded in the cheek by a rebel sharpshooter, and though in no great battles during the war was more than forty times under fire. Colonel Sawyer organized and was the first commander of Aaron Keeler Post, G. A. R., which was named in honor of his maternal grandfather, a veteran of the American Revolution.
Colonel Sawyer was married in June, 1849, to Susan Almira, daughter of Hon. Isaac and Dorcas (Titus) Pennock. Of this marriage four children were issue: Myra Ellen (Mrs. F. N. Keeler), Edward B., Mattie Helen, and Bertha Mary (deceased). In August, 1866, he wedded Helen M. Pennock, the sister of his first wife, by whom he had: Alma Dorcas, Clarence Parsons, and Lucy Etta.
Colonel Sawyer came from old Federal and whig stock, and sang Harrison songs in the political campaign of 1840. He was in the convention which instituted the Republican party in Vermont, and in that of 1856, which nominated Ryland Fletcher for Governor of the state. He advocated Fremont’s election, and spoke in his favor in every town in the county. An incident which fell under his observation during his residence in Canada, attracted his attention to the subject of American slavery, and he became a most bitter opponent of that institution. He was privileged to hear some of the joint debates of Douglas and Lincoln, and ever after remained an enthusiastic admirer of the latter. He was the junior member and secretary of the Vermont delegation to the national convention of 1860, and an uncompromising advocate of Mr. Lincoln’s nomination. He represented Hyde Park in the Constitutional Convention of 1870, and favored the change to the biennial session. He is now a firm believer in the theory that law, and law only, makes money, and that the government can make a dollar out of any material.