Jonathan Sawyer was immortalized by James Joyce in his nonsensical work, Finnegan's Wake. But to those of us who live in Dublin, Georgia, Jonathan Sawyer is our founding father. Little has been written about the man. And, some of that has been woefully misprinted. Just about two hundred years ago, the tiny post office of Dublin, Georgia was established by its first postmaster and the founder of Dublin, Jonathan Sawyer.
Although for a century Sawyer has been called an Irishman, he was in fact a Massachusetts Yankee. Born around the time of the American Revolution in Westminster, Massachusetts, Jonathan Sawyer came to the capital city of Louisville, Georgia in the early 1800s to seek and find his fortune. Sawyer went into business with his brother-in-law, David McCormick, son of Dr. James McCormick. With no fortune in sight, Sawyer decided instead to try his hand in the genesis of a new town.
He settled at a place called "Sand Bar" on the banks of the Oconee River where an old Indian trail crossed. Sawyer was granted a license by the Inferior Court of Laurens County to sell spiritous liquors during its August 1809 term. At the time, the county seat of Laurens County was at Sumpterville, some five miles inland to the west. But Sawyer knew that sooner or later, the center of the county would need to be moved to the banks of the Oconee River.
Jonathan Sawyer married Elizabeth McCormick. Elizabeth McCormick was not a native of Ireland, but of Baltimore, Maryland. Her granddaughter, Ann Eliza Oakley, reported that her grandmother Sawyer had once taken a trip to Dublin, Ireland to visit the land of her ancestors. Oakley said, "They loved at first sight and were soon married. He built the first house in Dublin." For centuries, those who knew Mr. Sawyer wasn't Irish, believed in their hearts that Mrs. Sawyer was from the land of shamrocks and leprechauns. Mrs. Oakley, during an extended visit to Dublin in 1908, once and for all confirmed that the founder of Dublin was not Peter Sawyer, but indeed Jonathan Sawyer.
The Sawyers had three children, two boys and a girl, none of whose names have survived the sands of time. Sometime about the early part of the year 1810, Elizabeth Sawyer died during the birth of her daughter.
No trace of Elizabeth Sawyer's ground could be found on her granddaugther's visit in 1905. It could be presumed that she was buried near the Sawyer home or perhaps in the city cemetery on the northwestern corner of the town, just inside the front gate.
The Sawyers had a close family relationship with Laurens County's most preeminent citizen, Gov. George Troup. The former United States senator and congressman married Anne St. Claire McCormick, a sister of Mrs. Sawyer. Hessie McCormick, another sister, married James Jackson, who moved to Gainesville and later Alabama, where he served as a college president. Brother David McCormick lived in the Dublin area before removing elsewhere. His son, Pollard McCormick became a millionaire in the iron business in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In his correspondence with the editors of the Dublin Times, T.F. Sawyer, of Hutchinson, Kansas, related the stories of his father, the only surviving child of Jonathan and Elizabeth Sawyer. Ironically, the Sawyer's son's name is never mentioned. Sawyer said, "My grandfather would send a Negro after my father on Saturdays or at the end of each month, riding one horse and leading another, and some times during vacations how he would run away from his home, or from his uncles, with the young Negro boys and spend weeks at neighboring plantation." He concluded the story by saying "Then a Negro would come and capture him and take him on the horse behind him and he would pull the servant's wool and scratch his face; thence when he got home, I remember he said Uncle Jackson made him thrash the young colored boys who had been with him telling him to put it on harder, what he did not give, then he (Jackson) would have to give his father and usually gave him more than he gave his companions."
On another occasion, Jonathan Sawyer and his son were out for a pleasure ride on horseback and met the rival merchant from up or down the river who was desirous of settling a little matter with the Dublin founder. The other man told him to get off his horse and would take it out of his hide. Young Sawyer began to cry. The six-foot, two-fisted New Englander dismounted, handed the lines to the young Sawyer, and commenced business. Sawyer took the man's pistols away from him and got full satisfaction as they left him lying by the side of the road. As the Sawyers approached the nearest plantation and requested the neighbors to go and gather him up and revive him, the young boy was still crying.
It has been written by some that Jonathan Sawyer gave the land for the Laurens County courthouse and the town of Dublin. In reality, the 101.5-acre half land lot where the city of Dublin originated was sold to the commissioners of the public buildings Laurens County by Joseph L. Hill on March 11, 1811 for the nominal sum of $100.00. Sawyer bought the other half of the lot from Hill on the same day for $200.00.
Sawyer accumulated nearly a thousand acres on the west side of the river in and around Dublin and nearly an equal amount on the eastern side. At one time, Sawyer owned lands at Fish Trap Cut, which he sold later sold to his brother-in-law George M. Troup.
The financial troubles which plagued Jonathan Sawyer from his founding of Dublin culminated in 1817. Sawyer removed himself and his family to the port city of Darien in southeastern Georgia. Sawyer caused a notice to be published in the Georgia Journal that he was currently engaged in the factoring and commission business in Darien in the late fall of 1817. Sawyer later joined forces with the firm of T. Herring, which was based in New York City.
Sawyer was elected in 1821 as Clerk of the McIntosh County Court of Ordinary and served as many as three terms in a position which involved the issuance of marriage licenses and the administration of estates.
Jonathan Sawyer, the man who named our home, died in February 1847 in Anderson Courthouse, South Carolina. This once active and successful man simply faded away.
The date of the establishment of the post office of Dublin occurred between April 25 and May 6, 1811. No one knows for sure. However, Friday marks the first written record of the post office of Dublin, Georgia, which would not officially become a town until December 1812. So now you know that Dublin, the name sake of the heart of all Irish folk around the world, was not founded by an Irishman but by a New England Yankee, who loved his wife so much that he gave us our most wonderful name of Dublin, which by the way in ancient Gaelic "An Dubh Linn," which means "black pond" or "black pool."