William H. Sawyers

Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Valerie & Tommy Crook
July 23, 2000

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 602-603

WILLIAM H. SAWYERS. In the thirtieth consecutive year
of his law practice at Hinton William H. Sawyers has
accumulated achievements not only in his profession but
in business affairs and politics, and is easily one of the
most influential men in his section of the state. He
was admitted to the bar at Hinton May 6, 1893, by Judges
A. N. Campbell and Homer G. Holt of the Supreme Court
of Appeals and Judge Frank A. Guthrie of the Kanawha

The old Norman French way of spelling the name was
Sawtiers. In France they were Catholics, but became con-
verted to the protestant faith through the reading of
protestant literature, and they suffered exile to England.
There is record of John Hacker, age seventeen, William
Sawyers, age eighteen, and Robert Sheppeard, age twenty,
who ran away from England and came to America in 1608
in Ye Hopewell, T. Babb was Master. These useful
immigrants settled at “James Citty” in the Virginia
colony, and it is from William Sawyers that the present
branch of the family is descended.

Sampson M. Sawyers, great-grandfather of the Hinton
lawyer, served seven years in the American Army during
the war for independence. He was under General Wash-
ington. His half brother, William Sawyers, was a participant
in the battle of Point Pleasant on the western side of the
Alleghany Mountains in October, 1774. The grandfather of
William H. Sawyers was Alexander Sawyers, who was a
soldier in the battle of New Orleans under Jackson at the
close of the War of 1812.

Joseph A. Sawyers, father of the lawyer, was born in
Alleghany County, Virginia, in 1840, and was a soldier in
the Confederate Army in the artillery branch under Gen.
George Carter. For a time he was under the command of
Stonewall Jackson, and was in General Lee’s army at
Appomattox. He went through thirty-six major engage-
ments and was once slightly wounded. He was a non-com-
missioned officer. After the war and for many years he was
a prosperous farmer in Greenbrier County, West Virginia,
always voted for and supported the democratic ticket, and
was a member of the Methodist Church. He died December
11, 1916. Joseph A. Sawyers married Cornelia V. Doss,
a native of Franklin County, Virginia, and now living at
the old Sawyers homestead in Greenbrier County. She
was born in 1846, and all her married life has been spent
in Greenbrier County. Her three sons are: William H.;
Augustus, a farmer at the old homestead in Greenbrier
County; and James L., a traveling salesman for Lewis
Hubbard & Company of Charleston, living at Alderson.

These sons finished their education in the home schools
and in the Concord Normal School at Athens. William H.
Sawyers graduated from the Concord Normal on July
2, 1891. Before he became a lawyer he taught seven
terms of school, and at one time was principal of the
Hinton High School. He completed his law course in West
Virginia University at Morgantown in 1894, and he also
attended the Columbian University at Washington during
1899-1900, while employed in the Department of the In-
terior. He also was a student a portion of two years in
the International School of Law and Diplomacy, whose
Dean was Oliver W. Needham and whose staff of instructors
and lecturers included Associate Justices Harlan, Brewer,
Gray and John W. Poster.

After his admission to the bar Mr. Sawyers began
practice at Hinton, and his law business has brought him
before all the courts, including the Local and Circuit
Courts of his home state, and the Federal Courts of Rich-
mond and Charleston. He has served a number of business
interests and corporations as attorney and in other
capacities, and has helped organize several banks. He has
been secretary and attorney of record for three coal corpora-
tions, the Piney Coal & Coke Land Company, the McCreery
Central Pocahontas Coal Land Company, and the James
T. McCreery Company.

While a successful attorney without any financial interests
in politics, Mr. Sawyers has given much of his time to
public duty. He has served as mayor of Hinton, was police
judge nine years, president of the Board of Education
eight years, and as democratic nominee for the office of
attorney general of the state in 1916 he came nearer to
being elected than any democratic nominee for a number
of years. He has been a delegate to every state conven-
tion of his party since 1892, and was a member of the
Democratic State Executive Committee for twenty-six years.
Mr. Sawyers was editor of the Independent Herald of
Hinton from 1895 to 1911, and individually owned the
newspaper and plant from 1901 to 1911. His editorials,
which were widely copies, were models of a fine literary
style, and were equally accepted whether in the field of
political argument or in humorous comment on affairs.

In 1907 Mr. Sawyers married Josephine McCreery,
daughter of J. T. McCreery. They have two children,
Frederick W. and Thomas M. Mr. Sawyers is a Presbyterian,
is a Lodge, Chapter and Knight Templar Mason, a member
of Wheeling Consistory of the Scottish Rite, Beni-Kedem
Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Charleston and is also
affiliated with the Elks and Independent Order of Odd