Keeping Up With the Sawyers Chapter 2 Congressional Colleagues

Keeping Up With the Sawyers

An inside look at the Sawyer family, former residents of the home now used as the Museum

By: Ginny Gross

Chapter 2:  Congressional Colleagues

During his years in the US Senate (1881 – 1893), Philetus Sawyer had Oshkosh colleagues in the House of Representatives. Richard W. Guenther, the German-born pharmacist, and fellow Republican served from 1881 to 1889, and Lucas M. Miller, a Democrat who was born in Greece, served from 1891 to 1893. Like Philetus, these men left indelible marks on Oshkosh. The Guenther home, built-in 1888, still stands today at the corner of Hazel and Washington. In 1890 the Miller homestead on Lake Winnebago was sold to the city to form the nucleus of Menominee Park.

In the Senate, many associates of Philetus were like him: wealthy, self-made men who profited greatly from wise investments in the developing nation. James G. Fair, representing Nevada, held interests in silver, real estate, and railroads. Leland Stanford of California made his fortune building and running railroads. Stanford shared thin Wisconsin roots with Philetus, as both men came here from New York around 1847. Before heading to California in 1852, Stanford practiced law in Port Washington.

Horace Tabor of Colorado was also a Senate colleague of Philetus for a very short time. Tabor, the silver king of Leadville, became well known in Oshkosh when he married Elizabeth “Baby Doe” McCourt in 1883. Guests at the wedding included President Chester A. Arthur and Senator Sawyer. 

Senators, especially wealthy ones, were fair game for a syndicated newspaper column called “Washington Gossip.” In 1891 Stanford and Sawyer were observed on the senate floor hunting on hands and knees for a lost nickel, complete with accompanying illustration. The point was made, however, that they were not searching as frantic misers, but as men who knew that nickels and dimes eventually turned into dollars.[1]

In the next chapter: A Weighty Topic

[1] Evening Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, February 4, 1891, p. 3

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