Biography of Charles Manville Sawyer

Charles Manville Sawyer, chairman of the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank at Kansas City, Missouri, began his banking career in Kansas and is perhaps as widely known over the state as any one banker. The Federal Reserve Bank at Kansas City, Missouri, serves the district comprising the states of Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and the greater part of Oklahoma, and portions of Missouri and New Mexico.

Mr. Sawyer was born on a farm near Streator, Illinois. His is an old American family and some of his ancestors fought as officers in the revolutionary war. His parents were Lewis M. and Salanda (Moon) Sawyer, the former a native of New York and the latter of Illinois. They were the parents of eight children. Lewis M. Sawyer had come to Illinois in 1842 and for many years was a successful farmer, stock raiser and also interested in several banks. He retired from active business in 1898 and moved to Evanston, Illinois, in which handsome city he still resided at the age of eighty. His wife died January 19, 1915. Lewis M. Sawyer while living at Streator took an interest in republican politics and served as a member of both the House of Representatives and the Senate of Illinois.

His father being a man of considerable wealth for the time and of substantial social position, Charles Manville Sawyer had excellent opportunities during his boyhood. However, he was the only one of his parents’ children who did not go to college. He contented himself with the district schools and the high school of Streator. He lived on a farm in 1885-86 and in the spring of 1887, through the influence of his brother-in-law, Mr. E. E. Ames, afterwards prominent in Kansas, came out to this state and located at Norton. Norton, then a frontier town along the line of the Rock Island Railroad in the northwest part of the state, was just rising to importance as the center of a rapidly settling district. Charles M. Sawyer was just twenty-one years of age, but soon justified the confidence of the directors who made him cashier of the First National Bank of Norton. He filled that post until July, 1893, and during that period he gained a wide acquaintance with the people of Northwestern Kansas and came in touch with the early settlers during the series of hard years which beset them. In July, 1893, Mr. Sawyer was appointed a national bank examiner. That position gave him exceptional opportunities for acquaintance and association with bankers all over the state, and he continued the work until 1897, when he resigned to return to Norton and become president of the First National Bank. He was called from that position by Governor Hodges in 1913, and appointed bank commissioner of the state. In 1914 he was elected a governor of the Federal Reserve Bank at Kansas City, Missouri, and in 1916 became chairman of the board.

As an associate of Mr. E. E. Ames Mr. Sawyer had been identified with the management and control of a number of banks in Northwest Kansas. He was a member of the executive council of the American Bankers’ Association from 1903 to 1906 and again in a similar position from 1908 to 1911. In 1898 Mr. Sawyer was honored by election to the office of president of the Kansas Bankers’ Association.

In politics he is a democrat, and was a delegate at large to the Democratic National Convention at Denver in 1908, and was also a member of the convention of 1912 at Baltimore.

On May 22, 1889, Mr. Sawyer married May Holmes. She was born at Streator, Illinois, daughter of Frank Holmes, the first merchant of that city. Mr. and Mrs. Sawyer have four children. Lewis M., Jr., is a graduate of the University of Kansas and the Yale University Law School, and since March, 1915, had been a state bank examiner of Kansas. Margaret, Frances and Catherine are Mr. Sawyer’s daughters. Frances is now a student in the Kansas University, while Catherine is attending Miss Barstow’s School.

Fraternally Mr. Sawyer is a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason, a member of the Mystic Shrine at Salina, and also belongs to the Modern Woodmen of America, the Blue Hills Country Club, Knife and Fork Club, Mid-Day Club, Bankers’ and Automobile clubs of Kansas City, Missouri. Mrs. Sawyer is a member of the Episcopal Church.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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