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From Proceedings, Page 1877-279:

On the evening of the 3d day of the present month, in the Asylum of the Springfield Commandery of Knights Templars, while in the act of clothing himself in the regalia of his office, preparatory to being installed as Eminent Commander of that body, and in the presence of a large number of his Brethren, William J. Sawin, an honored Past Grand Warden of this Grand Lodge, was stricken down by apoplexy, and died instantty. In the full vigor and power of manhood, and in the midst of his earthly activities and usefulness, he was called to a higher life. When he died Freemasonry lost a true and faithful friend and enthusiastic supporter. Young as he was, he had not seen so much of Masonic experience, nor been so prominent a figure in our Councils, as some of the gray-haired and venerable members of this Body here present, nor as some of those who have passed before us to that 'bourne from which no traveller returns'; but, short as was his Masonic career it was rich in varied acts of usefulness to the Craft, and the upbuilding of our Order.

His loss is deeply felt and deplored by the Masons of the western part of our State, and will be keenly felt and mourned by those who were wont to meet him in this hall at the meetings of the Grand Lodge. Dr. William J. Sawin was born at Hancock, N.H., on the 8th day of August, 1833, being just past his fortyfourth birthday at the time of his death. He studied medicine at Northfield, Vt., graduating from the medical department of Dartmouth College in 1854; he began the practice of his profession at Watertown, Wisconsin, in the same year, where he .remained until 1861, removing to Chicopee Falls, Mass., in March of the same year. In the following June he enlisted as a private soldier in the Tenth Massachusetts Regiment, then being raised for the suppression of the rebellion; Sept. 6th, was transferred to the Third Vermont Regiment as Hospital Steward; served as physician in the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Vermont Regiments from Oct. 1st, 1861, to June 21st, 1862; promoted to Assistant Surgeon in Second Vermont Regiment, Dec. 18th, 1862, and to Surgeon in Chief of Brigade', Dec. 26th, 1862; discharged with the Tenth Massachusetts Regiment at the expiration of his term of service, June 29th, 1864, and returned to Chicopee Falls, where he spent the remainder of his life.

He applied to Chicopee Lodge January 3d, 1865, and was made a Mason therein February 9th, and received the Third Degree April 8th. He was elected Junior Warden of Chicopee Lodge, January 12th, 1867, and Senior Warden January 17th, 1868, acting as Worshipful Master for eight months while holding the latter office; was elected Worshipful Master January 15th, 1869, and reelected to that office at the subsequent Annual Meeting by a unanimous vote. During the two years of his incumbency as Master he raised sixty Masons in Chicopee Lodge. In 1871 he dimitted from Chicopee Lodge to take part in the Belcher Lodge at Chicopee Falls, in the establishment and upbuilding of which he took a great interest. He was District Deputy Grand Master of the Tenth Masonic District for four successive years; closing his last term of service in 1874, when he was elected Senior Grand Warden of this Grand Lodge, which office he held one year. He was made a Royal Arch Mason in Mt. Holyoke Chapter, at Holyoke, April 10th, 1865, where he also received the Council degrees; he received the orders of Knighthood in Springfield Commandery, May 10th, 1875. In December, 1875, he was prime mover for the formation of Unity Chapter, at Chicopee Falls, and was its first High Priest, being reelected to that office at the first election held under its Charter, holding that position, as well as that of District Deputy Grand High Priest for the Fourth Capitular District, at the time of his death.

In 1876 he was elected Junior Warden of Springfield Commandery Knights Templars, and on the 5th day of November, 1877, Eminent Commander of that body, into which office he was about to be installed on the evening of his death. He was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, and always took a lively interest in its affairs.

As a surgeon he was esteemed by the Medical Fraternity, was a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society, and had held the office of President of the Hampden County Medical Society.

He was not aspiring as a politician, but as a good citizen always took a great interest in the prosperity of the town of his adoption.

Such, Brethren, are the meagre facts of that part of the life of William J. Sawin most interesting to us as Masons; they afford but a poor picture of the man ; aside from them, those who knew him best knew him as a man of warm and generous impulses, a true friend, and a good Mason. He lived no double life; his faults, like his virtues, were open to the light of day, and were known of all men. What more can be said? The grave has closed over him, and his spirit is with God. His funeral took place at Chicopee Falls, on Thursday, the 6th day of December. After the prayer, at his late residence, the remains were conveyed to the Congregational Church, escorted by the Springfield Commandery of Knights Templars, Unity Chapter Royal Arch Masons, Belcher Lodge and Chicopee Lodge Free and Accepted Masons, many members of the Fraternity being present from the surrounding towns. Reverends Austin, Manson, and Bellamy conducted the services at the church, the latter clergyman delivering a touching and appropriate address, made more interesting from his long and intimate acquaintance with the deceased. At the conclusion of the services at the church, the remains were taken to the cemetery, where the burial service of the Knights Templars was performed.

The Grand Lodge was represented by, —

Among the prominent Masons present were Right Eminent John Dean, Grand Commander of Knights Templars of Massachusetts and Rhode Island; Most Excellent Smith B. Harrington, Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of Massachusetts; Worshipful E. Dana Bancroft and Worshipful Alfred A. Chapman.



From Liberal Freemason, Vol. I, No. 9, December 1877, Page 278:

Dr. William J. Sawin was born in Hancock, N. H., August 8, 1833, graduated from Dartmouth in 1854, and finally settled in Chicopee Falls, Mass., where he acquired a large practice, and became known as a kind and skilful physician and surgeon. When war became inevitable, Dr. Sawin enlisted as a private in the Tenth Regiment, was transferred to a Vermont regiment, and rapidly rose to be surgeon-in-chief of his brigade, in which capacity he remained for the full term of three years. He was made a Mason in Chicopee Lodge, April 8, 1865, was its Master in 1869, and subsequently D.D.G. Master of the Tenth Masonic District, which office he vacated to accept that of Senior Grand Warden, to which he was elected in 1874. He received the degrees in Royal Arch Masonry in Mt. Holyoke Chapter in the spring of 1875, and became one of the petitioners for Unity Chapter in his own town, December 7, 1875; was its first and only High Priest, as well as D. D. G. H. Priest of the Fifth Capitular District, at the time of his death. He had also received the degrees in Cryptic Masonry. He was dubbed a Knight Templar in Springfield Commandery, May 10, 1875; was at once pressed into service, served that Body as Junior Warden, and on November 5, 1877, was elected to be Eminent Commander, it being then, or soon after, arranged to have a public installation, so far as to admit the ladies of the Sir Knights, on the evening of December 3, when R. E. Sir John Dean, Grand Commander, and E. Sir Alfred F. Chapman, Grand Recorder, were present to perform the ceremonies.

A business meeting was called a half-hour earlier than the time for installation, the doctor left the hotel, went to the hall, gave some instruction to Sir Knight Weaver, the Sentinel, entered the Asylum as well apparently as usual, took his seat in the chair of Junior Warden, and, while in the act of putting on his gloves, and without any previous sign of distress, gave three successive gasps, as if for breath, and was at once and without pain dead. As the attendant physician — one being present in the hall at the time — expressed it, "- from his knowledge Dr. Sawin knew, but he had only time to think that he was gone."

It was, indeed, as the newspapers termed it, a tragic death in a Masonic conclave. A large attendance of Knights was present, and quite a number of ladies were in the lower hall waiting for the exercises of installation, to which they were invited, and this sudden and tragic event, of course, prevented any further exercises, and the assembly gradually withdrew, stunned and awed, and almost breathless. Dr. Sawin, who was a large, full-blooded, muscular man, had made extensive preparations for his installation, and the approach of the evening found him somewhat tired because of the extra labor incident to a public installation. He ate supper at the Haynes House, and then hurried over to the hall, leaving his wife to come a few minutes later. He was a trifle tardy, and no doubt hastened up the several flights of stairs. When he equipped himself, it was noticed by a brother Sir Knight that his belt was too tight; but the do£tor remarked that he should only keep it on a little while, little thinking how sad a prophecy his words were, and how soon to be fulfilled. All possible efforts with electricity and otherwise were made in vain to resuscitate him. His wife was called from the hotel, and the spectators withdrew in expressive and solemn silence. The sense of loss is shared not only by all the Masonic fraternity, but by a large number of friends outside.

The funeral ceremonies were performed in Chicopee Falls, by Springfield Commandery, which turned out one hundred Knights in uniform, and these, with three hundred or more Master Masons, together with Unity Chapter, escorted and followed all that was mortal of the dear deceased to the tomb. The Grand High Priest, and two Past Grand High Priests, the Grand Commander, and Grand Recorder, representatives of the Grand Lodge and of the Lodges and Chapters in his Districts, united in tearful homage, with a large concourse of the people, his neighbors, and all his friends, whose general sorrow was softened by the happy memories of a thorough Mason, physician, and friend, who in all his relations in life was a good man and true.

From Liberal Freemason, Vol. I, No. 12, March 1878, Page 377:


Aortic Aneurism. — Dr. Chapin reported the results of an autopsy which lie had made on the body of Dr. W. J. Sawin, just one month after his tragic death at the Masonic Hall in Springfield. The body, which had lain in a tomb since the funeral, was somewhat stiffened by cold, and was in almost a perfect state of preservation. The brain was first examined, and nothing abnormal was discovered except a small patch of atheroma in the wall of the basilar artery. The organ weighed fifty-seven ounces.

On opening the chest a very large deposit of fat was observed in the anterior mediastinum. The pericardial sac contained a full pint of blood, partly clotted. On removing this and searching for its source a small ruptured aneurism was discovered projecting from the aortic wall, about half an inch directly above the point of origin of the left coronary artery. The aneurism was about as large as a small filbert; on both sides of it and below it, as well as over the whole anterior surface of the heart, was a deposit of fat so abundant that but little muscular tissue was visible on this aspect of the organ. Section showed streaks of fat running through the muscular walls of the right auricle and ventricle, the walls themselves being considerably thinned. The left side of the heart exhibited similar changes of less extent. The aorta was somewhat dilated. Opposite the aneurism, on the inner surface of the aorta, was an atheromatous ulcer an inch and a half long and three quarters of an inch wide.' The heart weighed twenty-two ounces. — Boston Med. and Sur. Journal.

It will be remembered that Dr. Sawin's death was ascribed to apoplexy. Vide "Journal," December 27, 1877.

Distinguished Brothers