Happy Birthday Joanna Lyon



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Joanna Lyon (1690-1765)

Joanna Lyon was born on 26 May 1690 in Milton, Norfolk, Massachusetts as the second child of George Lyon and Thankful Badcock. She had three siblings, namely: Preserved, Hannah, and Silence. You may remember learning about Joanna’s mother Thankful back in February (see Happy Birthday Thankful Badcock!). Joanna’s father died when she was four years old. Thankful raised Joanna and her siblings for about seven years, but when she remarried, she had to hand the children over to their grandmother Hannah Tolman Lyon. So, from about age 11 onward, Joanna Lyon was raised by her grandmother.

When she was 22, Joanna Lyon married John Sawin. He was from Sherborn, Massachusetts and was the son of Thomas Sawin and Deborah Rice. The marriage happened on 25 Dec 1712 in Milton, Norfolk, Massachusetts. John Sawin and Joanna Lyon had the following children:

  1. Thomas Sawin was born about 1713 in Sherborn, Middlesex, Massachusetts. He died on 04 Jan 1714 in Sherborn, Middlesex, Massachusetts.
  2. Joanna Sawin was born on 28 Aug 1715 in Sherborn, Middlesex, Massachusetts. She married William Hill on 19 Feb 1740 in Sherborn, Middlesex, Massachusetts.
  3. Thomas Sawin was born on 12 Oct 1717 in Sherborn, Middlesex, Massachusetts. He married Abigail Morse on 13 Apr 1748 in Sherborn, Middlesex, Massachusetts. He died in 1790 in Massachusetts.
  4. Deborah Sawin was born on 23 Jan 1720 in Sherborn, Middlesex, Massachusetts. She married Elijah Goodenow on 12 Sep 1742 in Natick, Middlesex, Massachusetts. She died on 17 Apr 1765 in Natick, Middlesex, Massachusetts.
  5. John Sawin was born on 22 Jul 1722 in Sherborn, Middlesex, Massachusetts. He died about 1800.
  6. Abigail Sawin was born on 24 Jan 1724/25 in Sherborn, Middlesex, Massachusetts. She married John Bacon on 24 May 1744 in Natick, Middlesex, Massachusetts. She married Timothy Smith on 18 Apr 1780 in Natick, Middlesex, Massachusetts. She died 25 Nov 1810 at Natick, Middlesex, Massachusetts.
  7. Ezekiel Sawin was born on 03 Apr 1728 in Sherborn, Middlesex, Massachusetts. He died on 07 Nov 1751 in Sherborn, Middlesex, Massachusetts.
  8. Mary Sawin was born on 02 Nov 1731 in Sherborn, Middlesex, Massachusetts. She died on 14 Nov 1751 in Natick, Middlesex, Massachusetts.

Joanna’s husband, John Sawin assumed the role of “miller” from his father. The father, Thomas Sawin, had built a mill in Sherborn around 1679 and in 1686 sought permission to purchase fifty acres of land at Natick in order to build a corn mill there for use by the Native Americans.

Natick was originally a community granted to the Native Americans who were known as the “Praying Indians.” The Puritan missionary, John Eliot, focused on converting the original inhabitants of Massachusetts to Christianity. He translated the bible into the Massachusett language and published it in 1663. His goal was to consolidate the Native Americans into planned towns where they would live as self-governing Christian societies. Natick was one of those towns. As more Europeans came to Massachusetts, however, there were boundary disputes between these communities and English towns. And King Philip’s War in 1675 disrupted these planned communities.

Thomas Sawin, Joanna Lyon Sawin’s father-in-law, had eventually been allowed to build his corn mill at Natick and thus received great support from the Native American residents there. John took over the mill business and is credited with being the first white settler at Natick. The history books mainly talk about men, so while it is written that John Sawin removed to Natick in 1715 as the first white settler, there is nothing written about whether or not John took his bride and children with him to live in Natick or whether they remained living in nearby Sherborn.

As the family grew, the mill business did as well. In about 1720, John built a dam across the Charles river and erected a mill beside it. Unfortunately, John’s dam was not well received by the nearby residents of the “great meadows in Medfield.” They complained that the dam prevented water from draining off their properties. So, John moved his machinery to a new mill upon a stream near his house. That waterway is still called Sawin’s brook. He erected a saw mill and a corn mill. The Native Americans were thankful for the mills so John found it very easy to acquire a large tract of land at Natick.

While they lived on the outskirts of civilization, they were land and business owners and likely lived quite comfortably for the times.

Joanna only lost one child infancy, but must have been devastated when she lost her youngest son, age 23, and daughter, age 20, a week apart in November 1751. Joanna became a widow after 47 years of marriage when John Sawin died on 14 July 1760.

Joanna Lyon Sawin died five years later on 01 Nov 1765 in Natick, Middlesex, Massachusetts. She was 75 years old at the time of her death.

Joanna Lyon Sawin death-Natick records (W)

Joanna, as a widow, owned sufficient property to warrant her estate going through probate. She died without a will. At the time of her death, she had five confirmed heirs, but her daughter Deborah passed away before the estate was settled, so that share of the estate went to Deborah’s children (Joanna’s grandchildren).

Joanna Lyon Sawin-heirs (W)
Heirs of Joanna Lyon Sawin.

An inventory of her property let’s us see what worldly possessions a women living in Colonial America could acquire.

Inventory of estate of Joanna Lyon Sawin.

Life was much different 326 years ago when Joanna Lyon was born, but we could have perhaps found common ground since there was a wine glass listed in her household inventory.

Where is she in the tree?


“A Review of the first fourteen years of the Historical, Natural History and Library Society of South Natick, Mass.  with the field-day proceedings of 1881-1882-1883,” (South Natick, Mass: Printed for the Society, 1884), 32, digital images, Archive Org (https://archive.org/details/reviewoffirstfou00hist: accessed 18 May 2016)

Ancestry.com, Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.Original data – Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Vital and Town Records. Provo, UT: Holbrook Research Institute (Jay and Delene Holbrook).Original data: Town and C), Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com.

Ancestry.com, Massachusetts, Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015), Ancestry.com, Probate Records 1648–1924 (Middlesex County, Massachusetts); Author: Massachusetts. Probate Court (Middlesex County).

Ancestry.com, North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016), ancestry.com, Book Title: Lyon memorial.

Ancestry.com, The New England Historical & Genealogical Register, 1847-2011 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011).

Biglow, William, History of The Town of Natick, Mass. from the days of The Apostolic Eliot, M CD L, to the present time, M DCCC XXX (Boston: Marsh, Capen & Lyon, 1830), 8-9, 28, 31, 52, 54, digital images, Archive Org (https://archive.org/stream/historyoftownofn00bigl#: accessed 18 May 2016)

“John Eliot (missionary),” Wikipedia, Web, 25 May 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Eliot_(missionary).

Milton Records: Births, Marriages and Deaths 1662-1843 (Boston: Alfred Mudge & Son, Printers, 1900), google Books: books.google.com.

Sawin, Thomas E., Sawin: summary notes concerning John Sawin, and his posterity (Wendall: Published by the Author by Athol Depot, Rufus Putnam, Printer, 1866), 7, digital images, Google Books (https://books.google.com/books?id=KrdXAAAAcAAJ: accessed 18 May 2016)

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