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Early Maine Photography


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Conrad Heyer, Waldoboro, ca. 1852
Conrad Heyer, Waldoboro, ca. 1852Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

Two of the treasures of the Maine Historical Society’s collection of early photography are daguerreotypes of Revolutionary War soldiers Conrad Heyer of Waldoboro and the Reverend John Sawyer of Bangor. Both Heyer and Sawyer were born in the mid-eighteenth century, fought in the Revolution as young men, and lived for more than a century – long enough to be photographed in old age.

Legend often states Conrad Heyer was the first white child born in the German immigrant community of Waldoboro. In his twenties, Heyer joined the Continental Army, serving for a year before being discharged in December, 1777. Returning to Maine, he settled on a farm in Waldoboro, where he never experienced a day of sickness until shortly before his death on February 19, 1856, at the age of 106 years, 10 months, and 9 days. On June 17, 1856, Conrad Heyer was buried in Waldoboro’s German Cemetery during an elaborate military funeral attended by more than four thousand people.

Rev. John Sawyer
Rev. John SawyerItem Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

The Reverend John Sawyer sat for his daguerreotype in 1854 when he was 99 years old. Born in Oxford, New Hampshire in 1755, Sawyer joined the Continental Army in 1777 and participated in the Battles of Saratoga. He was present at General John Burgoyne’s surrender on October 7, 1777. After the Revolution, John Sawyer entered Dartmouth College, graduating in 1786. Ordained in 1787, he preached in his native Oxford for the next nine years. From 1796 to 1806 he served as the pastor for a church in Boothbay, Maine. He then moved to Newcastle to pursue a new career as a traveling missionary. His journeys took him to Bangor, where he preached and taught school from 1812 to 1818. That year he settled in Garland, where he devoted most of the balance of his life to ministering and teaching.

Reverend Sawyer lived five days beyond his 103rd birthday, dying on October 14, 1858. His funeral, which was held at the First Congregational Church in Bangor, "was attended by a great concourse of people, who thereby testified their love and respect for the aged veteran of the Cross, who had for so many years lived and labored in their section of the State."