L. A. Sayer

Leon Alerton Sayer, fondly known as L. A. to family and friends, was born September 9, 1891, in Britton, South Dakota on his mother's homestead.  He was the third son of Emmett and Rose Otto Sayer.

He started in banking at the First National Bank, Columbus, North Dakota and from there to the Farmers and Merchants Bank, Warwick, North Dakota and later the First National Bank of McHenry, North Dakota, before moving to Cooperstown in 1929 where he formed the Farm Credit Company.  Later he was president of the Farmers and Merchants Bank and the L. A. Sayer Company in Cooperstown and the Citizen's State Bank of Finley, North Dakota.

Through the years he served as a State Senator from the 16th District between 1953 and 1957, president of the 7th District Association of Agricultural Credit Companies, master of the Cooperstown Masonic Lodge, District Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of North Dakota, AFAM, Mayor of Cooperstown for 10 years, president of the Cooperstown Commercial Club, active in the United Presbyterian Church and recipient of the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award for outstanding service to youth.

During his tenure as Mayor of Cooperstown the Municipal Liquor Store, which is a non-profit organization, dedicated to the service of the community was established with its primary objective to support the Griggs County Hospital.  This the organization has been doing for many years.

Catherine Elliott was born March 12, 1890 in Kansas City, Missouri and a graduate of Momingside College in 1913.  She taught school in Thief River Falls, Minnesota and Britton, South Dakota where she met L. A.  They were married at her home in Kansas City, November 28, 1916, and have three children: 

1.     Leon Alerton

2.     Mark Elliott

3.     Elizabeth Rose (Mrs. Frank Baker) of Portland, Oregon

There are 5 grandchildren: 

1.     David Leon

2.     Nicolette (Mrs. Ryan Larson) of Minneapolis, Minnesota

3.     Walter Scott.  David, Nicolette, & Walter are children of Leon and Helen Sayer)

4.     Jeffrey Frank

5.     Catherine (Mrs. Dale Dekkers) of Galveston, Texas.  Jeffrey & Catherine are children of Elizabeth Rose and Frank Baker)

The following stories were from a life history written by L. A. , June 22, 1973:

My mother, who was widely known as Rose of the Prairie, was born in Sycamore, Illinois, February 11, 1858, and had driven alone by horse and buggy from Independence, Iowa to Britton, South Dakota where she taught school and homesteaded in 1882.

One of my earliest recollections when I was four years old was of standing barefoot and shivering in the snow watching a fire destroy the shack my mother and family were living in.  My brother Harold, who was a year older than me, died in the fire while searching for our baby sister, Lillian.  Mother came from the barn and rescued her but she too died several days later from smoke inhalation.

I remember the terrible winter following the fire when mother pooled her resources with another family in Britton and the only fuel we had for heat was flax straw.  The family had a large barn loft and wisely stored a lot of flax, which was packed into two large steel drums and taken into the house and connected to a stovepipe and burned.  My job, being the smallest, was to get inside the drums and pack down the flax straw as hard as I could for it would burn longer and slower.  We could only have one drum an evening and when that was burned out everyone buried themselves in quilts or whatever was handy and went to bed with no fire in the house.

As a young man in the winter of 1906, my friend Leonard Strock and I got our heads together and decided to see some of the Wild West.  One morning we took off on our horses for the Missouri River Country in South Dakota.  He had a pony of his own and I took a buckskin gelding called Slim.  First, we went into the blacksmith shop in Spain to get some horseshoes for our horses.  Never had shod a horse before, but had seen it done and managed to get Slim shod for the trip.  I then went to a Mr. Williams that owned the store in Spain and gave him some kind of a story that I needed five dollars.  He was sort of suspicious, but he finally gave it to me.  That was all the money I had and I think Leonard had about the same amount.  We started out and left Mother at home alone with my older brother Emmet, who was sick in bed with pneumonia.  This we never stopped to think about and the next morning told Mother we were going to Spain for the mail and instead started out.  We made Pierpont the first day and stopped at a farm for lodging and a meal.  Finally we made it to Ipswitch where we got a job at the livery barn.  The man there said he needed help to take care of the horses and clean the barn for .50¢ a day and keep our horses in the barn providing they only got hay and no oats.  Well, we thought our horses deserved better fare so one night we sneaked some oats to our horses, as we had to sleep in the haymow in the barn.  Well our boss was too smart for us, watched the droppings of the horses, and discovered that they had been fed oats and fired us.  Nothing left to do but move on so we headed out again for a little town in the Missouri River Bottom called Everts, which is now under Lake Oahe and found a job with a half-breed Indian called Benway whose ranch was 30 miles west of the river.  Well it was still winter and my job was to saw out blocks of ice by hand, load up the wagon and take them to the ice house for summer.  Also rode the range to check on cattle since there were no barns or sheds for them.  Since my boss decided to break up sod land for corn, we decided to move on and be cow-punchers instead of farmers.

After working on the Milwaukee Railroad gang near where Mobridge now stands, Leonard and I had a little grubstake and went back to the hotel at Everts.  This is where Mother found me and promised me a new saddle if I would come home with her.  So we went to the woman who owned the hotel and got my horse out of hock and I started for home on old Slim.  That was in the Spring and I stayed home that Summer and broke a bunch of broncs with my new saddle, which I later gave to the Griggs County Museum.

The first organization I ever joined was known as the Coming Men of America, sort of a forerunner of the Boy Scouts, which had not come into existence at that time.  It was a boys lodge and we met at houses usually at the Jay King Farm, which was centrally located among the members.  We had lots of fun with our initiation ceremonies, eats and have many fond memories of our meetings.

I have always been partial to the Boy Scouts and have assisted and contributed to it liberally for many years.  I guess I took a liking to this from my early experience as a member of the Coming Men of America.

Source: Griggs County History 1879 - 1976  Page 79

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