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Robert W. Sawyer papers

Identifier: Ax 100

Scope and Contents note

The Robert W. Sawyer Papers consist of a large assortment of letters and documents related to Sawyer's life, his business affairs, and most of all his involvement in governmental and conservation matters. The collection is organized in two major series, the first consists of the original donation of papers and the second consists of the several files added later.

The Sawyer papers would be of great value to researchers investigating Bend local history; water, power, reclamation and forestry in the northwest; state politics from the 1930s to the 1950s; the Hoover Commission Task Force on Water Resources and Power; and Oregon journalism.

There is a substantial amount of information pertaining to the many local and regional matters with which Sawyer was involved. These include Bend civic affairs, Deschutes County affairs, Oregon highway issues, water and power projects, the Oregon Capitol Planning Commission, The Columbia Valley Authority, forestry matters, land management, public works, taxation and state politics. There is a large amount of materials related to the Task Force on Water Resources and Power, most located in the Addenda series.

A vast assortment of correspondence, many to or from important Northwest figures and prominent politicians, can be found amongst the several correspondence and subject files. Significant documents pertaining to Sawyer's life and career include personal financial records, correspondence to family and friends, news clippings, research notes and Bend Bulletin business papers. While addenda series contains a subseries devoted to general correspondence, many other correspondence items can be found filed with related topics throughout the Addenda.

There are 13 black and white photographs in the collection, mostly family snapshots. There is one image of Sawyer shaking hands with Dewey during the 1948 campaign.


  • 1903-1959


Language of Materials

English .

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical/Historical note

Robert William Sawyer was a prominent figure in Oregon politics and a nationally respected conservationist. He was born in Bangor, Maine on May 12, 1880 and was educated and trained in law at Harvard. In 1912 he moved west to Bend, Oregon where he first worked as a lumber piler at the Bend Co. mill. He became acquainted with George Palmer Putnam, publisher of the Bend Bulletin, in 1913 and soon thereafter became a news writer for the Bulletin.

Sawyer purchased Putnam's interest in the Bulletin after Putnam became secretary to Governor James Withycombe, and in 1919 assumed the role of editor. During his years in this post, Sawyer became one of the state's leading newspapermen. From 1927 to 1929 he served as president of the Oregon State Editorial Association. He remained editor until 1953 when the Bulletin was sold to Robert W. Chandler.

For many years Sawyer was a leading figure in Northwest politics, serving as a member or leader of numerous governmental organizations. He was involved in the creation of Deschutes County from Crook County in 1917 and served as Deschutes County judge from 1920-1927. In 1929 Sawyer was president of the Bend Chamber of Commerce. From 1927 to 1930 he was a member of the Oregon State Highway Commission. He was elected president of the Oregon Reclamation Congress, serving from 1931-1937 and was also elected Oregon Director of the National Reclamation Association in 1935. After the Oregon capitol building was destroyed by fire in 1935, Sawyer was chosen to serve on the advisory board for reconstruction. After serving on the reconstruction commission from 1935-1939, he became chairman of the Capitol Planning Commission. During World War II Sawyer was involved in the building of Camp Abbot, naming it for the early engineer-explorer Henry L. Abbot. He held the position of Oregon Director of the N. R. A. until 1948, serving also as President of the National Rifle Association in 1946-1947. From 1945 to 1951 Sawyer served as vice-chairman of the Oregon Statuary Hall commission.

An avid outdoorsman, Sawyer served, in his later years, as a director of the American Forestry Association and on the Pacific Northwest Regional Forestry Advisory Council. In the 1950s He was a member of the important Hoover Commission Task Force on Water Resources and Power. Other significant activities included Sawyer's leading role in the Oregon Historical Society and key role in the building of St. Charles Memorial Hospital in Bend.

It was at the St. Charles Hospital that Robert W. Sawyer died shortly after suffering a heart attack on October 13, 1959. Today, an Oregon state park near Bend is named for him.


43.76 linear feet (34 containers)


Robert W. Sawyer (1880-1959) was a prominent figure in the public affairs of Oregon and the Northwest from the 1920s through the 1950s. He gained prominence as editor of the Bend Bulletin from 1919 to 1953. In the 1920s he served as the second judge of the recently formed Deschutes County. Over many years he served in numerous important committees and organizations at the state, regional and national level. This collection contains a vast assortment of correspondence and materials related to the significant public affairs and political matters in which Sawyer was involved, as well as materials relating to Bend civic matters and Sawyer's own life and career.

Arrangement note

Collection is organized into the following series: Series I. Correspondence and subjectsSeries II. AddendaSeries III. Photographs

General Physical Description note

34 containers

Processing Information

Collection processed by staff.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Robert W. Sawyer papers Ax 100
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by Erick Arenas
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA