JOSEPH I. SAYLES
Descendants of the Sayles family in America trace their lineage to John Sayles, (1) and Mary Williams, his wife, who were married in Rhode Island in 1650, settled in Providence, and are buried in the Easton burial grounds in Middletown near Sachuest Beach. He was born in Scotland in 1633, his father being of Scotch and his mother of Irish parentage, and died in 1681. His wife, who was born in 1638, and died also in 1681, was a daughter of Roger Williams, first governor and founder of the Rhode Island colony, and Mary, his wife. Mr. Sayles was made a freeman in 1655, and held the offices of commissioner, town clerk, warden, town treasurer, auditor, deputy, and councilman. His posterity in a direct line to the subject of this sketch is as follows: John (2), born August 17, 1654, deputy, tavern keeper, died August 2, 1727; Richard (3) born October 24, 1695, died in 1775; Israel (4) born March 17, 1726; Israel (5); Benjamin B. (6) who married Polly Strong; and Joseph I. (7). The foregoing, prior to Benjamin B. Sayles, lived in Rhode Island, where many of the name occupied responsible positions in business, social and official life, manifesting at all times great patriotism and individual ability, and becoming substantial and useful citizens. Israel (5) came to Norwich, N. Y., early in 1800, and there Benjamin B. (6) was born and learned the trade of blacksmith. Benjamin B. Sayles moved to the town of Plymouth, Chanagngo County, and followed farming many years. He had four sons and one daughter.
Joseph I. Sayles, youngest son of Benjamin B. and Polly (Strong) Sayles, was born in Plymouth, Chenango County, N. Y., October 7, 1843, and remained on the parental farm and attended the district schools until he reached the age of seventeen. He inherited in full measure the sturdy characteristics of his New England ancestry, and supplemented these by early acquiring those habits of industry and perseverance which mark the successful man. April 29, 1861, he enlisted in Co. H, 17th N. Y. Vol. Inf., as a private, and served with the Army of the Potomac from its organization till after the siege of Yorktown, participating in all the engagements on the peninsula. At Chickahomony Swamp he was taken sick and sent to St. Elizabeth Hospital at Washington, where he was honorable discharged August 8, 1862. Retuning home he resumed his common school education and soon began to read law in Norwich, N. Y. He was graduated from the Albany Law School in 1866 and in December of the same year was admitted to the bar at Albany. Immediately afterward he commenced the practice of his profession in Lee Center, Oneida County, where he served as justice of the peace and where he remained until 1870, when he moved to Rome. Here he formed a copartnership with Hon. M. D. Barnett, which continued until the latterís election as district attorney in 1876. Mr. Saylesís next partnership was in 1887, when the present firm of Sayles, Searle & Sayles, was organized with the admission of D. F. Searle and A. F. Sayles.
Mr. Sayles has been a lifelong Republican, casting his first vote for Abraham Lincoln for president in 1864. He represented the fifth ward in the common council three years, has been a member of the Rome Water Commission four years, and in March, 1894, was appointed by Gov. Levi P. Morton one of the managers of the Sate Custodial Asylum at Rome for six years, being chairman of the executive committee of that institution. He was a charter member of Skillen Post No. 47, G. A. R., and for ten years officiated as its commander. He was also department commander of the G. A. R. for the State of New York, with rank of major-general in 1885, judge advocate of the department three terms. In 1891 he organized and has since served as president of the Jones Elastic Enamel Paint Company of Rome. He is heavily interested in real estate, both at home and elsewhere, and has for many years been closely identified with the cityís growth and prosperity.
But it is as a trial and criminal lawyer that Mr. Sayles stands out the most prominently in his career. Without the adventitious aids which wealth, family influence, and scholastic attainments can give he has, by courage, industry, perseverance, indomitable will power, and his own unaided ability, worked his way from a rustic school boy on the farm to the front rank in his profession as a trial lawyer, so that he stands today among the foremost criminal lawyers in the State. He is emphatically and in the fullest sense a self-made man. It is as a jury advocate, and the more especially as a criminal lawyer, that he has won his greatest triumphs and established his widest reputation. His shrewdness and tact in the management of trials, his acquaintance with human nature which enables him to judge how oral testimony will strike and impress the average juror, his experience and familiarity with the practice and intricacies of criminal law, and above and better than all his skill in the examination of his own and the cross-examination of unwilling and evasive witnesses all thoroughly equip him for a trial lawyer in both civil and criminal trials, and make him a formidable and most dangerous antagonist. He has tried causes in every county of this State, but two, and has defended between thirty and forty prisoners (the trials taking place in nearly a dozen different counties) for capital offenses, and in none of them has the prisoner been executed, and in only one was there a conviction for the higher offense, and in that case the judgment was reversed and the prisoner subsequently acquitted. It is said of him that "he is a natural trial lawyer."
On the 2nd of June, 1873, Mr. Sayles was married to Miss Sarah Castle, a daughter of the late Hon. John J. Castle, of Lee, who in 1852 was a member of assembly from Oneida County. She died July 7, 1877, and in 1878, he married Mrs. Carrie M. Bond, daughter of George Potter, of Lee, by whom he has two children: Josie Irene, born January 10, 1880, and General George W., born February 22, 1882. The first born at the age of thirteen, wrote a book, worthy of one double her years, which was printed for circulation among her own immediate acquaintances and friends.