He writes his mentor, William W. Sewall, who taught him the outdoor life, and served as foreman on his famous Elkhart Ranch in North DakotaWilliam Wingate Sewall was a well-known outdoorsman, hunter, woodsman, and guide in northern Maine in the latter part of the 19th century. Introduced by an acquaintance whom Sewall had guided, on September 7, 1878, Roosevelt, in his early 20’s and fresh from Harvard, appeared at the Sewall house after an exhausting trip from Boston. A few days later he was canoeing on the Mattawamkeag River on the way to Mattawamkeag Lake. During most of that month Sewall and Roosevelt hiked, fished, and hunted in the area around Sewall’s native Island Falls, Maine. Though Sewall expected the city slicker Roosevelt to dislike the life he was teaching him, instead TR took to it immediately. Though he left Maine in late September, TR was back at Sewall’s place for a few weeks in February of 1879. This time it was winter, with plenty of snow. They again hunted and, this time, visited two logging camps. Not able to stay away from the Maine woods, Roosevelt returned in August of 1879 with the goal of conquering Mount Katahdin. After losing a shoe attempting to ford the swift Wassataquoik Stream on the 26th, he, Sewall and others in their party summited the mountain on August 29. During September, just Sewall and Roosevelt completed an arduous trip to the Munsungan Lakes, passing through “The Oxbow” where they entered the Aroostook River, endured prolonged rains, and finally returned to Island Falls. Some have called Sewall TR’s mentor of the outdoors.In 1884, Roosevelt invited Sewall and a friend of his to accompany him out West to engage in the cattle business. Sewall agreed. The men selected the site for TR’s now-famous Elkhorn Ranch, and Sewall designed the ranch house, which was completed in 1885. Sewall then acted as ranch foreman until 1886, when he returned to Maine. In 1902, Sewall and Roosevelt met again in Maine and talked about the experiences they had while ranching. They also carried on a warm and extensive correspondence, with Sewall saluting the President as “Friend Theodore”. In 1901 TR appointed Sewall postmaster of Island Falls.The Sam referenced in the letter below was Bill Sewall’s brother, a fellow Maine outdoorsman. Llewellyn Powers was a Representative from Maine from 1901-1908. For patronage reasons, he would have had a say in dispensing federal jobs in his district.Typed letter signed, on White House letterhead, Washington, December 4, 1905, to Sewall. “Friend William: I was glad to hear from you, but I am concerned to learn about Sam’s family. If we can just get you that collectorship I think we can put in Sam all right as postmaster. When shall I speak to Representative Powers? How I wish I could get up and rest by lying out in the woods somewhere with you! But there is no such luck in store for me at present. I hope I shall see you soon in Washington.”TR quickly followed through, appointing Sewall the Collector of Customs for the District of Aroostook, Maine, soon after this letter. Sewell held that post until 1915. As for his brother Sam, it appears that Representative Powers had someone else in mind for the postmaster job, and he did not get it. (Inventory #: 10703)
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