John Sayles was born in 1846 in Ionia County, Michigan, the son of New York native Elias Sayles Sr. (1803-1897) and Canadian-born Hannah Showers (1808-1872) and stepson of English-born Eliza Ann Wrigley (1819-1885).
Elias, probably along with his brother Cyrenius and his family, moved from Canada to Michigan sometime between 1843 and 1846, and by 1850 John was living with his family and attending school with his older siblings (which also included his older brother William who would enlist in Company F) in Keene, Ionia County; next door lived Charles and Harrison Soules, both of whom would enlist in Company C in 1861. And not much farther away lived a Sayles cousin, Lyman, Cyrenius’ son, who would also enlist in the 3rd Michigan.
John stood 5’7” with black eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion and was a 16-year-old farmer probably living in Lowell, Kent County or in Keene when he enlisted in Company G on April 4, 1862, at Lowell for 3 years, and was mustered the same day. (He may have been related to Lyman Sayles of Company H.) By late June, according to Homer Thayer of Company G, John was sick in the hospital at Annapolis, Maryland, and he remained absent sick in the hospital through September when he allegedly deserted on September 21 at Upton’s Hill, Virginia. In fact, he was discharged for consumption on June 24, 1862, at Annapolis, Maryland.
After he was discharged John returned to Michigan where he reentered the service in Company L, 6th Michigan Cavalry on February 27, 1865, for 1 year at Grand Rapids, age 21, and was mustered on February 28 at Grand Rapids, crediting Keene. He joined the Regiment March 19, was absent sick in May -- he may have missed the participation by the regiment in the Grand Review in Washington on May 23 -- and was discharged, probably for disability, on June 23, 1865, at Washington, DC.
John eventually returned to Michigan after the war.
He married Canadian Mary M. Gardner (1848-1926) on February 21, 1867, and they had at least five children: Rebecca (b. 1869), Lewis (b. 1872), Leon (b. 1874), Grace (b. 1881) and Ida (b. 1884).
He may have been living in Lowell, Kent County by 1870. In 1870 John, his wife Mary and their infant daughter Rebecca were living with Mary’s father in Keene, Ionia County. By 1880 he was working as a laborer and living with his wife and children in Berlin (Saranac), Ionia County. He was living in Otisco, Ionia County in 1890. In 1910 he and Mary were living in Otisco; also living with them were their daughters Grace and Ida and daughter Rebecca Brooks and her husband. By 1910 John was working as a commercial traveler selling pianos and living with Mary and his daughter Ida in Belding’s 3rd Ward, Ionia County. By 1920 John was living in the Soldiers’ Home in Grand Rapids.
In 1880 he applied for and eventually received a pension (no. 984966).
John died on June 17, 1921, and was buried in the Michigan Soldiers’ Home cemetery, Grand Rapids: 6-10-2.
In 1921 his widow was residing in Michigan when she applied for and received a pension (no. 905653).