Many historians count William Wingate Sewall as one of the most important people in the making of T.R., a vital influence on several aspects of his life, and someone who fostered the characteristics that would come to define Roosevelt as a man—and as a president.
Roosevelt was a sickly asthmatic when he went to Island Falls for the first of his many adventures with Sewall. He left confident and invigorated. "Bill Sewall was a model for part of what Theodore Roosevelt wanted to become," says presidential historian H.W. Brands, author of T.R.: The Last Romantic. "Maine and Bill Sewall helped T.R. become the person that he was. How much of what he became is Bill Sewall [responsible for]? Who knows? But if he hadn't known him, Roosevelt would have been a different person."
Clearly Theodore Roosevelt felt this way himself. When Roosevelt's biographer, Hermann Hagedorn, was looking for sources, people who knew him in the years before he ascended to the presidency, T.R. sent him to see his old friend the Maine Guide. "There is no one who could more clearly give the account of me, when I was a young man and ever since," Theodore Roosevelt wrote Sewall a year before his death in 1919. "I want you to tell him everything, good, bad, and indifferent . . . I have told Hagedorn that I thought you could possibly come nearer to putting him next to me . . . more than any one else could . . . Tell him everything." Paperback 205 pages