Sayre was born in the mind of Howard Elmer, a 36-year old Waverly, NY bank president, who was born in Orange County, NY and died in South Bethlehem, PA. Howard Elmer never lived a day in Sayre in his life.
In 1869 Howard Elmer, the founder and president of the Waverly First National Bank, saw the possibilities in the plains between Athens and his home community for the establishment of a town. In 1870 he persuaded his brother Richard Elmer, a New York City capitalist, Charles Anthony, and a Waverly man by the name of James Fritcher to join him in purchasing 321 acres of what farmers had referred to as pretty poor farmland: the Morley, Hopkins and William Thomas farms in an area south of Waverly called Pine Plains.
Without letting grass grow underneath his feet, he started construction of an 80-foot wide thoroughfare from Bradford Street to what is now W. Lockhart Street, which he called Keystone Avenue. The street ran through the above mentioned farms and cost $3,000. During the winter of 1870-71, Elmer was forced to quickly revise the original location of his community when he saw that the proposed town should be located near the terminus of two railroads: the Southern Central and the Geneva, Ithaca and Athens Railroads. Elmer accomplished this through the purchase of 417 more acres of plains, through the Leggett, Harris and Hayden properties and more of Thomas’ land. With $140,000 they had purchased 738 acres, including, the area surrounding the two railroads—about halfway between Athens and Waverly.