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25 August 2017

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

by Georgia Lupinsky

A Birthday Photograph
The day of Samuel Sterling Sherman’s 99th birthday found him surrounded by an abundance of flowers (pictured above) as he received numerous wishes for a “Happy Birthday” from those he had known in various parts of the country throughout his life. 

As Frederick S. Sherman relates in The Ancestry of Samuel Sterling Sherman and Mary Ware Allen, his great-grandfather, born 24 November 1815 in West Rupert, Vermont, told his own life story in an autobiography dictated when he was 95 years old, with an addendum provided four years later.

In that addendum Dr. Sherman even explains the genesis of the birthday photo accompanying this article. Between 1855 and 1859 Samuel Sherman served as President of the Judson Female Institute in Marion, Alabama. Now, over fifty years later, the students, faculty and alumnae of that institution had shipped vines and flowers from the South and he writes that though the “many rare and southern flowers had suffered much from the long journey, they were still interesting to northern eyes.” It occurred to him to decorate the large bay window with these flowers  and to take a photograph of it that would give pleasure to the donors. Thus a “flashlight picture was taken of the window with myself entering upon the ninety-ninth year of my age, and holding the Judson telegram in my hand.”

Years in the South
At the age of 19 Samuel entered Middlebury College, but a bout with typhoid fever in his junior year prompted him to seek a warmer climate. Learning of a position at the University of Alabama as a tutor in Latin and Greek, he made an adventurous trip South via Savannah and Macon, Georgia, Montgomery and Selma, Alabama. After three years at the university, he was asked to undertake the founding of a college in Marion and at the age of twenty-six, became the founding president of what became Howard College, now Samford University outside of Birmingham, Alabama. Other positions in education included leadership of the Brownwood School in LaGrange, Georgia and the presidency of Judson Female Institute in Marion, Alabama. 

Life in the North
By 1859 Mr. Sherman had come to believe that civil war was inevitable and moved his family north to Milwaukee. However, he retained a lifelong affection and concern for his Southern friends. 

In 1867 Sherman and associates established a tea, coffee and spice business which he pursued for the rest of his business career. “The company was profitable, in part due to a novel baking powder formulated by Great-grandfather, who had always been especially interested in chemistry.” After the great Chicago fire, Mr. Sherman moved to Chicago and continued his business there with his sons, Frederick and Henry, as partners. At this point in his long life, Chicago became his most permanent home, as he still had thirty-five years ahead of him. Though dealing with various physical disabilities in his last few years, Mr. Sherman remained mentally bright until the end of his life, dying on 22 November 1914.

Great-grandson Frederick S. (“Rick”) Sherman and his wife Pat paid an unannounced visit to Judson Institute in 1956, one hundred years after his Great-grandfather started his work there and wrote that “the enthusiasm and kindness with which we were greeted, we shall never forget. Their memory of their old friend and champion was as fresh as though he had just walked out the door.”

May Rick’s words encourage you to walk in the steps of your ancestors and to find what a satisfying experience that can be.  Those wishing to immerse themselves in the wonderful research and writing of Frederick Sherman may purchase the The Ancestry of Samuel Sterling Sherman and Mary Ware Allen on our website. Members receive a 25% discount.

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