William Tecumseh Sherman’s Family and Life in Lancaster, Ohio 1820-May 1836

Born into a well-educated, cultured and influential family, William Tecumseh Sherman and his siblings were party to a complex and oft times tragic set of circumstances that molded their young lives in Lancaster, Ohio

Family Origins

The Sherman family was originally of German origin, but moved to England early on. Thus, the emigrant ancestor of the family, Samuel Sherman, came from England in 1634 settling in Stratford, Connecticut. The family remained in Connecticut’s Litchfield and Fairfield counties until 1805 when Taylor Sherman, 4th generation American, the grandfather of William Tecumseh Sherman, a lawyer and judge in Norwalk, Fairfield County, Connecticut was appointed as a commissioner for the Connecticut Land Company.


The Connecticut Land Company asked him to go to the Firelands (Huron and Erie County, Ohio) to survey and partition the land. These lands were being given to the Connecticut citizens to compensate for property that was burned by the British armies during the Revolutionary War. While in the Firelands, Taylor Sherman selected a little more than 1,609.25 acres of land for himself. This land is described in Fairfield County Recorder’s Deed Bk. O, p. 139 as being 400 acres 2 roods (sic) and 31 rods in the 3 rd Township 16th Range Connecticut Western Reserve, 70 acres in the 4th Township 11 Range Western Reverse, and 1139.25 acres in the 3rd Township 24th Range Western Reserve situated and being in the County of Huron in the State of Ohio.

Charles & Mary Hoyt Sherman

Charles Robert Sherman, born 26 September 1788, son of Taylor and Elizabeth Stoddard Sherman, graduated in 1810 from a school in Norwalk, Connecticut with a degree in law having studied with his father and Judge Chapman. Right after his graduation, he was admitted to the bar and in the same year married Mary Elizabeth Hoyt of Norwalk, Connecticut. Mary was a graduate of a girl’s finishing school, M.E. & A. Sketchley's School in in Poughkeepsie, New York. In the Fall of the same year, Charles R. tried to travel to the Firelands on request of his father to investigate and evaluate the prospects there. Finding that the Indians under Chief Tecumseh were staging an uprising, Charles decided to come to Lancaster, Ohio instead. It is documented that he was in Lancaster by November of 1810, as he witnessed a deed for Isaac Woodruff, a free black man, in that month and year (Fairfield County Recorder Deed Bk. G, p. 640) He was so impressed with Lancaster, its culture, and business opportunities that after the birth of his first child, Charles Taylor Sherman, in February 1811, he persuaded Mary Elizabeth, his wife, to move their family from Fairfield County, Connecticut to Fairfield County, Ohio.

Law Office

The year 1812 was an eventful one for Charles R. Sherman. He opened his law office in Lancaster, Ohio, was appointed substitute county attorney, and was selected as Major and chief recruiting agent for the First Regiment of the First Brigade of the Third Division of Ohio Militia in the War of 1812.

Appointed Collector of Internal Revenue

In 1813, President Madison appointed Charles R. Sherman collector of Internal Revenue. This eventually led to Sherman’s financial ruin. The Shermans’ life in Lancaster was forever changed when in 1815, Charles’ father, Taylor Sherman died in Connecticut and shortly thereafter, Charles’ mother, Elizabeth Stoddard Sherman and sister, Elizabeth came to live with them. Also in 1815, Thomas Ewing, a graduate of Ohio University where Charles served as a trustee, moved to Lancaster to study law under General Philemon Beecher as per Sherman’s advice. Thus, the beginning of a strong bond was developed between the Sherman and Ewing families.

"The Little Brown House on the Hill"

On 24 February 1816, Charles R. Sherman purchased the west half of Lot 12 in famous Square 13 located on “Main Hill” in Lancaster, Ohio for $1,550 from Elijah Merwin (Fairfield Co Recorder’s Bk. J-2, p. 543), the site of the Sherman House Museum and next to the Reese Peters House, home to what is now the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio, former home of Charles’ daughter, Mary Elizabeth Sherman Reese. It appears that Elijah Merwin had erected a house on the lot which Charles bought because on 27 July 1808 Merwin had purchased the same lot for only $380 from Larkin Reynolds (Fairfield County Recorder’s Bk. G, p. 149).

Financial Ruin

In 1817, the U.S. government demanded payment from its deputy tax collectors in gold or paper of the U.S. Bank. Ohio and the areas of the northwest used local bank notes almost exclusively leaving the tax collectors with large sums of depreciated currency. Sherman being a man of honor tried to help out his workers by assuming their debt. It was as Charles R. Sherman suffered under this stressful situation that his son, William Tecumseh Sherman was born on 8 February 1820. As the year progressed the situation must have intensified as the District Court of the U.S. and the District Court of Ohio in Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio in the September term of court 1820, brought a suit against Charles R. Sherman to recover monies still owed for taxes and received a settlement of $38,659.07 (which when equated to 1999 funds would be $408,189.47 (The Inflation Calculator)). The execution of this settlement appears in the Fairfield County Recorder Deed Bk. O, p. 139. In summary, the lands and chattels of Charles R. Sherman were sold at Sheriff’s Sale: Lot 12, Square 13 on which the Sherman House stands, lots 5 & 6 also in Square 13, his share of all the lands that were inherited by him from his father, Taylor Sherman in the Firelands (previously described in this thesis). The lands in Fairfield County, Lancaster, Ohio’s Square 13 were bought by Philemon Beecher for $450 a pittance compared to the $38,659.07 that Sherman owed the government. This deed was finalized in March of 1825, but the Shermans never moved out of their home. By 20 June of 1833, Beecher had sold the lot and house back to Mary Elizabeth Sherman for $400 (Fairfield County Recorder’s Deed Bk. V, p. 189). [Note: there is no indication that there was a mortgage on the Sherman House between the time it was sold at Sheriff’s sale in 1821 until Beecher sold it back to Mary in 1833. What happened in the period 1821-1825 is unknown. Philemon Beecher was a friend of the Sherman family and familiar with their financial situation so they probably lived there rent fee.]

Ohio Supreme Court Judge

The Sherman’s financial condition after 20 September 1820 must have been intolerable. With so many children to feed, cloth and educate and so much indebtedness it is hard to imagine how they survived, but survival with dignity seemed to suit them well. From 1823 until 1829, Charles R. Sherman served as a Ohio Supreme Court Judge, one of the first.

Mary Sherman Left with Eleven Children

Mary Sherman’s life took an abrupt and tragic turn in June of 1829 when her husband who was serving as a judge in Lebanon, Ohio took ill suddenly and died. Her loss besides leaving her emotionally drained, left her with an enormous debt that her husband had not yet been able to pay off. Her children are listed in Fairfield County Common Pleas Court records, Chancery Court Book, unlabeled (Mary Sherman, Admtr. of C.R. Sherman, Dec’d vs. John Clark, etal. dated 22 Sep 1830), as Charles Taylor Sherman, Elizabeth Sherman Reese, wife of William J. Reese, Amelia Sherman*, James Sherman*, William Tecumseh Sherman*, Julia Sherman*, Sampson Sherman*, John Sherman*, Susan Sherman*, Hoit (sic) Sherman*, and Jane (believed to be Fanny) Sherman* (*=minors). Her only income seems to have come from a few hundred dollars a year she inherited from her father’s estate and her mother-in-law’s small income. Even under these desperate conditions, the children always came first and their education continued uninterrupted. It soon became apparent to all that knew the family that Mary Sherman could no longer continue to support all her children. When Thomas Ewing offered to take the brightest boy to live in his family, Mary accepted and sent “Cump” as William Tecumseh was called by his siblings. "Cump" was nine years old when he left to go up the hill to the Ewing House. Maria Ewing was particularly aware to the problems “Cump” might have adjusting as she was taken into the Philemon Beecher home after the death of her mother. Shortly after arriving in the Ewing household, William Tecumseh, was baptised by a Catholic priest.

William Tecumseh's Life with the Ewings

William T. Sherman was encouraged by Thomas Ewing to be diligent in his studies for he saw in him the disposition to loyalty, and perfectionism, which Ewing felt would produce a fine military man. Without question the influence of his father, Charles R. Sherman’s dedication to public service to his country combined with his honor and determination rubbed off on William. Thus, it is no surprise that when Ewing was able to get William Tecumseh Sherman an appointment to West Point in the Spring of 1836 that W. T. went on to become one of the premier military men in history know as much for his military tactics as his philosophy of war - “War is Hell”. His tactics were used by the Germans in WWII to defeat the French Army and by General Omar Bradley to help defeat the Germans.

William Tecumseh Sherman leaves for West Point

As William Tecumseh Sherman left Lancaster for West Point in May of 1836, the Lancaster chapter of his life ended. Even though he came back to marry Ellen Ewing, he would never again consider Lancaster his home. In fact, it is noted that in his collection of Civil War letters, he states that "he would never return to Lancaster to live unless he was crippled".

The following is the letter written by William Tecumseh Sherman to West Point accepting his appointment and one from his mother giving her permission. (From the Sherman Papers on microfilm at the Fairfield County District Library):

W.T. Sherman to West Point
Lancaster Ohio April 4th 1836


I have duly received your Notice of the 4th of March, informing me that I have been conditionally appointed a cadet in the service of the United States

I here with notify you that I accept the appointment and will cheerfully comply with the conditions annexed to it.

I have the honor to be
Very respectfully
Your obedient servant
Wm. T Sherman

Hon Lewis Cass
Secretary of War
Washington City

Mary Sherman to West Point
I do hereby agree and consent that my son Wm. T. Sherman shall bind himself by such written articles as may be ---- to his gaining admission to the Military Academy at West Point.

Mary Sherman

To: Hon. Lewis Cass
Secretary of War

Lancaster April 4th 1836

© 2000 Carol F. Swinehart


. The Biographical Encyclopedia of Ohio of the 19th Century, 1876, “ John Sherman, Charles T. Sherman”

Berlin, Jean V. Sherman's Civil War - Selected Correspondence of William T. Sherman, 1999.

        . Columbus, Franklin Co., Ohio History, Vol 1, p. 253, 322

Chancery Court Records (Common Pleas Court). Book unlabeled, 22 Sep 1830, Mary Sherman, Admtr. of C.R. Sherman, dec’d Complt. Vs. John Clark & others, respondents.

Chancery Court Records (Common Pleas Court). Book unlabeled, 25 May 1819, C.R. Sherman vs John Creed, continued by Mary E. Sherman, final settlement dated 6 Apr 1841.

Fairfield County Recorder. Deed Book G., p. 149, 27 July 1808, Sale of Lot 12, Square 13 from Larkin Reynolds to Elijah Merwin.

Fairfield County Recorder. Deed Book G. p. 640, Nov. 1810. (Charles R. Sherman witnessed Deed of Isaac Woodruff

Fairfield County Recorder. Deed Book J-2, p. 543, dated 24 Feb 1816, Charles R. Sherman bought Lot 12, Square 13 from Elijah Merwin.

Fairfield County Recorder. Deed Book O, p. 139, 5 Sep 1821, recorded 5 March 1825, Charles R. Shermans’ lands and chattels are sold at Sherrif sale. (3 lots in Lancaster to Philemon Beecher)

Fairfield County Recorder. Deed Book V, p. 189, dated 20 Jun 1833, Philemon Beecher sold Lot 12, Square 13 to Mary Sherman.

http://www.westegg.com/inflation, The Inflation Calculator

Kerr, Laura E. William T. Sherman, A Family Chronicle

McAllister, Anna. Ellen Ewing, wife of General Sherman

Sherman, John H. Sherman Directory, 4 Volumes

. William T. Sherman, Recollections of California, 1846-1861.

Sherman House, owned and operated by the Fairfield Heritage Association

Historic Square 13 Tour, Lancaster, Ohio

Information about Lancaster, Ohio Sherman's Hometown : Fairfield County Visitors and Convention Bureau Website