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'Mending fences' with John Sherman

By Henry Timman • Sep 7, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Last week I told part of the story of the Taylor Sherman family and Sherman Township of Huron County.

An older son of Taylor Sherman was Charles R., who studied law and after marriage to Mary Hoyt in Norwalk, Conn., came to Lancaster, Ohio, with his wife and their infant son. Charles Sherman established a law practice in Lancaster and eventually was appointed a judge of the Ohio Supreme Court in 1823. Charles Sherman died in 1829, leaving his wife with 11 children to raise and educate.

One of those sons was William Tecumseh Sherman, one of the military leaders of the American Civil War. “Cump” (his nickname) Sherman was raised in Lancaster and eventually was graduated from West Point before starting his long military career.

A younger son was John Sherman, who was just 6 years old when his father died. John went to live with his father’s cousin, John Sherman of Mt. Vernon, Ohio. John the younger returned to Lancaster for his education and eventually lived with his older brother in Mansfield, where he studied law.

John practiced law and took an interest in politics, being a delegate to the national Whig party convention in 1848. Their candidate that year was Gen. Zachary Taylor, who was elected, but died in office two years later. John Sherman evolved into the new Republican party and chaired its Ohio state convention in 1855. In that same year, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. After four terms there, he was elected to the United States Senate.

Huron County was in his congressional district when he first ran in 1855, and he campaigned frequently in this area. During his second campaign in 1857, he appeared at a political meeting in North Fairfield and spoke for almost three hours at the Methodist Church on West Main, which still stands and still is in use. The auditorium was so full that some people stood the entire time. The following year, he campaigned for the Republican party with a large gathering at Fitchville and scheduled appearances in Greenwich, Greenfield, Monroeville and North Fairfield. A full house was reported at every stop.

John Sherman left his Senate seat in 1877 to become President Rutherford Hayes’ secretary of the treasury from 1877 to 1881. He returned to the Senate and left it for the last time in 1897 to become President William McKinley’s secretary of state. Advancing age caused his retirement in 1898 after 42 years and four months in a government office.

The Sherman home was in Mansfield. John died in Washington, D.C. in 1900. Services were held there, with final rites at his Mansfield home. Leading the dignitaries at Mansfield was President McKinley. Sen. Sherman may be best remembered for his contributions to what is called the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. It was intended to curb concentrations of power that interfered with trade and reduced economic competition. It still is in force and has been applied to court cases within the last 20 years.

During his tenure as secretary of the treasury from 1877 to 1881, Sherman gave a talk at Mansfield and told his audience he’d “come home to look after my fences.” This was the origin of the expresison often used in political circles about “mending fences,” meaning to improve poor or damaged relations. It was always a duty of farmers to maintain their fences, especially those shared with neighbors and Sherman adopted that reference to make himself better understood and to relate to his audience.

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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at New Directions Design, 20 W. Main St., in downtown Norwalk. These contain my earlier columns fully indexed and in permanent book form.

Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.

 

 

 

 

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