Polk County >> 1911 Index

History of Des Moines and Polk County
by Johnson Brigham. 2 vols. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Pub Co., 1911.

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Unless otherwise noted, biographies submitted by Dick Barton.

MAJOR HOYT SHERMAN

In the annals of the history of this great city, now the capitol of one of the foremost states of the Union, for many future generations will stand the name of Hoyt Sherman, one that carries to every heart memories of a man of the highest attainable character, ever loyal to his country, state and city, a faithful husband and kind father in his home, a most valued friend to all who knew him and always ready to lend a helping hand to his fellowmen.

Hoyt Sherman was a son of Hon. Charles R. Sherman, judge of the supreme Court of Ohio from 1825 until his death, which occurred in 1829. His brothers were Hon. John Sherman, secretary of the treasury, General W. T. Sherman of the United States Army, the late Charles T. Sherman, judge of the United States court for the northern district of Ohio and James and Lampson P. Sherman, early settlers of Polk county. He was born in Lancaster county, Ohio, November 1, 1827. During his boyhood days, while attending school, his 1eisure time was given to learning the printers trade in the office of his two brothers, Charles and John, in Mansfield, Ohio. At the age of twenty-one, in 1848, his long cherished desire to see the then less frequented spots of this great continent culminated in his emigration to Iowa where upon his arrival at Des Moines, he immediately decided to remain. His initial step in Des Moines as a business man was his association with Thomas McMullen, then school fund commissioner, in the selling of school lands granted the state by an act of congress. However he remained not long at his first position for as he showed signs of remarkable business ability he was soon appointed deputy postmaster of Des Moines, the office then being known as Raccoon River. R. L. Tidrick was Postmaster and the office was in conjunction with that of Cassady & Tidrick, attorneys, located on Second street, near Vine. He served in the capacity of deputy until 1849 when upon the resignation of Mr. Tidrick he was appointed Postmaster, under the administration of President Zachary Taylor, which office he held until 1853 when he resigned and recommended the appointment of his well known successor, Wesley Redhead.

Soon after his appointment he built an office on the east side of Second Street, near Vine, and moved the office from the old barracks building thereto, it being the first exclusive postoffice building in the city.

It is a coincidence that he also built the second building used as a postoffice, called the Sherman Block, corner of Third street and Court avenue, and the third postoffice, a two-story frame on Third street, in the rear of the Sherman Block, and disbursed the funds for the building of the postoffice which was occupied until the completion of the present one, March, 1910.

At the May term of the district court, 1849, Mr. Sherman was admitted to the bar and became one of the most prominent attorneys of his day. An illustration of his determination to gain a foothold in the business world is shown by the methods used in his first investment. In 1850 the well known and extensive Pursely estate was to be sold and the realty divided into five-acre tracts and sold by order of the court. His accumulated savings amounted to exactly one hundred dollars. The sale was to be at auction. He was on the grounds at the opening hour and was approached by one of the executives to act as clerk of the sale for which services he was to receive a compensation of five dollars. The tract he most desired was called and soon reached one hundred dollars, the extent of his assets, but at this point there was a hesitancy in the bidding. By raising it to one hundred and five dollars, including the pay he was to receive for that day's work, he was the highest bidder and the land was his. This was his first step, the property was sold to the city after the death of Mr. Sherman.

In 1892 he was elected clerk of the district court and administrator of the estate of Judge Burbridge. In 1853 the Sherman Block at the northeast corner of Third street and Court avenue was built and for several years was occupied by the county and city offices. In 1854 the bank of Hoyt Sherman and Company was organized to do a legitimate and exchange business. The known integrity and character of the company at once brought success, and it was largely instrumental in driving out the worthless notes of the Agricultural Bank of Tennessee. In 1856, during the state house scrimmage, between the "East Siders" and Fort Des Moines, Mr. Sherman took an active part. To give aid and comfort to the "West Siders" and put the state house on Grinnell's Hill he subscribed three thousand dollars.

In 1858, when under the new constitution authorizing banks of issue, the State Bank of Iowa was organized, Mr. Sherman was elected cashier of the Des Moines branch and one of the directors of the state organization, elected to supervise the system and guard the public interests, and the bank of Hoyt Sherman merged into it. It had ample capital, its notes were kept at par and redeemed upon presentation. It continued to do business until the present national banking system went into operation.

In 1861 he was appointed by President Lincoln, paymaster in the Union Army with the rank of major. He held that highly responsible position for more than three years disbursing millions of dollars without the discrepancy of a penny much to his credit and to the high satisfaction of the government. In 1866 Major Sherman was a member of the house of the eleventh general assembly, where he was a chairman of the committee on ways and means. in January, 1867, the Equitable Life Insurance Company of Iowa, now one of the strongest companies in the middle west, was organized and he was elected actuary; in February following, secretary; and in January, 1874, president, holding that office fourteen years.

In 1868 he was elected corresponding secretary of the Old Settlers Association and held that place several years. In 1871 he became one of those who founded the Des Moines Water Company, and laid the foundation of the present system of water supply. Early in 1876 the Iowa Industrial Exposition Company was organized, with Mr. Sherman as president, the object being to erect a building for the permanent exhibit of specimens of art and industries of the state. A fine three-story brick, one hundred and thirty-two feet square, was erected, a large organ put in it and the interior arranged for exhibits. In September a formal opening was held and a display most creditable.

In 1886 he was one of the founders of the Pioneer Lawmakers Association and was ever one of its influential members, serving as president and long as a member of the executive committee. He contributed some very valuable historical articles on Annals of Iowa, Early Banking in Iowa, and on the State Bank of Iowa. Many years he was the executive officer of the Associated Charities of Des Moines

On the failure of Allen, at a massmeeting of citizens and creditors, Mr. Sherman was selected by a unanimous vote as assignee to settle the immensely entangled affairs of the estate and make distribution of the property, a service which for several years required the exercise of sterling business qualities, diplomacy and sound judgment. It was a constant vigorous contest with lawyers and litigants in the courts which terminated in a much more liberal distribution of property than was foreseen by anyone.

On the 25th of December, 1855, Major Sherman was married to Miss Sara Moulton, of Ohio, a highly accomplished lady who as wife, mother and neighbor won the esteem and good will of all. She was called to her final rest on March 2, 1887, leaving a fond husband and five children. The oldest was Frank Allen, a lawyer of Des Moines, who died March 1, 1902; Adeline M. is the wife of Frank B. Wiborg, of Cincinnati, Ohio; Charles M. is an attorney residing in Washington, D. C.; Arthur H. is of Des Moines; and Helen, now Mrs. William O. Griffith, lives in Washington, D. C. Major General Sherman died January 25, 1904.