From Newport, NY to Watertown, NY
Contributed by Lisa Slaski
Transcribed by Joanne Murray
Wooster Sherman, organizer and treasurer of the Watertown Savings Bank, was born at Newport,
New York, April 28, 1809, the fifth child and fourth son of Phineas and Amy (Thornton) Sherman.
(See ancestry elsewhere.) He received his early education in the common schools of his native town,
and when fifteen years old served as clerk in the stores of Eli Farwell, of Watertown, and William S. Ely,
of Brownville. Having decided to follow the profession of law, the next year, at the age of sixteen,
he began a course of study in the law offices of Bucklin & Sherman, and while yet a student was
appointed to the position of deputy county clerk, in which capacity he served for five consecutive years,
a portion of his time acting as clerk of the supreme and county courts. In 1828 he served as clerk of the
circuit court at the trial of Henry Evans, convicted of the murder of Rogers and hanged August 22d, of
that year. Mr. Sherman, as deputy clerk, signed the death warrant, which is on file in the Historical
Society, of which he was an honorary member. Mr. Sherman resigned his position as deputy clerk, and
again took up his studies with the firm of Hubbard & Dutton, and in May, 1829, was admitted to the bar.
May 28, 1832, Mr. Sherman was united in marriage with Miss Wealthy S. Dickinson, of Northampton,
Massachusetts, where she was born August 28, 1812, a daughter of Frederick Dickinson. The following
children were born from this union: William W.; Frederick D.; Emma M., widow of Ambrose J. Clark,
residing with her son, Wallace S., in Schenectady; Cornelia F., wife of the late Robert M. C. Graham, of
New York; Henry J. and J. W. (twins); Grace, who married Francis E. Hunn, of New Haven, Connecticut;
Wealthy and John Jay. The only children now living are Mrs. Clark; Mrs. Hunn; William W., deputy collector
of customs at Cape Vincent; and Frederick D., now living in Brooklyn. Mr. Sherman's other descendants - and
those of whom he was justly proud - are five grandsons, eight granddaughters, two great-grandsons and five
His health being somewhat impaired, Mr. Sherman concluded that a few months of travel, with complete rest
from business anxieties, would be of great benefit to him, and accordingly, in the spring of 1833, he
started on a voyage to the Straits of Belle Isle, on the coast of Labrador, taking passage in an eighty-ton
fishing schooner from Marblehead, Massachusetts. His trip covered a period of about four months, and he
returned home in the latter part of September, having entirely recuperated.
Six years later - in the fall of 1839, while still in the practice of an attorney, he received the
appointment of cashier of the old Bank of Watertown. The directors of the bank were Hon. Willard Ives,
Henry D. Sewall, William H. Angel, Stephen Boon, Benjamin Corey, Samuel Buckley and others, all of whom
have passed away. Mr. Sherman severed his connection with the institution, after two years' successful
management. In the fall of 1841, under the general laws of the state, he established the first private
bank circulating notes, a method that was afterward adopted by Luther Wright, of Oswego, New York, John D.
Hudson, of Ogdensburg, Henry Keep, of Watertown, N. Merriam, of Courtland, and others. Mr. Sherman started
his bank, which was known as "Wooster Shermans Bank," with a capital of $10,000, which was afterward
increased to $50,000, and its circulation to $60,000. He conducted this institution, attended with much
success, for about twenty-five years, during which time he accumulated a handsome competency, when the
national banking law was passed by Congress, necessitating the calling in of his circulating notes, which
were regularly redeemed.
In 1854 Mr. Sherman built a handsome residence on Clinton street, where he lived for a quarter of a century,
and which is now occupied by George W. Knowlton. The banking house now occupied by the Watertown National
Bank was also built by Mr. Sherman. He was for many years a member of the Trinity Episcopal church, and
his political sympathies were with the Democratic party, in whose interests he worked hard, and in his
younger days held many positions of trust in the party, and was at one time its nominee for presidential elector.
In the great bank panic of 1857, when almost all the banks in the country were compelled to suspend payments
temporarily, Mr. Sherman publicly made announcement that he would meet all liabilities that should be
demanded of him, offering gold in the redemption of his circulating notes, and to his depositors the same
bank notes by which they had made their deposits, or in sight drafts on New York, always keeping there a
large balance. The effect of this announcement was electrical, and few demands were made.
In 1858, at the suggestion of his Albany correspondent - the New York State Bank - he negotiated with the
Hartford Phoenix Bank for an unlimited amount of circulating notes without interest on thirty days' time,
and was thus in a position to extend accommodations to his customers profitably. When an extensive flouring
and distilling merchant in the present Taggert bag and paper mill, Mr. William H. Angel, desired $50,000,
he was notified by Mr. Paddock that Wooster Sherman was the only banker that could furnish it; and his notes
at sixty days were discounted for that amount. Besides this, he furnished $50,000 to Edwin White for the
purchase of butter and cheese; $35,000 to Garret Ives for a cargo of wheat; and $25,000 to Eldridge G.
Merrick, of Clayton, an extensive lumber, timber and grain dealer.
Wooster Sherman could well look upon life as a success, won for him by the remarkable industry and
perseverance that characterized his entire life and well qualified him to take a prominent place in the
business world. In his youth he won the entire confidence of such prominent and respected citizens as Norris
M. Woodruff, Loveland Paddock and John Clarke, the last two gentlemen offering to join him in establishing
the largest bank in the city. The transactions with the Phoenix bank, amounting to several hundred thousands
of dollars, were closed without the loss to either party of a single dollar, thus showing the young man to
be possessed of shrewd and correct methods of banking, unknown to many more experienced bankers. This
confidence was not lost in his more advanced years, but his deep and lasting interest in everything that
pertained to his town and the Savings Bank he so ably represented was justly appreciated by his fellow trustees and townsmen.
In February, 1882, Mr. Sherman received a very great sorrow through the death of his wife, who died regretted not only by her husband and children, but by the entire community.
Source: "Genealogical and family history of the county of Jefferson, New York; a record of the achievements of her people and the phenomenal growth of her agricultural and mechanical industries," by R.A. Oakes. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1905. Pages 1346 - 1349.