A Brief History of Sherman, CT
Fairfield County

by Dr. Patrick L. Cooney


The central valley from Sherman Center north to Gaylordsville is an area of calcium-rich carbonate bedrock.

1707 -- Captain Nathan Gold and others from Fairfield granted land for a township north of Danbury. The land included the Quaker Hill area (now of New York).

1729 -- The Indian sachem named Mauwehu and 12 other chiefs signed a deed giving the colonists the land.

1731 -- a strip of land called the "Oblong" and Quaker Hill was given to New York to settle boundary disputes.

1736 or 1737 -- the eleven proprietors divided the "Upper Seven Miles" (Sherman) from the "Lower Seven Miles" (New Fairfield).

1742  --  the General Assembly of the Colony of Connecticut granted Sherman its own parish so it could have its own church.

1743  --  Roger Sherman came to Sherman from Newton, Massachusetts to reside with his brother William at his home near to the site of Town Hall.  

As a young man Roger Sherman lived in Sherman for a few years with his bother William (whose home was in the extreme north part of town.) Roger Sherman was a shoe-maker and surveyor at the time. He would become the only American to sign four important historical documents: The Continental Association of 1774, The Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and The Federal Constitution.

The Town of Sherman was named for Roger Sherman.

1775-1782, Revolutionary War -- William Giddings of Sherman received his commission as captain from General Washington.

1778 (October)  -- coming down Quaker Hill, Gen. Washington and his army passed through north Sherman on their way to Boston to save the French fleet stationed there.  They encamped near the famous old oak tree in Gaylordsville.

1802 -- Sherman incorporated from New Fairfield and named in honor of Roger Sherman. David Northrop became Sherman's first town clerk.

early 19th century  --  Sherman developed at the intersection of Routes 37 and 39.  There were a number of buildings in the area: a sawmill,  tannery,  hat shop, carriage factory, store, church, burial ground, schoolhouse and about 15 dwellings. This small village is the present-day Town Center.

1812  --  men of Sherman marched to New London to protect that port.

1818  --  a fourth class post office established in Sherman.

1820  --  Sherman first established a stage connection and regular mail delivery.  A line ran from Poughkeepsie to Pawling and Quaker Hill and from there to Sherman and Litchfield. 

1829 -- the general store is listed in the Sherman land records as a mercantile belonging to David Northrop, Jr. David built his house (now the Northrop House Museum) in the same year.

1835  --  Florence and Cyrus Hungerford donated the land on which the present Congregational Church stands. 

c. 1837  --  "The Playhouse" built on top of Center Hill.  It was used for Union, Methodist, Episcopal  and Congregation services. 

1839  -- Albert Barnes ran a sawmill.

1840  -- a train ran from New Milford to Bridgeport (where the passengers caught the steamboat to New York) and back. (The railroad never came to Sherman.)

1848  -- tobacco growing was on a limited basis.

1845  -- a hat factory produced 600 hats valued at $1,500 dollars.

1850 -- population of 984. After this date the population started to decline as young people moved out for better opportunities.

1855  -- two men, Gray and Sherman, operated a store in Sherman.

1856  --  Allen Gray became insolvent and had to sell the contents of his store. 

1861-1865  -- Civil War. 

1864  --  William B. Hawley (b. 1838) purchased a store in New Fairfield that he ran for one year.  He married his first wife, Cornelia Northrop.

1865  --  Mr. Hawley moved to Sherman and bought a general store. 

1866  --  Chauncey S. Burch and Charles Spencer purchased a store. 

1867 -- On the 1867 map, the Northrop house is labeled 'D. Northrop Saloon.' It was a stop on the road for travelers, clients, and drovers taking their cattle to market.

1867  --  many early town records destroyed in a fire.

1867-1869  --  Lafayette Joyce and Mr. Porter ran the "Upper Store" that stood on the west side of the road opposite where the Sherman Library now stands.

1869-1871  -- Mr. Porter ran the "Upper Store".

1870 census  -- 20 women in Sherman worked as seamstresses.

1871  --  Edward Perry Briggs and Mr. Joyce bought out Mr. Porter  and they ran the "Upper Store" at least until 1876.  In 1873 it served as a post office.

1875  --  Rev. Edward P. Herrick became the minister to the Sherman Congregational Church for 16 years.

1878  --  William B. Hawley owned and used the "Upper Store" as a warehouse. 

1882  --  telephone service arrived.

1882  --  William B. Hawley became the new postmaster.

1883  -- road "guide boards" were placed on a high post to help bewildered travelers. 

1886  --  the town erected its first Town Hall.

1886  --  John Hungerford elected as hayward (i.e., a person who guards the hedges from injury by the cattle in town).

1891  --   the first Congregational Church on the Hungerford donated land destroyed by fire.

1892  --  David Gray of Danbury opened a blacksmith shop in the Center. 

1893  -- the new Congregational Church dedicated. 

1894  --  rooms overhead were rented out at the old "Upper Store".

1900  --  population fell below 600.

1902  --  a Rural Free Deliver Route established in Sherman.

early 1900s -- tobacco became a large cash crop as farmers dried the leaves in their barns and shipped them out to become the wrapper leaves for cigars.

1903  -- Ruth Rogers (sister of Sherman historian, Theodore Rogers) established a literary club, The Delvers, that provided the nucleus of a library fund.

1906  --  a group of local residents and summer people built  the 40-acre Lake Mauweehoo.  (Today it is a private club on Route 37.)

1907  --  William B. Hawley's store was the post office for 30 years, but in this year the U.S. Government closed the post office.  The town also learned that the stage route to New Milford would be discontinued.  There was an outcry in the town, but to no avail. 

1907  --  Chris Hansen started building the dam to create what became Spring Lake.  On one side there were picnic grounds and there the town held a town picnic and celebration every Fourth of July.

1908  --  Lake Mauweehoo (named for the last chief of the Schaghticoke tribe) created by George Durgy with the encouragement of Dr. Warren Wilson and others. 

1912  --  Fuller's Tavern (built by tanner Revilo Fuller on the site of the present Sherman Library) burned down.

1912  -- a terrible hail storm. 

1914  --  the town established a
public library through gifts from two residents.  Mrs. Warren Allen donated land for the future library. Jane Mallory Mars (mother of Mrs. Pattison) donated $5,000 dollars.

1915  --  Frank A. Boerum started a combination blacksmith and wagon shop.  It was the last blacksmith shop in Sherman where horses could be shod. 

1921  --  the town took over the Playhouse to preserve it. 

1921-1972  --  Giddings Garage, operated by William H. Giddings. The building was formerly the blacksmith shop of David Gray. 

1923  -- a large rock located on the farm of Stevenson Constable in Leach Hollow was transported to the Center to hold a bronze plaque honoring the 21 Sherman men who served during World War I. 

1924  -- death of William B. Hawley.  His grand nephew, William Boerum, became the new owner of the Hawley store.

1925  -- Mrs. Walter Evans started the Sherman Players, which lasted until World War II.  The Sherman Players were crucial in saving the Playhouse.

1926  --  Mrs. Warren Allen broke ground for the new library building. 

1926  --  Lester Bennett, Sr. worked as a clerk in the William Boerum store. 

1927-1929  --   the Connecticut Light and Power Company's hydroelectric project flooded the Rocky River Valley creating Lake Candlewood.  After the flooding of Candlewood Lake, the town began to grow more quickly.

1920s  -- the start of the opening of Sherman to traffic with the building of Routes 37 and 39.

1930  --  population fell to its lowest point, 391.

1935  -- death of William Boerum.  The new owners of the Boerum store were Lester Bennett, Sr. and Howard Smith, the latter of New Milford. 

1936  --  a new consolidated school opened in the center of town, replacing the half dozen rural "district" schools.

A friend of mine was born in the Bronx but his family moved to Connecticut soon afterward. But they kept moving, this time within Connecticut: first Darien, then Wilton, and finally Sherman. He loved it when his family bought a farm in Sherman because he figured at long last he would stay put in one place for awhile. And he did, for awhile, about 10 years of staying put, until they moved to Virginia.

He lived on Briggs Hill Road (then a dirt road) near its intersection with Route 37. The house he and his family lived in was once owned by the Briggs family.

His father was an ad executive in New York City and would often be absent from home. He was primarily raised by his mother, who had a love for nature which rubbed off on him.

He remembers there was a general store and that the town hall was across from it. The general store is mentioned in the Federal Writers' Project book on Connecticut (page 462). "The general store in Sherman is worth a visit. Drugs, groceries, hardware, or dress-goods can be purchased under the same roof."

There was also a gas station owned by Mr. Giddings who had a brother that was a conscientious objector during World War II. While there were some Communists in the area, even these people were not seen as terrible and objectionable as the near-traitorous conscientious objector. He also remembers there was a Congregational Church in town that he went to for awhile, even though he was Episcopalian. (The truth was that he had a crush on one of the girls in his class and she was a Congregationalist and attended that church.)

If the family wanted to see a picture show or go to the A&P for some serious grocery shopping, they had to go to New Milford. New Milford had one movie house, some hardware stores and that A&P.

Sometimes he would take his horse and ride up Briggs Hill Road into New York to Quaker Hill. He would pass by the house of a poet near the New York/Connecticut state line. He also remembers that Governor Thomas Dewey had a home in the area. He thinks Mr. Dewey raised foxes on the farm. As a boy scout, he sold magazine subscriptions to the famous man.

He loved to go down to Lake Mauweehoo along Route 37. His parents bought lifetime subscriptions for themselves, their son and their two granddaughters (although he jokes that it would be unlikely that those subscriptions would be honored today). He loved to go row-boating on the lake and would spend hours there fishing.

There was one black family in town. There was one Jewish fellow, named Weiss, who owned a big farm and raised black angus cows. There were also a lot of Swedes in the community.

He remembers how he used to have to keep the pastures from becoming overgrown with shrubs and trees and how hard he had to work at times. There were many pastures along Briggs Hill Road.

1941-1945  --  World War II. 

1947  --  a meeting of the Sherman World War II veterans voted to create a recreation field as a memorial.  Veterans Field behind Town Hall was the result. 

1949  -- Sherman finally got its own post office.  Mrs. Nellie Worden became the postmaster.

by 1950  --  population back up to 549 persons.

1953  --  ground-breaking for the Congregational Parish House. 

1953  -- because it had become a traffic hazard, the old WWI memorial stone was moved to Sherman School grounds.

1961  --  Mr. Smith of "Smith and Bennetts" retired and the old store became "Bennett's IGA".  (IGA stands for Independent Grocers Association.) 

1968  --  to save open space in Sherman, a group of residents organized the Naromi Land Trust.

1970  --  there had been a three-fold increase of the town's population since the end of World War II.

1973  --  the new wetland protection law exempted much of the about 11% of municipal wetlands from development.

1975  --  Mary Mallory Pattison donated two acres of land and a new Town Hall building.

1975-77 --  construction of the new Mallory Town Hall, named in honor of Mrs. Pattison's father, Charles A. Mallory.

1975  --  creation of the Sherman Historical Society.

1976  --  population of 1900. 

1976  -- the old store closed.  "Bennett's IGA" opened a new store on Route 39, just north of the Playhouse and Firehouse.  Lester Bennett, Jr. ran the new store. 

1977  --  the town adopted new and more stringent zoning regulations.

1979-80   --  local citizens acquired title to Ten Mile Hill and adjacent highland in Sherman's northeastern corner.  (It has subsequently transferred to the National Park Service as a wilderness preserve for the relocated Appalachian Trail.)

1987  --   zoning regulations amended to mandate 2-acre lots throughout the Town for future building.

1990  -- town population was 2,809.

by the mid-1990s  --  the Naromi Land Trust created thirty permanent open space reservations of about 1,000-acres.

1999 -- the general store was acquired by the Sherman Historical Society 1999 in order to preserve the intent of the Old Store.

2000  --  town population of  3,827.


Allie Hungerford Giddings. 1977.  A History of Sherman. Sherman: Sherman Historical Society. 

Changing Land Use in Sherman, Connecticut.

Sherman Historical Society; http://www.shermanhistorical.org

and interview by Patrick L. Cooney of anonymous former Sherman resident.


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