By Jared L. Olar
July 2007-May 2015
8. SHERMAN LINN SHAW, son of James and Rebecca Shaw; born 5 Oct. 1864 on the Shaw farm, Bradford Township, Lee County, Illinois; died 9 Jan. 1942 in Lee Center, Lee County, Illinois; buried in Woodside Cemetery, Lee Center, Lee County, Illinois. Sherman was born and raised in Lee Center and, in contrast to his younger siblings who moved away and traveled extensively, he lived his entire life in Lee County, Illinois, tending the farm that had been handed down to him from his paternal grandfather, the first Sherman Shaw -- and it is in Lee County where he was, in biblical parlance, "gathered to his fathers" and laid to rest with his vast extended family of Shaw and Linn ancestors and cousins. Like his grandfather Manly Sherman Shaw, during his life he was well known and respected among his peers and fellow farmers, and his biography was included in Frank Everett Stevens' History of Lee County, Illinois (1914), vol. 2, page 360. That biography is one of the main sources for our knowledge of Sherman's life.
As noted above, the 1870 U.S. Census for Lee Center Township, dated 5 Aug. 1870, shows "James Saw" (sic), age 32, with his wife "Mary," age 29, and their children "Sherman," age 5, "Grace," age 2, and "George," age 1. Sherman's father James Monroe Shaw was then a dry goods merchant in town, and James' store clerk, Louis Darzy, age 21, was boarding with them at the time. It was six years later, when Sherman was 12 years old, that Sherman's father died. James Monroe had contracted dysentery while serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, and the dysentery left him greatly weakened. Our Shaw family traditions note that after his return home, James' health never seemed fully to recover and he died an untimely death. This was the first of several times that Sherman would experience the grief of the loss of a loved one -- and yet while he did come to be "acquainted with grief," he was not overcome by it, but seems to have allowed his sorrowful experiences to teach him and refine his character.
After James' death, according to our Shaw family tradition, his widow and children moved in with James' parents in Lee Center. Four years later, on 4 June 1880, the U.S. Census returns for Lee Center Village show James' widow "Rebecca Shaw," age 39, keeping house in a residence apparently adjacent to her father- and mother-in-law. The census shows her with her children "Sherman," age 15, "Grace, age 12, "George," age 9, "Arthur," age 8, and "Emma," age 6, along with Rebecca's cousin "Cora B. Linn," age 24, who was living with them as a house keeper. Cora's father was James Perry Linn (1818-1871), whose father James Lynn (1790-1865) was one of the brothers of Rebecca's father George Russell Linn (1800-1886). Listed on the same census record immediately after Rebecca and her children are "Sherman Shaw," 69, a farmer, and his wife "Malinda D. Shaw," age 63, keeping house. Our family tradition affirms that Rebecca and her children lived with Sherman and Malinda after the death of Rebecca's husband James, but the precise nature of their living arrangements is unclear, as they may have been living in separate houses next door to each other at this time, or the house where they both lived may have been subdivided as apartments.
Shown at left is an early tintype that is very probably an early childhood portrait of Sherman Linn Shaw, eldest child of James Monroe and Mary Rebecca (Linn) Shaw. At right is a photograph of Sherman Linn Shaw from his teenage years, showing a strong resemblance to his great-grandson and namesake Jason Sherman Olar. Both images are provided courtesy of the family of Eleanor (Shaw) Baylor.
About three years later, Sherman again experienced the sadness of the loss of a loved one when his baby sister Emma Adelia Shaw fell sick and died at the tender age of 10, on 6 Nov. 1883. Sherman's biography in the 1914 History of Lee County, Illinois doesn't mention Emma's death, but briefly describes this time of Sherman's life with these words: "Sherman L. Shaw acquired his education in Lee Center and Dixon College, completing his studies when twenty years of age. He afterward remained at home upon the farm for a time and later rented land. On his grandfather's death he purchased the interests of the other heirs in the property. . . ." Sherman turned 20 in 1884, so he would have completed his studies at Dixon College in 1885. Six years after that, his grandfather Manly Sherman Shaw died on 25 April 1891. Later in 1891, Sherman's sister and two brothers deeded their three-fourths interest in Lot 74, People's Addition, Lee Center, Illinois, to their older brother Sherman for $90. Lot 74 is located next door to Manly Sherman Shaw's old stone house that had been built in 1862 by Garrett La Forge. The 1891 transaction involving Lot 74 obviously had to do with Sherman's purchase of his younger siblings' shares in their grandfather's farm.
It must have been around 1891 or 1892 that Sherman bought the old Ralph Ford place on Lot 77, People's Addition, Lee Center, which thus became the home of Sherman and his family as well as the center of his farming operation. As for the old Shaw home -- the fine stone house built in 1862 by Garrett La Forge -- my great-grandfather Sherman sold it in 1893 or 1894 to Samuel Ullrich.
This old photograph shows the home in Lee Center, Illinois, where my great-grandfather Sherman Linn Shaw lived from about 1891 until 1936. This was the farm house of the old Shaw farm in Lee Center, and it was in this house where Sherman Linn Shaw's five children were born, and also where his first wife Anna died. After my great-grandparents moved out, the house had a series of tenants, including my grandparents and mother in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The last tenants were the family of Jacque Setchell. The house burned to the ground on 30 March 1968, the flames being fed because it was a windy day. The lot is vacant today. After the fire, the only thing left was a large, flat grey stone at the west end of the front porch, which Sherman's daughter Eleanor (Shaw) Baylor retrieved and placed as a step to her front porch at the Baylor farm in Lee Center.
At left is a photograph of Sherman Linn Shaw taken when he was in his 20s. At right is his first wife Anna Katherine Mynard, probably taken when she was about 20 years old. The photograph of Sherman was handed down to us from my grandparents, while Anna's photograph is provided courtesy of our cousin Darlene (Noble) Hinkle.
On 22 Dec. 1892 in Amboy, Lee County, Illinois, Sherman, then age 28, married ANNA KATHERINE MYNARD, born 12 Feb. 1866, died 5 Jan. 1902 of tuberculosis in Lee Center, daughter of Adam S. and Alvira Mynard of Amboy. Sherman and Katherine had two children: a daughter, GERTRUDE KATHERINE SHAW, born at home on 12 June 1894, who was named after her mother; and a son, RUSSELL MYNARD SHAW, born at home on 8 Dec. 1895, who was named after his maternal great-grandfather George Russell Linn.
Adam S. Mynard of Amboy, Illinois, is shown with his granddaughter Gertrude K. Shaw in this vintage photograph provided courtesy of the family of Eleanor Shaw Baylor. The photograph was taken circa 1896 apparently at the Mynard home in Amboy, when Gertrude was about 2 or 3 years old.
Gertrude K. Shaw and her younger brother Russell M. Shaw are shown at the Shaw farm in Lee Center in this vintage photograph taken circa 1900, provided courtesy of the family of Eleanor Shaw Baylor.
In 1895, Sherman and his wife Anna sold Lot 74, People's Addition, to Christian Ullrich for $150. This was the same above-mentioned lot of which Sherman had acquired the sole possession from his siblings in 1891 for $90. The Ullrichs did not hold the property for long, selling it to Achsah Neweins, who apparently built the house on that lot. After Neweins' death, in 1901 her estate's administrator Othniel M. Clark, father-in-law of Sherman's brother George Harry Thornton Shaw, sold Lot 74 to Tryphene Shaw for $1,200. Tryphene's husband was John Langdon Shaw (1816-1906), nephew of Sherman's grandfather Manly Sherman Shaw. The house and lot would remain in the family of John and Tryphene and their daughter Ellen (Shaw) Hodges until 22 Aug. 1921, when Ellen sold it to Russell Mynard Shaw, Sherman's eldest son, for $1,700. Three years later, on 3 Dec. 1924, Russell sold it to Philo L. Berry for the nominal price of $1.
About five years after Russell's birth, on 12 June 1900, the U.S. Census returns for Lee Center Township show "Sherman L. Shaw," age 35, born Oct. 1864, a farmer, with his wife "Anna Shaw," age 34, born Feb. 1866, and their children "Gertrude Shaw," age 6, born June 1894, and "Russell M. Shaw," age 4, born Dec. 1895. Their neighbors were the John Ullrich and the Henry Herrick families, who like the Shaws were farmers.
Less than two years later, Sherman once more felt the pain of grief when his beloved wife Anna Katherine died. Her death certificate says her age at death was 35 years 9 months 23 days, and states her cause of death to have been "Tuberculosis Palmonalos." During the lifetime of my great-grandparents, tuberculosis, also known in those days as "consumption," was a not uncommon disease, but today is rare. Before the discovery of antibiotics, tuberculosis was incurable and always fatal, and the illness often would persist for several years before the victim died in agony. The fact that Sherman and Katherine had no more children after the end of 1895 indicates that she probably contracted tuberculosis in or around 1896. The final five or six years of Anna Katherine's life probably were lived under the shadow of her sickness, and the pain of losing her no doubt was keenly felt by Sherman, Gertrude and Russell. She was buried in Woodside Cemetery near Lee Center, in a family plot located on the south end of the burying ground, one row behind the graves of Sherman's uncle Egbert DeWolf Shaw and their cousin Ellen (Shaw) Hodges.
The Shaw family plot, located on the south end of Woodside Cemetery in Lee Center, Illinois, includes the graves of (from left to right) Sherman L. Shaw's infant son who died at birth in 1908, Sherman's second wife Grace E. (Bender) Shaw, Sherman L. Shaw, Sherman's first wife Anna K. (Mynard) Shaw, and Sherman's eldest child Gertrude K. Shaw. Anna's was the first of the burials in this plot, in January 1902.
After a period of mourning, however, Sherman sought spousal companionship for himself, as well as a mother's care for his children. So it was that, about three and a half years after Katherine's death, Sherman remarried on 21 June 1905 in Amboy to GRACE ESTHER BENDER, born 26 Nov. 1878 in Mount Carroll, Carroll County, Illinois, died 12 May 1941 in Lee Center, Illinois, daughter of Conrad and Clarissa Bender. The local newspaper in Amboy announced the marriage as follows:
"The marriage of Miss Grace E. Bender to S. L. Shaw of Lee Center was solemnized at the home of the bride's parents in Amboy Wednesday evening at 8 o'clock in the presence of immediate relatives. Rev. C. Bender, father of the bride, officiated assisted by Rev. W. R. Yard. Mr. and Mrs. Shaw will reside in Lee Center where they will be at home after July 19. Those attending the wedding from out of town were Mrs. Chas. Leonard of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Shaw of Dixon, Rev. and Mrs. W. R. Yard of Big Rock, and Mr. and Mrs. H. H. Nicholas and daughters of Speer, Ill."
A formal announcement card of the marriage of Sherman Linn Shaw and Grace Esther Bender on 21 June 1905.
Of the out-of-towners who came to the wedding, Mrs. Charles Leonard of Chicago was Sherman's younger sister Grace Shaw Leonard, while Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Shaw of Dixon were Sherman's younger brother and sister-in-law. In addition, among the Shaw family mementos handed down to us is a two-page letter written the day of Sherman and Grace's wedding by Sherman's younger brother GEORGE HARRY THORNTON SHAW (1869-1934). The purpose of the letter was to welcome Sherman's new bride to the family and to congratulate her on her marriage. The letter was written from Toluca, Mexico, where George and his wife and children were living, because George, an engineer, was then employed on a public construction project -- thus making it impossible for George and his family to attend the wedding.
My great-grandparents Sherman Linn Shaw I and Grace Esther (Bender) Shaw are shown in this photograph, taken probably in the 1920s or circa 1930. Grace here displays a strong resemblance to my late mother.
The joy and solace of Sherman's new marriage was followed by grief, however, when he and Grace lost their first child together -- the months of anxious anticipation of the arrival of Grace's first child ended sorrowfully with the birth of a baby boy who died at or soon after childbirth on 22 May 1908. The unnamed infant boy was buried near the resting place of Sherman's late first wife. But as if God had purposed to temper their mourning with new celebration, exactly one year later Sherman and Grace had a daughter, ELEANOR SHAW, born 22 May 1909 in Lee Center. Thus, Sherman and Grace never had to remember the day they lost their baby without also giving thanks for the birth of their daughter Eleanor. Sherman and Grace named her after Grace's mother Clarissa Eleanor Riche Bender (1845-1924).
One year later, Sherman and his family were recorded in the U.S. Census returns for Lee Center Township, dated 12 May 1910. The census record shows "Sherman L. Shaw," age 45, a farmer who owned his farm, with his wife "Grace E. Shaw," age 31, and his children "Gertrude K. Shaw," age 15, "Russel M. Shaw" (sic -- should be "Russell"), age 14, and "Eleanor Shaw," age 10 months (sic -- she was actually 11 months old). Their neighbors were the families of Edward J. Gray and Henry N. Herrick, while the family of Samuel Ullrich lived not too far away.
Two years after that, Sherman and Grace had one more child -- their youngest, my grandfather SHERMAN LINN SHAW II (also known as Sherman Linn Shaw Jr.), born 17 May 1912 in Lee Center. Grace was 33 years old when she gave birth to my grandfather, so normally she might have been able to have at least two or three more children, but for whatever reason my grandfather was her last child.
The photograph at left, taken circa 1910 and handed down to my family from my grandparents, shows Gertrude Shaw with her baby half-sister Eleanor Shaw. In that photograph, Gertrude shows a remarkable resemblance to my own mother, Gertrude's niece, when she was around the age Gertrude is here. The photograph at right, taken in 1912 and also handed down to my family from my grandparents, shows Eleanor holding her baby brother Sherman, my grandfather.
While Sherman did experience some personal bereavements around this time, the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th were the years when his farming ventures in Lee County achieved the pinnacle of success and Sherman's financial fortunes were at their highest. This was also the period when Sherman, along with his younger brother George Harry Thornton Shaw and their kinsmen and his friends, sought to realise at long last the vision of bringing a railroad to Lee Center. The generation of the pioneers in Lee Center had been either uninterested in rail transportation or else, in some cases, actively opposed to railroads, so when the railroad first came to the Lee Center area in 1855, the track went through Amboy instead -- that was the Illinois Central Railroad's "Charter Line." In the words of local historian Frank E. Stevens in his History of Lee County, Illinois (1914), vol. I, page 388 --
"When the Illinois Central railroad wanted to enter Lee Center, that prosperous little place may have been somewhat proud and unyielding in her notions of prosperity and the possibility of its disappearance was considered preposterous. Railroads were new and untried and might not be worth to a community half so much as an academy. Perhaps that inasmuch as the stage coach had been good enough to serve them in the past, the new rail invention might not be able to supplant it. At all events the railroad took all the business to Amboy and in the face of the life which at once appeared in Amboy, Lee Center could not stand. For nearly fifty years Lee Center, so far as business was concerned, lay dormant."
Stevens could only speculate about the reasons why the people of Lee Center refused the offer of having the Illinois Central come to their community, but it seems that the driving force behind the refusal was none other than Sherman's maternal grandfather George Russell Linn (1800-1886), a prominent founding pioneer settler of Lee County. On this subject, there is a piece of Shaw family lore that my mother used to tell her children. She would talk of how some people wanted to bring a railroad to Lee Center, but others were opposed to it, and so the railroad went to Amboy instead. My mother indicated that the opposition came from someone, or some people, in our own family, though I don't believe she remembered exactly who it was. The missing piece of the puzzle is supplied by George Russell Linn's published obituary, quoted on page 72 of Evangeline Linn Halleck's Descendants of George Linn (1941), which says --
"He put character above wealth, and when an effort was made to put the rail road thru Lee Center, where he lived and owned property, which he knew would thereby become more valuable, he strongly opposed the same, giving as reasons, that saloons would follow the line of the R.R. and though their farms would become more valuable, their sons would be exposed to greater temptations."
G.R. Linn, of course, was strictly against the consumption of alcohol -- and he was indeed a devout, pious, and upright man. It therefore was left to his daughter's sons George and Sherman to undertake the hard labor of finally bringing the railroad to Lee Center -- even as their uncle EGBERT DEWOLF SHAW had previously been active in fostering the development of railroads in Lee County, specifically the areas of Amboy and Shaw Station.
Continuing, then, with this story, Stevens wrote:
"At various times efforts to interest another railroad have failed. Under the direction of Mr. George H. T. Shaw, an electric line was partially graded between Dixon and Lee Center; but by a cruel stroke of fate, a death and the consequent failure to respond in money to the needs of the road, cut its career short and the grade and the project were abandoned."
That first abortive attempt of George H. T. Shaw's was in 1901, when he filed articles of incorporation on 24 June 1901 and obtained a corporate charter on 1 July 1901 for the Northern Illinois Electric Railway Company under the general railroad laws of Illinois (See the "Annual Report of the Railroad and Warehouse Commission of the State of Illinois, 1 Dec. 1912 to 31 Dec. 1913," page 267). George's original proposal was to build a railroad that would connect Lee Center with the Lee County cities of Steward and Dixon, but he was unable to attract sufficient interest in the project, so after a few false starts, the Northern Illinois Electric Railway Company went dormant. Nine years later, in 1910 enough capital was raised to build a five-mile section of the railroad between Lee Center and Amboy. As stated in Jim Boyd's essay, The Lee County Central -- A Real Life Switching Pike (Railroad Model Craftsman, Feb. 2004) --
"Because they wanted to start where the stockholders' money was, instead of at the nearest railhead, the rails and ties were hauled by horse and wagon into Lee Center to begin construction southward toward the Burlington branch at the Green River bridge. The first track went down on August 13, 1910. Since the objective was passenger traffic, the line was built five miles into downtown Amboy, arriving there on December 10, 1910."
Philip L. Keister's The Lee County Central Electric Railway (Bulletin No. 48 of the Electric Railway Historical Society, March 1967), page 4, says George H. T. Shaw's own 7-year-old son CLARKE MONROE SHAW (1903-2001) drove the railway's first spike in the 13 Aug. 1910 ceremony that inaugurated the construction. Although the line between Lee Center and Amboy was not yet complete, the railroad began operations on 1 Oct. 1910. On 10 Dec. 1910, the rail service between Lee Center and Amboy, so long desired by the residents of Lee Center, finally began. Notably, along with the brothers Sherman and George Shaw, some of their cousins and kin in the Frost and Aschenbrenner families had also joined the railroad project. In fact, ANDREW ASCHENBRENNER of Franklin Grove, son-in-law of Sherman and George's aunt Sophia E. (Shaw) Frost, was the man who ran the first car over the new line, as Stevens relates in his biography of Andrew Aschenbrenner in volume two of his Lee County history. Stevens continues his account of Lee Center's railroad on pages 388-389 of volume one of his Lee County history --
"Undaunted by failure however, Elijah L. King, Andrew Aschenbrenner, Reinhart Aschenbrenner and Sherman Shaw, provided funds and built an electric road between Amboy and Lee Center and equipped it with stock to carry passengers, coal, grain and live stock. More than this, these gentlemen extended the road northward and eastward until it runs now almost to Ashton and with the possibility of its going forward to Rochelle in the near future, the success of the road seems to be assured.
"Under present management, the farmers along the line can have a sidetrack run into their yards, if they choose and there load grain and stock and unload coal. It has proved one of the greatest blessings to the people of Lee Center and Bradford that could possibly come to them."
Though incorporated under the name "Northern Illinois Electric Railway Company," the railroad came to be known as the Lee County Central Electric Railway. In 1913, the company's officers were E. L. King of Lee Center, president; George H. T. Shaw of Lee Center, vice-president; Andrew Aschenbrenner of Franklin Grove, secretary (whose wife was Malinda S. Frost, daughter of Sherman and George's aunt Sophia E. (Shaw) Frost); and S. L. Shaw of Lee Center, treasurer; with Aschenbrenner also serving as agent in Illinois for transfer of stock. The company's board of directors then consisted of King, the two Shaw brothers, Aschenbrenner, and the Shaw brothers' first cousin S. Donald Frost, brother-in-law of Aschenbrenner. However, contrary to Stevens' appraisal that "the success of the road seems to be assured," success for the railroad company would prove to be elusive, as will be explained further on.
This photograph from the collection of Eleanor (Shaw) Baylor shows her father Sherman Linn Shaw, standing upon the loading fencework toward the center of the picture, preparing to load the first shipment of livestock to be sent by rail from Lee Center, on 18 May 1911.
It was just two years after my grandfather's birth when the local historian Frank E. Stevens prepared and published his new two-volume history of Lee County, bringing the old 1881 Lee County history up to date. Members of my Shaw family, including Sherman Linn Shaw I and his mother Mary Rebecca Linn Shaw, contributed information and recollections for Stevens' updated history. For example, Sherman wrote the history of the old Lee Center Academy that is found on pages 203-206 of volume one of Stevens' history. The second volume of Steven's history was a "portrait and biographical record" of the numerous leading and notable men of Lee County at the time. It is a measure of the social status that my great-grandfather had achieved by that point of his life that, as noted above, Stevens selected him to be among the men whose biographies would be published in volume two of his county history. The following biography of Sherman Linn Shaw I, based largely on information which he himself supplied to Stevens, was published in the 1914 History of Lee County, Illinois, vol. 2 (although the brief biographical comments on Sherman's father and grandparents have been ellipsed here, since they have previously or elsewhere been quoted, including the tradition that our Shaw family was of Scottish origin):
"Sherman L. Shaw, residing at Lee Center, is the owner of a farming property of six hundred and sixty acres in Lee, his native county. His birth occurred in Bradford township, October 5, 1864, his parents being James M. and M. Rebecca (Linn) Shaw. . . .
"On his grandfather's death he purchased the interests of the other heirs in the property and has since managed his farm, which is devoted to the raising of crops best adapted to soil and climate. He likewise engages to a considerable extent in stock-raising, making a specialty of hogs. The farm is improved with all modern equipments and accessories, and in all of his business career Mr. Shaw has been actuated by a spirit of enterprise, progress and improvement.
"Mr. Shaw has been married twice. On December 22, 1892, at Amboy, he wedded Miss Anna K. Mynard, a daughter of Adam S. and Alvira Mynard. Mrs. Shaw died, leaving two children, Gertrude K. and Russell M., the former now a student in the Francis Shinier School at Mount Carroll, Illinois. On the 21st of June, 1905, Mr. Shaw was again married in Amboy, his second union being with Miss Grace E. Bender, a daughter of Rev. C. and Clarissa Bender. They have two children, Eleanor and Sherman L.
"Politically Mr. Shaw is a republican, and his fellow townsmen, appreciative of his worth and ability, have frequently called him to public office. He has served as town clerk and as member and chairman of the board of supervisors and is now president of the board of education. He is much interested in all that pertains to the general welfare and has cooperated in many movements which have worked for the upbuilding and development of the community. From early life he has been identified with agricultural interests and the unfaltering industry and sound judgment which he has displayed in the management of his farm have gained him place among the most substantial agriculturists of the county."
Shown here is a group photograph of the Lee County Board of Supervisors taken in 1911 and reprinted in the Monday, 12 July 1976 Dixon Evening Telegraph. The county board that year had 24 members, but the photo only shows 23 men, so one of the board members apparently was absent. In the front row, second from the left, is Sherman L. Shaw. The other county board members shown in the photo are unidentified, but Lee County records show that the members of the county board of supervisors in 1911, besides my great-grandfather, were: Morris Cook, W. J. Edwards, Charles Heibenthal, John J. Wagner, H. L. Fordham, Chris Gross, George F. Prescott, E. E. Fischer, L. E. Hart, J. M. McCleary, Homer Parsons, Joseph Bauer, T. P. Long, C. F. Welty, James Buckley, F. G. Emmert, C. C. Buckaloo, John P. Drew, Charles I. Will, John P. Malach, U. Grant Dysart, W. H. Vosburg, and A. S. Wells.
As seen from Stevens' 1914 History of Lee County, Illinois, Sherman took a real interest in the education of the youth of his community. His obituary attests to that interest, also mentioning that his interest in education extended to taking part in the religious education of his community -- he and his wife Grace were active members of Lee Center Congregational Church. In addition, as noted in his biography, at the time Stevens' history was published, Sherman was the president of the board of education in Lee Center. Sherman's interest in education explains how, as also mentioned above, he came to write the history of the old Lee Center Academy, which opened in 1848, just two years after the founding of Lee Center. The original academy structure, a two-story brick edifice built in 1847-48, was, according to Sherman Linn Shaw's account, "condemned and demolished in 1909 and a two-story, four-room brick structure was erected on the old site." Sherman was intimately familiar with the demolition of the old school and the construction of the new one, for he personally presided over the dedication ceremonies of the new school. The 14 Jan. 1910 Amboy News says, "The dedication of the Lee Center school building was a notable occasion in that community. The program was ably handled by S. L. Shaw as presiding officer." While the new school was under construction, the children of Lee Center attended classes at a different location in town, as Mrs. Wayne Albers mentioned in a 1951 Dixon Evening Telegraph article in which she relates some of the history of education in Lee Center:
"The old store building known as the Blake property, was rented as a school in 1909 and 1910. The board of directors consisted of S. L. Shaw, John Smith and B.F. Lane. The first principal in 1909-1910 was Mr. Moon. In 1910-1913, the principal was John Price. Miss Steinacker followed Mr. Price and started a two-year high school. In 1913, a three-year high school was started. Mr. Helbish became principal in 1920-23 and during his term a new addition was added and was known as 'the little room.' The gymnasium was the Odd Fellows hall. During 1931-34 Mr. Jones became principal. During this time the bus system was started and the school building burned down. For a time then school was held in a large building known as the Carlson home."
Another example of Sherman's support for education in his community is noted in the 10 Dec. 1936 Amboy News, page one, third section, which says: "Mr. and Mrs. S. L. Shaw presented the school with about one hundred valuable books, which will be a fine addition to the library."
Sherman's biography in the 1914 Lee County history also observes that he was, like his paternal grandfather, a noted and successful farmer. In the 1917 Lee Co. Prairie Farmers Directory, a compilation of the farmers and breeders of Lee County, Sherman and his farm are listed as: "Shaw, Sherman L. (Grace) Ch Gertrude, Russell, Eleanor, Sherman, Lee Center Lee Center Sec6 O586a (1865)," indicating that the Shaw farm in Section 6 of Lee Center Township had been in existence since 1865 (though obviously not operated by Sherman Linn Shaw in that year, since he was then just a year old). Given Sherman's agricultural success, it is no surprise that, the year after the publication of his biography in the updated county history, Sherman and his fellow farmers of the county organized the Lee County Farm Bureau in order to help the improvement and advancement of farming methods in Lee County. The history of the Lee County Farm Bureau, including an account of Sherman's crucial role in the formation and leadership of the organization, was published in a special 50th anniversary edition of the farm bureau's magazine, the "Lee County Farmer," 28 Aug. 1965, vol. 43, no. 8. In that edition, Sherman's photograph was published on page 5 of the magazine, and he is mentioned in the historical accounts of the farm bureau on pages 6 and 7. Francis Bybee, then secretary of the farm bureau, had this to say about the motivation to establish an organization to promote Lee County agriculture, on page 6:
"In 1915 times were good for Lee County agriculture. The large homes and barns that still stand on many farms were built and the age of mechanization was starting to make drastic changes in the life of the farmer.
"Here and there a young farm youth came home from the University of Illinois College of Agriculture, and was able to double the production on his family farm by the use of new methods. It was inevitable that the leading farmers in the county would discuss getting a specialist to help them."
This photograph of Sherman L. Shaw I, taken probably during the 1920s or circa 1930, was later published in the "Lee County Farmer," 28 Aug. 1965, vol. 43, no. 8, page 5.
So it was that in Lee County, a group of leading farmers met at 9 p.m. on 9 June 1915 in the rooms of the Amboy Commercial Club to plan a picnic to be held on 30 June 1915 at Green River Park in Amboy. The purpose of the picnic was to organize a county agricultural association. Reprinting the minutes from the 9 June 1915 meeting, Bybee said that the meeting was chaired by A. A. Carmichael and W. A. Green was elected secretary. Notably, WILLIAM S. FROST JR., son of Sherman's aunt Sophia (Shaw) Frost, was one of the 12 men and women named to a committee to solicit funds to defray the cost of the picnic. William's wife was appointed to the picnic's Reception Committee, along with another Shaw relative, Andrew Aschenbrenner, who was, as mentioned above, the husband of William's sister Malinda S. Frost. My great-grandfather's name, however, does not appear in the minutes of the 9 June 1915 meeting in Amboy. Given his prominence in his community, Sherman's absence from the minutes can only mean that he did not attend that meeting. He very probably came to the picnic, however, and in any case soon assumed a leading role in the nascent organization.
What happened next is told on page 7 of the 50th anniversary edition of the "Lee County Farmer," in the personal recollections of Anson Rosenkrans, second president of the Lee County Farm Bureau, who had written his account of the bureau's history around 1950. Rosenkrans said:
"On July 10, 1915 a committee of Lee County farmers met in Amboy to perfect the organization. Mr. S. L. Shaw was appointed as chairman of the committee and Mr. W. A. Green of Amboy acted as secretary. At this meeting the name, the Lee County Soil Improvement Association was made official and Mr. Green was treasurer as well as secretary, and Mr. Shaw became the first president of the new farm organization. At this meeting an application was made to the Secretary of State for a charter. A collection of two dollars was taken from those present to pay for the charter and other expenses, this amount to be deducted from the first annual membership fees. The organization continued to function under the original name until the time of the Annual Meeting of December 2, 1919, at which time it was changed to the Lee County Farm Bureau to conform with the name of other similar organizations in this State."
Bybee continued with his own account of the bureau's early history thus:
"The first officers were: Sherman L. Shaw, President; H. G. Connor, Vice President; W. A. Green, Secretary Treasurer; Directors were E. L. Titus, Jacob Their, (sic) Amos Bosworth, J. C. Miller and J. C. Griffith.
"The organization grew very rapidly and by March 1, 1916 when L. S. Griffith was hired as Farm Advisor, 450 farmers had signed pledges promising to pay dues for three years at the rate of $10 per year. By 1922 nearly 2000 members belonged to the Lee County Farm Bureau and it was well on the way to becoming the principal farm organization in the County."
Bybee then proceeded to summarise the bureau's history by providing key excerpts from the minutes of the meetings of the Lee County Farm Bureau. My great-grandfather Sherman L. Shaw appears in the following excerpts:
"February 16, 1921 -- Resolution: We therefore recommend that Lee County adopt and finance in a legal way a system of Patrol maintenance of trunk road system in Lee County connecting all cities, towns, villages, and townships. Signed, J. A. Miller, Geo. B. Shaw, W. A. Green, J. M. Nealis, S. L. Shaw."
"May 2, 1922 -- Mr. Shaw reported on the conference with G. L. Carpenter in regard to publishing a County Farm bureau paper. Moved by Gehant, seconded by Thier that we try publishing a newspaper. Carried."
"June 17, 1925 -- The resignation of S. L. Shaw was read and accepted by the board. Mr. Becker was called to occupy the chair. Mr. Conner nominated Anson Rosenkrans for President. Mr. Rosenkrans nominated F. D. Lahman. Moved and seconded that nominations be closed. Vote was by ballot with Mr. Rosenkrans being elected President."
Rosenkrans related the conclusion of Sherman's tenure as Lee County Farm Bureau president as follows:
"Mr. S. L. Shaw served as president of the Lee County Farm Bureau from the time of its organization until June 1, 1925, at which time he offered his resignation. He gave 10 years of faithful and efficient service to this, his organization, in its formative years. Following Mr. Shaw's resignation, the Executive Committee appointed myself to fill the vacancy."
Unfortunately, the years when Sherman served as president of the Lee County Farm Bureau were also the years that he experienced serious financial reverses, due to his involvement in the trouble-plagued Lee County Central Electric Railway. Contrary to the optimistic appraisal of the railway's prospects that Stevens expressed in his 1914 Lee County history, the railroad was beset with serious problems almost from the start and had already gone bankrupt by 1913. Indeed, Philip L. Keister's 1967 The Lee County Central Electric Railway, page 3, bluntly pronounces the enterprise "one of the biggest financial flops in the history of small railways."
The underlying cause of all of the railroad's problems was the fact that there were not enough people, and consequently not enough commerce, in Lee Center and its environs for a railroad to be profitable. Ironically, it was Lee Center's lack of a railroad during the 1800s -- with the prosperity that might have been Lee Center's going to Amboy instead -- that had made the village economically incapable of supporting a successful railroad in the early 1900s. That Lee Center's railroad was not to be an easy ride for the company's owners and investors is evident from the state of its initial finances. On page 15 of his account of the railway, Keister writes, "The Northern Illinois Electric Railway Company was overcapitalized from the beginning. On September 20, 1910, the company filed for permission to issue $2 million in First Mortgage Bonds, dated April 1, 1910 and due April 1, 1940. So far as is known, the company actually issued $165,000 worth of bonds along with $550,000 in well-watered stock." However, at no time in the company's history were the company and its total assets ever worth as much as the bonds and stock it had issued.
Financial pressures were felt even during the construction of the railroad, because, as Keister writes on page 4 of his account --
"The first mile of track was built from Lee Center towards Binghampton to allow the use of the power house and the running a car over the first mile in order to raise more funds from bond sales. Construction in this direction was more expensive as the ties and rails had to be hauled by team instead of unloaded and worked from a rail head."
Once the railroad commenced operations, however, the company's owners soon found that, as Keister writes on page 6, "Passengers were few in a rural area with no villages except Lee Center." Keister explains that the company could not afford brand new engines and cars, and thus was plagued by frequent mechanical troubles with its old, used cars. At the same time, the power plant in Lee Center usually did not, or could not, generate sufficient power. On page 6, Keister writes:
"David Weigel Sr. operated the car most of the time from the beginning until 1914 . . . . Mr. Weigel recalls trying to run the car with a reasonable load: The weeds would get ground under the wheels of the car, making the track so slippery that the passengers would have to get off and throw a little dirt from the nearby road on the rails so that the car could get some traction. Attempts to push freight with the car failed as there just wasn't enough power available to enable the car to make the little grades with a load."
As if those problems weren't bad enough, Keister says, "The winter of 1911-12 was a hard one and the line was snowed under quite a few times." Keister then sums up the unavoidable consequences on page 6 of his account:
"The lack of power, weeds, and sharp curves caused train crews many gray hairs. Carloads of grain are reported to have spoiled because they were on the ground so long before being rerailed. Though the railway was run austerely, lack of revenue soon caught up with it. Conditions became so bad that in 1913, train crews were forced to keep the fares they collected to apply to their wages. Andrew Aschenbrenner was appointed receiver, and made arrangements to pay the employees."
One of the results of the 1913 bankruptcy reorganization of the company was that my great-grandfather Sherman went from being a chief investor serving on the board of directors to being one of the co-owners. As Keister explains on page 15 of his account:
"Operation of the railway resulted in consistent losses, with the inevitable result of receivership. Andrew Aschenbrenner was appointed receiver by the Circuit Court of Lee County on December 5, 1913. After the foreclosure of the mortgage for $180,000 the railway was sold to Henry W. Hillison, Sherman L. Shaw, and Reinhart Aschenbrenner on July 8, 1914 for $27,843. The deed was issued ten days later. The Lee County Central Electric Railway Co. took possession of the road on July 10, 1914. The new company had a capital of $101,000, all locally owned."
According to the 18 July 1914 edition of the True Republican, my great-grandfather with Hillison and Aschenbrenner were trustees "acting for parties who subscribed money for the purpose," and the purchase price of the railroad was more precisely $27,843.71, "the amount specified by the court as the minimum bid which should be received." Regrettably though inevitably, the reorganized company soon had to discontinue its passenger service. "The age of the Model T Ford had arrived and there was little need for public transportation in the area," Keister explains on page 7. Passenger service on the railroad ended in 1916. Even so, the company continued to experience problems, chief of them being insufficient revenue. "The railway barely managed to keep going. Grain and livestock were moved, after a fashion, in spite of derailments, high weeds and bad curves," Keister writes on page 7, offering further information on the company's travails and setbacks on page 15, as follows --
"The 1916 balance sheet carried the road at a value of $103,819 most of which was the $97,275 capital, but loans of $3,985 and accounts payable of $1,472 were beginning to haunt the new firm. During the fall of 1916 the trolley wire was sold for $5,181 and the track between Amboy and the CB&Q crossing in Binghampton was torn up. Earnings were always short of expenses. The company struggled along on more and more borrowed money until the early 1920s. At this time the company found itself facing its creditors again with prospects of another receivership near at hand. Deficits were smaller than in the early years but the ties were fast rotting out and nearly worn out used locomotives were expensive to operate. Hence, when the First National Bank of Amboy started to put some pressure on the railway to pay up, something had to be done."
So it came about that Sherman and his fellow owners and directors of the Lee County Central lost the railroad in or around 1924 -- along with the personal fortunes they had invested in it. As Keister relates on pages 7 and 15 of his account, Abel "Abe" Jeanblanc, who owned and operated a lumber yard and the grain elevator at Lee Center, was the railroad's main customer. Seeing the railway's mounting financial and logistical troubles, Jeanblanc bought the company's bank loan and other creditors' claims, ousted the railway's owners and directors, and assumed the direct ownership and operation of the railroad. Keister's account naturally does not say what this must have meant to my great-grandparents and their family and friends, but no doubt it was a hard blow. Keister does refer in passing, however, to some degree of ill feeling toward Jeanblanc among the farmers of the Lee Center area. This change in my great-grandfather's fortunes, incidentally, helps to explain the contrast between, on the one hand, the impressive monument marking the graves of his grandparents Sherman and Malinda, and the short and simple gravestones of the Sherman Linn Shaw family plot.
Though this serious financial reversal was the end of my great-grandfather's railroad endeavors, nevertheless the railroad legacy of my family's Shaw, Frost, and Aschenbrenner ancestors and kin would carry on for about five more decades. After Jeanblanc's takeover, the Lee County Central chiefly served as Jeanblanc's means of transporting his lumber and the grain that would be stored in his elevator. In 1946, he sold his lumber business, the grain elevator, and the railroad to the Lee County Grain Association, which continued to use the railroad until April 1972, the last time a train moved on its tracks, according to Jim Boyd's 2004 essay, The Lee County Central -- A real life switching pike. Soon after that, however, the railroad's engine gave up the ghost, and the railroad itself became a derelict, being scrapped in the early 1980s.
While the railroad project proved to be a bad investment for my great-grandfather, costing him much of the wealth he'd inherited and acquired through his agricultural labors, all the same, he had gone into it knowing it would not be easy, willingly putting up his fortune not out of ambition for greater personal wealth, but in the belief that the railroad would bring the community of Lee Center the prosperity and progress it desired. In the end, however, the failure of his investment naturally had repercussions on his farming operation, and it was during and soon after the years of his involvement in the Lee County Central that he had to sell off most of his farmland. It may be that his decision to step down as head of the Lee County Farm Bureau in 1925 was related to the loss of the railway around the same time.
During the years that he served as president of the Lee County Farm Bureau and a co-owner of the Lee County Central Electric Railway Co., Sherman's two older children attained adulthood, while his two younger children reached adolescence. In her unpublished notes on Lee Center's history, Aunt Eleanor shared some of her childhood memories from those years of growing up in Lee Center and living on the old Shaw farm. In describing the Shaw place in Lee Center, she wrote:
"Anna Mynard Shaw, first wife of S. L. Shaw, died here. Russell Shaw and Gertrude Shaw, her children, were born here. Also born here were Eleanor Shaw and Sherman Linn Shaw II, children of S. L. and Grace Bender Shaw. . . . In the early days a white picket fence separated the front yard from the road, and many beautiful maples were in the yard. Evidences of raised flower beds could be seen for many years. At the west end of the side porch were two square gray stepping stones. The driveway was close to these, and one could step from the porch into the buggy via the stones. . . . The story is told that at one time a billy goat was pastured in the front yard. He wandered onto the porch, saw his reflection in the French window, backed off and took a butt at his 'enemy' -- and landed in the parlor!
Continuing with her memories, Aunt Eleanor recalled that at one point the Shaw place underwent some remodelling --
". . . . such as removing the gingerbreading and putting on the new front porch. A big window was added over the front stairs. It had a wide windowsill and I used to pull the shade to the sill and sit in the window to read, unseen by my folks (or so I thought). Eventually a small pair of windows was put in the west side of the northwest bedroom upstairs, over the downstairs hall window. This made for better ventilation in that small room. Eventually the side porch was removed and a different window put in the dining room. The doors from the porch to the kitchen and dining room were closed up."
Aunt Eleanor's notes also include some of her memories of the family of her Uncle George Harry Thornton Shaw, who at one time lived at the old "Trowbridge" house in Lee Center. In her unpublished notes on the Trowbridge house, she said:
"I first remember it when Uncle G. H. T. Shaw and Aunt Sarah and Clarke and Mary Gwen [George and Sarah's two children, Aunt Eleanor's first cousins] lived here. Clarke had a basket rigged up on pulleys and ropes from the upstairs east window down to a grove of trees east of the house where his folks used to sit of an afternoon. We would fix sandwiches and put them in the basket and reel them out to the loungers. Big deal!"
It was also during those years that Sherman Linn Shaw's two eldest children reached adulthood. Gertrude, Sherman's eldest child, became a grade school teacher working in the public schools of Winnetka, Illinois, while Sherman's son Russell assisted his father in operating the Shaw farm. Around the time that the United States entered World War I in 1917, however, Russell enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving aboard the cruiser U.S.S. St. Louis (C-20).
Shown at left is a photograph of my mother's "Uncle Russ" -- Russell Mynard Shaw -- taken during World War I. Russell is wearing his U.S. Navy uniform, and the band of his cap shows the name of the cruiser on which he served. At right is a photograph of Russell's ship, the U.S.S. St. Louis (C-20).
It was some time after Russell's enlistment that Sherman's mother Rebecca died in Chicago on 1 Dec. 1917 at the age of 76. Her body was brought back to Lee Center and buried beside her beloved husband in Woodside Cemetery. Sherman and his wife Grace also occupied themselves in volunteer work in support of the United States of America's military efforts during World War I, as seen from War History of Lee County, Illinois, 1917-'18-'19. As a matter of fact, Sherman was a contributor to that book, authoring chapter XXXII (pages 168-169), on Lee Center Township's activities in support of the U.S.'s endeavors during the war. He and his wife Grace, along with their Frost, Aschenbrenner, Delhotal, and Auchstetter kin and cousins, are mentioned several times throughout the book, which describes Lee County's numerous fundraising drives, collections of clothing and supplies for U.S. troops, and the agricultural food production and conservation programs of the Lee County Soil Improvement Association. Sherman and Grace served on or headed several of the fundraising committees and organisations in the Lee Center area. Not only my great-grandparents' readiness to volunteer in support of their country, but also Sherman's stolid and laconic writing style which he exhibits in chapter XXXII of the war history, shed a bit of light on their personality and character, and testify to their charitable concern for their community and their patriotism.
After the war, Sherman's son Russell returned to Lee Center and resumed his duties on the farm. The U.S. Census returns for Lee Center Township, dated 29 June 1920, show "Sherman L. Shaw," age 55, farmer, with his wife "Grace E. Shaw," age 41, and his children "Gertrude K. Shaw," age 25 (sic -- she was 26), grade school teacher, "Russel M. Shaw," age 24, a laborer on the home farm, "Eleanor Shaw," age 10, and "Sherman L. Shaw," age 7. Their nearest neighbors were the Scott R. Frost and James H. Riley families, while the Chris A. Ullrich family was also nearby.
Later that same year, grief made a sudden visit to the Shaw household, when Sherman's eldest child Gertrude died of meningitis at the age of 26. Her obituary and death certificate say she died on 20 Oct. 1920 at Evanston Hospital, in Evanston, near Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, where she had been living for most of the preceding year and a half while working as a teacher in the Winnetka public schools. As we have just seen, however, the 1920 U.S. Census shows her living with her parents and siblings in Lee Center -- but that was just a brief return home during the summer months when school was not in session. After her death, her body was brought back to Lee Center and was buried beside her mother in Woodside Cemetery.
The gravestones of Anna Katherine Mynard Shaw and her firstborn child Gertrude Katherine Shaw, shown here, are in the Shaw family plot at the south end of Woodside Cemetery, Lee Center, Illinois.
The following summer, on 11 Aug. 1921, Sherman's eldest son Russell married BESSIE CAROLINE HEWITT (1899-1944) and started his own family. Russell and Bess lived for awhile in Wichita, Kansas, before settling in Mattoon, Illinois. They had a daughter and two sons, and the blessing of the birth of Sherman's first grandchild came on 15 Oct. 1922, when Russell's wife Bess gave birth to ELIZABETH ANN SHAW in Lee Center. By the time of the 1930 U.S. Census, only Sherman Jr. was still living at home with Sherman and Grace in Lee Center. The U.S. Census returns for Lee Center, dated 3 April 1930, show "S. L. Shaw," age 65, farm operator, with his wife "Grace E. Shaw," age 51, and their son "Sherman L. Shaw," age 17, farm laborer. But the U.S. Census returns for Amboy, dated 5 April 1930, show "Eleanor Shaw," age 20, stenographer, as a lodger in the home of Anna Klein -- after graduating from Lee Center High School with the Class of 1926, Eleanor attended Brown's Business College in Sterling, Illinois, and also took a job at the First National Bank in Amboy. In 1930, the nearest neighbors of my great-grandparents in Lee Center were the Henry Herrick family and the family of George Dunseth and his father-in-law John Ullrich.
Eleanor Shaw Baylor at age 18, the photograph taken for her senior year in high school
Four years later, in April 1934, Sherman and his family received word that Sherman's younger brother George Harry Thornton Shaw had been paralyzed as the result of a stroke. This sorrowful news was reported in the 19 April 1934 Amboy News, page 3, column 3, as follows:
"S. L. Shaw received the news last week that his brother, G. H. T. Shaw, well known here, had suffered a paralytic stroke and was in a serious condition in a hospital in New Orleans where he had spent the winter. Major and Mrs. A. M. Shaw and family also live in that city and are looking after him. His many friends here will learn with regret of this illness and will hope to hear that his health is improving."
In fact, by the time that notice was published, Sherman's brother George had already been dead for two days. He died of complications following a surgery at a hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana, on 17 April 1934. George's body was brought back to Lee Center and buried in Woodside Cemetery beside his wife Sarah, who had died in Lee Center two years previously. It was also around this same time, however, that Sherman and Grace's two youngest children, Eleanor and Sherman Jr., took spouses and started their own families. On 9 June 1934 at the Congregational parsonage in Plainfield, Will County, Illinois, Eleanor married ORMAND SCHMID BAYLOR, born 16 April 1900 in Illinois, died 9 Dec. 1975 in Lee Center, Illinois, son of Ernest and Mary Baylor. The minister who presided at their wedding was Rev. Cecil E. Frazier, pastor of the Congregational Church in Plainfield and former pastor of Lee Center Congregational Church. Following in his father-in-law's footsteps, Ormand worked as a farmer and a life insurance agent in Lee Center, and also served as a public school administrator in his town. Uncle Ormand and Aunt Eleanor raised a family of four sons and three daughters. Our family owes an immense debt of gratitude to Aunt Eleanor for her work in preserving and researching our Shaw genealogy and family records. She predeceased her husband by about a year and a half, dying in Lee Center on 13 March 1974. She and her husband are buried side-by-side in Woodside Cemetery, Lee Center.
A little under a year after Eleanor and Ormand married, my grandfather Sherman and FRANCES MAE MILLER eloped and married on 22 March 1935 in Rockford, Illinois. In late October or early November 1936, as reported in the 22 Oct. and 12 Nov. 1936 editions of the Amboy News, my great-grandparents moved from the Shaw farm to a house that later would become the parsonage house adjacent to Lee Center Congregational Church, located at Lot 1, Block 5 of the Original Town of Lee Center, and my grandparents then lived at the old Shaw place and worked the farm as tenants. A few months before my grandparents moved there, in the summer of 1936 they had my mother, born at Amboy Hospital. Detailed biographies of my grandfather and my mother may be found under their names further on in this account of the Shaw genealogy.
Sherman Linn Shaw's signature, from an insurance business letter that he wrote from Lee Center on 5 Jan. 1931.
After stepping down as head of the county farm bureau in 1925, my great-grandfather Sherman continued to manage his farm, but the day-to-day operation in the 1920s and 1930s more and more was the responsibility of his sons Russell and Sherman. In October 1936, my great-grandparents moved from the old Shaw farm, turning it over to my grandparents, who lived on and worked the farm as tenants for a few years. Sherman and Grace moved to the George Brewer place on Second Street, a house adjacent to Lee Center Congregational Church that would later, in or around 1948, become the church parsonage. The house had formerly had been the home of Othniel M. Clark and his family. Othniel Clark was the father-in-law of Sherman Linn Shaw's younger brother George Harry Thornton Shaw, who was married at the Clark home. The decision to move from the Shaw place to the parsonage happened a few months after my mother was born.
Shown here are two photographs of the home located at Lot 1, Block 5 of the Original Town of Lee Center. On the left is an older photo, while the photo on the right shows the house as it was in 1967. My great-grandparents lived in this house for a few years before their deaths. The 1940 U.S. Census erroneously says the house where my great-grandparents lived in that year was the same place where they had lived in 1935. In her notes on Lee Center history, Aunt Eleanor said her parents moved from the old Shaw farm about 1936, which agrees with newspaper reports placing the move in the fall of 1936 -- though she elsewhere said, apparently incorrectly, that her parents only lived at their new home for a year or two before they died. About four years after they died, in 1946, my mother and her parents moved to this house, where they lived until the spring of 1949 -- they moved because in 1948 the house had been bought by Lee Center Congregational Church with the intention to use it as a parsonage.
In addition, it was around those years -- and certainly by Jan. 1931 -- that my great-grandfather joined State Farm Insurance as an agent. According to my mother, her grandfather Sherman opened the first State Farm agency in Lee County. An article in the 9 March 1933 Amboy News mentions that he was then serving as secretary and a member of the board of directors of the Bradford Mutual Farmers Insurance Company. The article says:
"Three Lee Center men hold office in the Bradford Mutual Farmers Insurance company which recently elected officers as follows: President, William H. Brucker; vice president, E. A. Pomeroy; secretary. S. L. Shaw; and treasurer, C. W. Ross. John Hillson and S. L. Shaw were re-elected to the board of directors. At the end of the year, the company had $6,700,000 worth of insurance in force and the net income in business for the year was $280,000. During the past five years, the assessments for losses have been $7.50 for $1,000 worth of insurance, an average of only $1.50 per $1,000 worth of insurance per year."
Another activity which sometimes occupied his attention during the 1930s was genealogical research, as we can see from Descendants of George Linn (1941), which was compiled by our cousin Evangeline Linn Halleck (1886-1963). A brief biographical entry on Sherman Linn Shaw may be found in Halleck's book on page 142 (emphasis added):
"Born Oct. 5, 1864, Bradford Twp., Lee Co., Ill.; married 1st about 1893 to Anna Katherine Mynard, b. Feb. 12, 1866; d. Jan. 5, 1902, married 2nd June 21, 1905 to Grace Esther Bender; b. Nov. 26, 1878. Mr. Shaw, with keen perception, kindly assisted me in 1939 by gathering a number of records. He was then in the Insurance business at Lee Center, Ill."
Another reference to the help Sherman gave his cousin in researching the Linn family is found on page 94 of Halleck's book. His children, as well as his grandchildren who had been born by 1941 (including my mother), are also included in Descendants of George Linn, on page 167.
In this photograph taken in June 1937 in Lee Center, Illinois, my mother, Dolores Frances Shaw, age 10 months, is shown with her parents, Sherman Linn Shaw II and Frances Mae (Miller) Shaw, and her grandparents, Sherman Linn Shaw I and Grace Esther (Bender) Shaw.
Around this same time, the 5 April 1940 U.S. Census returns for Lee Center show my great-grandparents as "Shaw L. Sherman," age 76, an insurance agent, and "Shaw E Grace," age 61. The census record says they had lived in the same house in 1935 [in fact they didn't move to that house until 1936], and that Sherman had worked for all 52 of the weeks during 1939, earning $1,000. Their neighbor on one side was Rosa M. Mortenson, while on the other side was the family of Sam E. Dishong. That same year, the U.S. Census shows Sherman's eldest son Russell, age 44, living with his wife and three children at 2700 Western Ave., Mattoon, Illinois, where Russell was working as an oil broker. In 1935, they had been living in Wichita, Kansas. The 1940 U.S. Census also shows that Russell's younger half-sister Eleanor Shaw Baylor, age 29, was living in Lee Center with her husband and their three oldest sons, while my grandfather Sherman Jr., age 27, also was living in Lee Center with my grandmother Frances, age 23, and my mother Dolores, age 3.
My mother turned 4 years old in the summer of 1940, and she was too young at the time that her Grandpa and Grandma Shaw died to have formed many clear memories of them. One of her earliest memories, however, was of the time that her Grandpa Shaw dropped her on her head when she was a baby. In a taped interview on 28 Nov. 1998, Dolores shared that and other early memories involving her grandparents in Lee Center:
"All I know is there were flagstone steps coming out of the house, and he dropped me on my head, and I have a little mark in the center of my scalp, that if I want to part my hair down the center, you find that thing and itís perfect. But I donít remember any other details, because Grandpa and Grandma died in í41 and í42, within six months of each other, and I was just a little girl. I donít remember how old I was, but it was one of my first memories.
"One of the other first memories I have is riding on a big old draft horse Ė- his name was Silvermane Ė- at the Shaw farm. But I donít remember anything . . . . I do remember Grandma Shaw having a collection of salt and pepper shakers that we were not allowed to play with. She had them on glass shelves in the window as you come into the living room. Because she was a diabetic, she ate a lot of cottage cheese, and back then they had real pretty colored cardboard containers that they put it in. She would save all those things and let the grandchildren play with those, but you stayed away from the salt and pepper shakers, which was more fun. But we played with the cottage cheese containers. Thatís about all I remember of Grandpa and Grandma Shaw, Iím sad to say. I was too young to remember them."
In a second taped interview on 11 April 2006, my mother again recited the few memories she had of my paternal grandmother in Lee Center:
". . . Dad's mom died when I was just about 6 years old -- she died in 1942. (sic -- 1941) All I remember about her is that she ate a lot of cottage cheese, and back then they had very pretty containers that they put on. We were allowed to play with those containers. She kept them in a special room, and then when we came all the cousins could come and play with those pretty cottage cheese containers -- because she didn't want us to play with the salt and pepper shakers that she had arranged on the glass shelves in her window. We weren't allowed to touch them. We could 'look-a but no touch!' I don't remember too much about her, but I knew she was a music teacher. She taught people music and she played piano. I don't remember ever hearing her play the piano, but I know that she did that."
Due to my great-grandmother's diabetes, she developed digestive and cardiovascular problems. That led to her sudden death from a heart attack at home in Lee Center on 12 May 1941. She was only 62 years old. In her unpublished notes on the Lee Center Congregational Church parsonage, Aunt Eleanor wrote down these memories about her mother's death:
"My parents lived here for a year or so. [sic -- they'd been living there since 1936] Mother died here very suddenly on May 12, 1941 . . . . A fire, caused by defective wiring at the head of the stairs, occurred in April of 1941. Damage was considerable, especially upstairs, so the folks were camping in a couple of rooms downstairs at the time mother died. While we were at the funeral home the neighbor ladies came in and cleaned up the mess as best they could, lugged all the proper furniture back upstairs, and even put all mother's salt and pepper shakers back on their shelves. (She had 475 pairs.) Such helpfulness we can never repay, and dad said the nicest thing of all was seeing the shakers back where they belonged."
Grace's death certificate says the cause of death was "Acute Dilitation of the heart caused by acute inflamation of the gall Bladder." She was buried on 15 May 1941 in Woodside Cemetery, laid to rest next to her baby boy who had died in childbirth. Her obituary, published on 15 May 1941 and provided courtesy of my cousin Darlene Hinkle, is as follows:
"Mrs. Sherman L. Shaw Passed Away Monday
"Friends of Mrs. Sherman L. Shaw of Lee Center were grieved to hear of her sudden death which occurred Monday evening, May 12, 1941 at 10:30 o'clock at her home. Mrs. Shaw had been in Amboy that afternoon. Funeral services will be held this (Thursday) afternoon at two o'clock at the Lee Center Congregational church, Rev. G. A. Cox officiating. Burial will be in Woodside cemetery.
"Mrs. Shaw was a daughter of the late Rev. and Mrs. C. E. Bender. Her father was a former pastor of the old United Brethren church located on West Division street in Amboy. She is survived by her husband, one daughter, Mrs. Eleanor Baylor, one son, Sherman L. Shaw, Jr., of near Dixon, one step-son, Russell M. Shaw of Mattoon, seven grandchildren, two brothers, W. O. Bender of Winfield, Kansas and Clarence Bender of Royal Oak, Mich., and three sisters, Mrs. H. H. Nicholas of Milledgeville, Mrs. A. W. Nicholas of Webster City, Ia., and Mrs. Oliver Moon of Rockford."
Grace's death would prove to be Sherman's last experience of bereavement. As my mother recalled in the 1998 taped interview, it was not even a whole year before Sherman had followed his wife in death, at the age of 77 -- though it was actually about eight months after Grace's death rather than six months as my mother had said. He died at home in Lee Center on Friday, 9 Jan. 1942. In her unpublished notes on Lee Center history, Aunt Eleanor wrote, ". . . dad, after being sick all fall and winter, died on January 9, 1942." He was laid to rest between his wives in Woodside Cemetery, Lee Center, Illinois, on Sunday, 11 Jan. 1942. The following obituary was published the day of his death in the Dixon Evening Telegraph:
"SHERMAN L. SHAW
"Lee Center, Jan. 9 -- Sherman L. Shaw, 77, prominent Lee county resident and former supervisor from Lee Center township, passed away at his home here at 6:15 o'clock this morning after a short illness. Funeral services will be held at the Lee County Congregational church at 2:00 o'clock Sunday afternoon, the Rev. G. A. Cox officiating, and burial will be in Woodside cemetery here. Friends may view the body at any time after 12:30 Sunday.
"Mr. Shaw was born in Bradford township, Lee county, Oct. 5, 1864, the son of James M. and M. Rebecca (Linn) Shaw and acquired his education in the Lee Center schools and Dixon College. He operated farms in Lee Center successfully and made a specialty of raising hogs.
"He was married twice. On Dec. 22, 1892, he married Miss Anna K. Maynard (sic) of Amboy, who passed away leaving two children. On June 21, 1905 he was again married in Amboy, his second union being with Miss Grace E. Bender.
"He is survived by two sons, Russell M. of Mattoon and Sherman L., Jr., of Lee Center; one daughter, Mrs. Eleanor Baylor of Lee Center; and seven grandchildren."
It is a testimony to the mark he had made on his community during his life that a second, rather extensive, obituary was published reporting his funeral and burial. The obituary writer obviously drew upon Sherman's published biography in the 1914 History of Lee County, Illinois. The complete obituary, provided by Darlene Hinkle, is as follows:
"SHERMAN L. SHAW
"Sherman L. Shaw, oldest son of James Monroe and Rebecca Linn Shaw, was born in Bradford township, Oct. 5, 1864, and passed away at his home in Lee Center Jan. 9, 1942 at the age of 77 years, three months and four days. Mr. Shaw came from a family of early settlers in Lee county. His paternal grandfather, Sherman Shaw arrived here in 1836 (sic -- 1837) and was one of the first three settlers in this part of the country. His maternal grandparent George Russell Linn came to Lee Center in 1840. The decedent's father, James Monroe Shaw was a member of Co. A, 18th Illinois infantry in the Civil war.
"He acquired his education in the Lee Center schools and Dixon college, completing his studies when 20 years of age. He was engaged in farming and stock raising for many years and was considered one of the most substantial agriculturists in the county.
"In appreciation of his worth and ability he has been called to many public offices of trust and responsibility. He has served on the election board and a member and chairman of the board of supervisors and was president for a number of years of the board of education. At the time of his passing he was secretary of the Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Co., of Bradford and was secretary-treasurer of the Lee Center cemetery association, both of which offices he had held for many years. He had also been first president of the Lee County Soil association now merged in the Farm Bureau.
"He was interested in the religious education and social activities of the community often participating in them. His kind deeds and courteous manner won him many friendships.
"Mr. Shaw was twice married. Dec. 22, 1892 he wedded Miss Anna K. Mynard who passed away Jan. 5, 1902, leaving two children, Gertrude and Russell. Gertrude died in October, 1920. In June of 1905 he married Miss Grace Bender and to this union, two children were born, Eleanor and Sherman Linn, Jr. Their mother passed on May 12, 1941.
"Funeral services were held in the Lee Center Congregational church Sunday afternoon at 2 o'clock with the Rev. G. A. Cox, pastor of the church officiating. Mrs. C. A. Ullrich presided at the organ with many sacred numbers. The pallbearers included: F. L. Jahn, A. L. Willis, E. B. Carlson, Thomas Bride, Raymond Degner, Vernon Schnell. Mrs. F. L. Jahns (sic) and Mrs. E. B. Carlson had charge of the many beautiful floral offerings. Interment was in Woodside cemetery.
"Surviving are two sons, Russell M., of Mattoon, Sherman L., Jr., Lee Center, seven grandchildren, one sister, Mrs. Charles T. Leonard, Chicago, one brother Col. Arthur M. Shaw, New Orleans, La., a number of nieces, nephews and other relatives and a host of friends.
"Among those in attendance at his funeral from out of town were: Mr. and Mrs. Russell M. Shaw, Mattoon; Mr. and Mrs. C. T. Leonard, Chicago; Harriett McIntyre, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur McIntyre, Mendota; Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Nicholas, Webster City, Iowa; Mr. and Mr. Homer Nicholas, Mr. and Mrs. Lyle Nicholas, Milledgeville; Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Moon, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Milroy, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Canova, Rockford; Mrs. Fannie Bender, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Bender, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Bender, Lyndon; Mrs. Wisner Hicks, Leon Andreas, Polo; Mr. and Mrs. S. M. Shaw, Shaws; George Beach, Bert Reed, Clarence Hart, Ashton; Frank Hewitt, Steward; Mrs. Harry Olmstead, Harry Olmstead, Jr., Ottawa; Mr. and Mrs. George Hewitt, Mrs. Nina Spangler, Ned Green, Clara Klapprodt, Amboy; Morey C. Pires, Robert L. Warner, Wilbur Cortright, Dixon; Mr. and Mrs. William Brucker, Arthur Brucker, Franklin Grove; Mr. and Mrs. Harry Roemmich, Sublette."
The gravestones of Sherman and his wife Grace, shown here, are placed side-by-side in the Shaw family plot at Woodside Cemetery, Lee Center, Illinois.
Most of the out-of-towners at Sherman's funeral were related by blood or marriage to Sherman and his second wife Grace. One family member who could not make it to the funeral, however, was Sherman's youngest brother Arthur Monroe, who was then working on an engineering project in Paramaribo, Suriname (called Dutch Guiana at the time), in South America. Tragically, Arthur was killed in a fall just seven months later, on 2 Aug. 1942. He was given a military funeral and was buried in Paramaribo, but in 1948 his widow and children had his body exhumed and brought back to the United States. Arthur was then entombed on 27 April 1948 in Hope Mausoleum, St. John Cemetery, New Orleans. Thus, Arthur was the only one of his siblings not to be buried in Woodside Cemetery, Lee Center. Five years later, Sherman's last surviving sibling, Grace Shaw Leonard, died on 18 Dec. 1947 in Chicago, Illinois, and was buried in Woodside Cemetery.
The five children of Sherman Linn Shaw I were:
-- GERTRUDE KATHERINE SHAW, born 12 June 1894, died 20 Oct. 1920, never married. -- RUSSELL MYNARD SHAW, born 8 Dec. 1895, died 12 Sept. 1957, married Bessie Caroline Hewitt. -- [INFANT SON] SHAW, born and died 22 May 1908. -- ELEANOR SHAW, born 22 May 1909, died 13 March 1974, married Ormand Schmid Baylor 9. SHERMAN LINN SHAW II, born 17 May 1912.
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