by Jeanne Schulte Richardson

The Split Rock Creek was one of the deciding ingredients for the location of the town of Sherman .  It was a prime source of water for early settlers as they moved into the area.  The Willmar and Sioux Falls Railroad Company, with Edwin Sherman as one of its directors and promoters, was one of the main reasons that the town of Sherman sprung to life in 1888, one year before South Dakota became a state.  The Split Rock Creek would nourish the thirsty steam locomotives of the new railroad.  Sherman and John Spicer, who was the president of the Willmar and Sioux Falls Railroad Company, selected the town sites along the railroad's 149 mile path.  They also helped in the platting and naming of all the towns along the rail route.  Sherman chose this particular town site as his namesake.  M. J. Zeliff, early settler, helped plat the first eleven blocks in the new town.  Sherman is located about 22 miles northeast o Sioux Falls , and is about one mile from the Minnesota state line.

            The town of Sherman grew.  In its very best years, it boasted five elevators and a stockyards, a boon to early area farmers who shipped their grain and livestock to larger markets.  There was a good-sized merchantile that remained open on Saturday nights where the ladies could shop while their mates socialized with visiting, card playing and pool in the pool hall.  A blacksmith shop, harness shop, lumber yard, drug store, hardware store, and a hotel provided necessary goods and services to the early settlers.

            Sherman , as most early towns did, had a saloon, but it did not come without a struggle.  Two men from the neighboring town of Garretson moved a building to Sherman to use as a saloon.  It was not to be.  A “mob of infuriated Scandinavians” that included about as many women as men, in the wee hours of the morning after the delivery of the building, turned the would-be saloon upside down.  Legal action followed.  Later, after the establishment of a saloon, the “goodies” were cooled by ice that was cut during the winter from the Split Rock Creek.  The ice was stacked and stored in a building and then covered with mounds of sawdust to preserve it until it was needed.  There was a fresh meat market in Sherman .  The butcher did the slaughtering in the back room of his store and then cut and displayed the meat in a showcase in the front of his establishment where his customers made their selections.  There was also a bank, a barber shop, and a creamery in Sherman .

            Sherman was a sophisticated town.  Not many early Dakota towns had millinery shops, but Sherman did.  Ladies hats were made to order or one could be selected from a well-stocked shelf.  Women came from the area and neighboring towns to purchase or to have a special chapeau designed.  Sometimes, the finishing of a specially designed hat required an overnight stay at the local hotel by the anxious buyer.  Spring, with its Easter celebration, was prime hat-buying time.

            Early Shermanites practiced ecumenism long before it became popular.  The Lutherans, Methodists, and Congregationalists at one time shared a common church, one that was located on a donated lot and built for less than $1200 and a whole bunch of understanding and sharing.

            The Sherman people took time to relax.  The Split Rock Creek was a great source of entertainment with fishing, swimming, and boating in the summertime and ice skating and ice fishing in the wintertime.  Sherman merchants provided free outdoor movies, usually on a Saturday night during the summer.  The town Opera House with its player piano was another source of enjoyment as many plays and shows were performed.  Lawrence Welk and his band played at Sherman and was the cause of many thin soles.  This was all before champagne music.

            The town of Sherman has tried to claim some of the Jesse James saga.  Although historians disavow this, Shermanites claim that papers taken during a robbery of its bank by Jesse were found in a cave that was reputed to have been one of Jesse’s hideouts.  Sherman had a bank robbery, but not by Jesse James.

            The town of Sherman is not the town it used to be with its elegant homes, some even with dumb waiters, and its many businesses lining the streets.  Churches and schools have disappeared into memories.  Fires, the depression, the automobile, the loss of passenger train service which had been a constant since November 1, 1888, and a more mobile society are some of the reasons Sherman isn’t as grandiose as it once was.  But, the fact remains that the town of Sherman remains.

From Split Rock Influence by Jeanne Schulte Richardson, Pine Hill Press, Inc., 1996.