AUTHOR: Minnie Becton (edited and vetted by Cheri Todd Molter)
Introduction: This story, and its accompanying photographs, were excerpts from a blog post entry entitled “52 Ancestors: #10 – Jack Sherrod – ‘A Man of First Class Standing,’” written by Minnie Becton (https://howdidigetherefromafricatonc.blogspot.com/2014/03/52-ancestors-10-jack-sherrod-man-of.html).
Caption for Collage Photograph: Top picture is Jack Sherrod; Bottom row from the left: Jack’s son, Dallas Sherrod; Jack’s son, Arthur Sherrod with Arthur’s son, Kemmie, and Arthur’s wife, Effie Diggs Sherrod; Jack’s daughter, Cora Sherrod Ward Powell Barnes.
Jack Sherrod – “A Man of First Class Standing”
This week, I’m writing about my great-great-grandfather, Jack Sherrod. Jack was my paternal grandfather’s—Sylvester Powell’s—grandfather. Sylvester’s mother, Fannie Sherrod, was Jack’s eldest child.
Jack’s Pension File
The 135th United States Colored Infantry (U.S.C.T.) was formed in Goldsboro, North Carolina, on March 27, 1865. That regiment lasted until October 1865. If I were a newly enlisted soldier, I would say that was great timing!
I found Jack Sherrod’s pension file at the National Archives. Because of his declining health, in 1905, 61-year-old Jack Sherrod began applying for an invalid pension increase. He had a large goiter under his neck and a “wen” on his right hip. Jack’s pension file provided a lot of information. First, it was apparent that the authorities thought that Jack had died during the war and was impersonating another soldier, so Jack had to tell his life story to prove that he didn’t die during the war— to prove that he was Jack Sherrod and not Jack Sherwood, his comrade who died beside him. Incidentally, Jack Sherrod and Jack Sherwood were both being transported to an army hospital when Mr. Sherwood died of pneumonia. [See photo below. Click to enlarge.]
Second, Jack’s pension file gave me “happy highs” with the amount of information that it provided. I discovered that Jack had 4 half-siblings, including a brother named Stephen, who had the same mother as Jack. In fact, I found Stephen in the 1870 and 1880 censuses for Wayne County, N.C., but Stephen and his family disappear after the 1880 census. Jack also mentioned a second brother, Bob Bass, in his statements. I confirmed via the Wayne County marriage records that Bob and Jack had the same father, Dennis Barnes. Furthermore, Jack’s pension file also included testimonies from his sisters, Jennie Cox and Annie Mitchell. Additional testimonies came from some of his former army comrades, some white people in the community, and his neighbors: Noble, George, and Patrick Exum, who might have been related to Jack’s wife, Cassie. The pension file confirmed Jack’s parents’ names and offered the names of some of Cassie’s family members.
I’m happy that I was able to confirm and to find more information about Jack and his family. But I was also sad because of his struggles and what he had to go through to fight for his pension increase of a few extra dollars. For example, in his file was an envelope that read “picture of a soldier.” Finding the envelope made me happy, but once I saw Jack’s picture, I was sad again. It was his picture, and he was leaning against a chair. He had a tumor the size of a granny smith apple on his right hip and a goiter, which may be the largest that I have ever seen, under his neck. In his testimony, Jack stated that most of his ailments did not occur until after he became a soldier.
I’m glad to have a Union solider in my family, but as fate would have it, my ancestor’s name is not on the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C. Ironically, it is only Jack Sherwood’s name that is engraved on the Memorial, which makes me wonder how many other soldiers’ names are missing from the memorial’s wall.
Jack and Cassie
Jack Sherrod (8/1843 – 1915) and Cassie [Catherine] Exum (1850 – 1940) married and raised a family together: Fannie (1869 – ?), who married George Powell; William (1871 – 1916); Ida (1873 – 1918), who married Alonzo Wilson; Marcy (1877 – 1895); John (1875 – 1904), who married Addie Edwards; Benjamin (1879-1937), who married Annie Edmundson; Dallas (1881 – 1934), who married Mary Ann Taylor; Exum (1883 – ?); Arthur (1885 – 1955), who married Effie Diggs; Sissie (1887 – 1887); and Cora (1888 – 1972), who married Columbus Ward, Robert Powell, and John Barnes. [See photo at right. Click to enlarge.]
The cohabitation record for Stephen Davis stated that Stephen’s mother was Tempy Davis, which meant Jack and Stephen had the same mother. In Jack’s pension file, he stated that his mother’s name was Tempy Davis and his father was “Denis” Barnes, who, according to Jack’s statements, “was sold away when I [Jack] was small.” I don’t understand why Jack did not adopt the last name of “Barnes” or “Davis.” Jack also testified that his brother, Stephen, lived in Greenville, North Carolina, and two of his sisters were Jennie, who “lived on the land of James Flora” near Fremont, and Annie, who lived on Green Street in Wilson, North Carolina.
In 1870, Stephen Davis was living in Wayne County with his wife, Elizabeth, and his mom, Temperance Davis. Yes, in 1870, Stephen and Jack’s mother was alive, and she was 45 years old, but by 1905, Jack said Tempy was dead.
In 1905, Annie Mitchell, was 64 years old, and she lived on Green Street in Wilson, North Carolina. Annie said that she was originally owned by the same slave holder as Jack—John V. Sherard—but she was sold away before the war. Jack’s other sister, Jennie, was 59 years old in 1905, and she lived 2 miles from Fremont, N.C. In Jennie’s deposition, she said that she and Jack had the same mother. She also said that Jack was born and raised in Wayne County. Jennie Cox, Jack Sherrod, and Stephen Davis had the same mom: Tempy [also recorded as Temperance or Tempie] Davis.
Jack’s Enslaver, John V. Sherard
In Jack’s testimony, he stated that “the solicitor was his one and only slave owner” and that was John V. Sherard (1822-1897). Note that Jack’s surname was spelled differently than John V. Sherard’s. [However, in some records, like the 1900 Census and his marriage record, Jack’s surname was misspelled as “Sherard.”] John V. was the son of Gabriel Sr. and Elizabeth Sherard. …According to the Sherard/Sherrod family history, which I found written in the book “Heritage of Wayne County, North Carolina,” by the Wayne County Historical Association, John V. was one of the earliest graduates of UNC Chapel Hill. On the 1860 Slave Census, John V. was listed as a resident of Fork, Wayne County, N.C., and the owner of 15 slaves. One of those enslaved individuals listed was Jack, but who were the others, and were they all related to each other?
Jack Sherrod did very well for himself and his family. It’s apparent that, even when faced with extreme adversity—like enslavement, family separation, health issues, and fighting for a pension increase—Jack always remained a man of “first class standing.”