Governors of Iowa

Source: Portrait and Biographical Album, Muscatine County, Iowa, 1889, page 151


BUREN R. SHERMAN, the eleventh Governor of Iowa, one of the most distinguished gentleman who was ever honored with the position of Chief Executive of the State, is a native of New York. It was in the town of Phelps, in Ontario County, that he was born to his parents Phineas L. and Eveline ( Robinson ) Sherman, on the 28th of May, 1836, and was the third son of a distinguished family of children. His parents were likewise natives of the Empire State. Buren R. attended the public schools of his neighborhood, but was subsequently given advantages of the schools at Almira, N.Y., where he acquired a very thorough knowledge of the English branches. His father, who was a mechanic, advised him at the close of his studies to apprentice himself to learn some trade. He accordingly made some arrangements with S. Ayers, of Almira, to learn the trade of a watchmaker. In 1855, however, he left this position and joined his family on their removal to the then new State of Iowa. They settled upon an unbroken piece of prairie land on what is now Geneseo Township, Tama County, his father having previously purchased land from the Government. Here Buren R. labored diligently in developing his father's fields, devoting, however, leisure hours which he was granted, to the study of law. Before leaving his Eastern home he had decided upon that profession and began its study while yet in Almira. He soon secured a position as a book-keeper in a neighboring town, and with the wages earned there, materially assisted his father in the developement of their home farm. In the meantime he had applied himself diligently to the study of his books, and so studious had he been that in the summer of 1859, he was enabled to pass a creditable examination to be admitted to the bar. The following spring the young attorney moved to Vinton, hung out his shingle and began the practice of his profession. He was associated with Hon. William Smyth, formerly District Judge, and J. C. Traer, under the firm name of Smyth, Traer & Sherman. The new firm rapidly grew into prominence, building up a prosperous practice, when Mr. Sherman withdrew to tender his services to the Government in defense of her integrity and honor.

It was early on 1861, directly after the enemy had assaulted the American flag on Sumter, that the young attorney enlisted in Co. G, 13th Iowa Vol. Inf., and immediately went to the front. He entered the service as Second Sergeant, and in Feb. 1862, was made Second Lieutenant of Company E. On the 6th of April following he was severely wounded at the battle of Pittsburgh Landing, and while in the hospital was promoted to the rank of Captain. He returned to his company while yet obliged to use his crutches, and remained on duty until the summer of 1863, when, by reason of his wound, he was compelled to resign and return home. Soon after returning from the army he was elected County Judge of Benton County, and re-elected without opposition in 1865. In the autumn of 1866 he resigned his judgeship and accepted the office of Clerk of the District Court, to which he was re-elected in 1868, 1870 and 1872, and in December, 1874, resigned in order to accept the office of Auditor of State, to which office he had been elected by a majority of 28,425 over J. M. King, the " anti-monopoly " candidate. In 1876 he was renominated and received 50,272 more votes than W. Growneweg ( Democrat ) and Leonard Brown ( Greenback ) together. In 1878 he was again chosen to represent the Republican party in that office, and this time received a majority of 7,164 over the combined votes of Col. Eiboeck ( Democrat ) and G. V. Swearenger ( Greenback ). In the six years that he held this office, he was untiring in his faithful application to routine work and devotion to his special share of the State's business. He retired with such an enviable record that it was no surprise the people learned, June 27, 1881, that he was the nominee of the Republican party for Governor.

The campaign was an exciting one. The General Assembly had submitted to the people the prohibitory ammendment to the Constitution. This, while not a partisan question, became uppermost in the mind of the public. Mr. Sherman received 133,330 votes, against 83,244 for Kinne and 28,112 for D. M. Clark, or a plurality of 50, 086 and a majority of 21,974. In 1883 he was re-nominated by the Republicans, as well as L. G. Kinne by the Democrats. The National party offered J. B. Weaver. During the campaign these candidates held a number of joint discussions at different points in the State. At the election the vote was : Sherman, 164,182 ; Kinne, 139,093 ; Weaver, 23, 089 ; Sherman's plurality, 25,089 ; majority. 2,000. In his second inaugural Gov. Sherman said :

" In assuming, for the second time, the office of Chief Magistrate for the State, I fully realize my grateful obligations to the people of Iowa, through whose generous confidence I am here. I am aware of the duties and grave responsibilities of this exalted position, and as well what is expected of me therein. As in the past I have given my individed time and serious attention thereto, so in the future I promise the most earnest devotion and untiring effort in the faithful performance of my official requirements. I have seen the State grow from infancy to mature manhood, and each year one of substantial betterment of its previous position.

"With more railroads than any State, save two ; with a school interest the grandest and strongest, which commands the support and confidence of all the people, and a population, which in its entirety is superior to any other in the sisterhood, it is not strange the pride which attaches to our people. When we remember that the results of our efforts in the direction of good government have been crowned with such magnificent success, and today we have a State in most perfect physical and financial condition, no wonder our hearts swell in honest pride as we contemplate the past and so confidently hope for the future. What we may become depends on our own efforts, and to the future I look with earnest and abiding confidence."

Gov. Sherman's term of office continued until Jan.14, 1886, when he was succeeded by William Larrabee, and he is now, temporarily, perhaps, enjoying a well-earned rest. He has been a Republican since the organization of that party, and his services as a campaign speaker have been for many years in great demand. As an officer he has been able to make an enviable record. Himself honorable and thorough, his management of public business has been of the same character, and such has commended him to the approval of his fellow-citizens.

He was married, Aug. 20, 1862 to Miss Lena Kendall, of Vinton, Iowa, a young lady of rare accomplishments and strength of character. Their union has been happy in every respect. They have two children--Lena Kendall and Oscar Eugene.

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