Knox County, Ohio, may be unique in America for having had two of its early citizens grow up to become Secretaries of the United States Treasury. And in addition, Kenyon alumnus, Edwin Stanton, also appears on a U.S. $1.00 Treasury note of 1890, while Salmon P. Chase, nephew of Kenyon College founder, Bishop Philander Chase, served as well as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury under Lincoln and has the distinction of appearing on the U. S. $10,000 bill.
Knox County is, indeed, "right on the money!"
An earlier entry here highlighted the life of Knox County's William Windom, who served as U.S. Treasury Secretary under both Presidents James Garfield and Benjamin Harrison, and who appears on the $2.00 Silver Certificate of the 1890's.
Here we will present the story of Knox Countian, John Sherman, our second citizen to be so honored.
John Sherman was born on May 10, 1823, in Lancaster, Ohio. He was the younger brother of Union Civil War General, William Tecumseh Sherman. When their father, an Ohio Supreme Court Judge, died suddenly in 1829, several of the 11 children were placed up for adoption while others were placed with friends or relatives. From 1831 to 1835, John lived here with his father's cousin, a Mount Vernon merchant who was also named John Sherman.
In his 1895 autobiography, John Sherman wrote, "In the spring of 1831, my father's cousin, John Sherman, a prosperous merchant of Mt. Vernon, accompanied by his bride, visited my mother, and proposed to take me into his family and keep me at school until I was prepared to enter Kenyon College, five miles from Mt. Vernon. This was a kindly offer and was gratefully accepted. The old-fashioned stage coach was then the only medium of travel, and the fifty miles between Lancaster and Mt. Vernon were to me a wearisome journey. For days after I arrived in Mt. Vernon I was moping either at the house or at the store, but ere long became accustomed to the change, and commenced my studies at the schools, which, as I remember them, were admirably conducted by teachers of marked ability, among whom were some who became distinguished in professional and business life. One of the families that I became intimate with was that of Mr. Norton, one of whose sons, A. Banning Norton, who lately died in Dallas, Texas, was my constant companion. We studied our lessons together, but frequently had quarrels and fights. It was a "fad" of his to wear his fingernails very long. On one occasion I pummeled him well, but he scratched my face in the contest. When I went home, marked in this way, I was asked how I came to be so badly scratched, and the best answer I could make was that I had fallen on a "splintery log," and this got to be a by-word in the school."
Sherman goes on to describe himself as sometimes a "troublesome boy," who was a party to putting a dead sheep in his teacher's chair and defying warnings resulting in his falling into the raging Owl Creek on the south side of town. He also mentions attending the wedding of Columbus Delano and Miss Leavenworth and the marriage of Henry B. Curtis to the sister of the lady in whose home he resided. He concluded his account of his days here by saying "On the whole I regard my four years at Mount Vernon as well spent. I advanced in my studies so that I could translate Latin fairly well, I went through the primary studies, and obtained some comprehension of algebra, geometry and kindred studies. In the meantime, the condition of our family had greatly changed and generally improved."
After returning to Lancaster John taught himself surveying and obtained a position as a rodman, and from 1837-39 he worked on improvements on the Muskingum River. After studying law with his brother, he was admitted to the bar in 1844 and practiced law in Mansfield. He served in the U. S. House of Representatives from Ohio in the 1850's, and in 1860 was selected to fill Salmon P. Chase's Senate seat when Chase became Secretary of the Treasury. Sherman was a leader in financial and banking issues during the Civil War years. In 1877, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed him Secretary of the Treasury, where, within two years he had reduced the amount of paper currency in circulation to the exact amount of gold in the U.S. Treasury.
In 1880, Sherman was a leading contender for the Republican nomination for the Presidency, being nominated by his campaign manager, James Garfield. But when he couldn't muster the needed support, the nomination went to Garfield on the 35th ballot at the Convention. While serving again in the U.S. Senate during the 1880's and 1890's, Sherman authored the Sherman Anti-trust Act, a major piece of legislation that allowed the government to break up organizations that restrained competition both within major corporations, such as the Standard Oil Company, as well as the activities of labor unions.
Following John Sherman's death on October 22, 1900, the U.S. Treasury in 1902 issued the $50.00 Third Charter National Bank Note (Friedberg #664) bearing Sherman's portrait, representing the second of our Knox Countians to be found pictured on U.S. currency.