Philip Sherman

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Philip Sherman
Bornbaptized 5 February 1610/11
Dedham, Essex, England
Other namesPhilip Shearman
EducationSufficient to be General Recorder of the colony
OccupationSecretary, Town Clerk, General Recorder, Deputy
Spouse(s)Sarah Odding
ChildrenEber, Sarah, Peleg, Edmund, Samson, John, Mary, Hannah, Samuel, Benjamin, Phillip[1]
Parent(s)Samuel Sherman and Philippa Ward

Philip Sherman (1611–1687) was a prominent leader and one of the founding settlers of Portsmouth in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Coming from Dedham, Essex in southeastern England, he and several of his siblings and cousins settled in New England. His first residence was in Roxbury in the Massachusetts Bay Colony where he lived for a few years, but he became interested in the teachings of the dissident ministers John Wheelwright and Anne Hutchinson, and at the conclusion of the Antinomian Controversy he was disarmed and forced to leave the colony. He went with many followers of Hutchinson to establish the town of Portsmouth on Aquidneck Island, later called Rhode Island. He became the first secretary of the colony there, and served in many other roles in the town government. Sherman became a Quaker after settling in the Rhode Island colony, and died at an advanced age, leaving a large progeny.


Born in the village of Dedham in Essex, near the southeast coast of England, Philip Sherman (often spelled Shearman) was the son of Samuel and Philippa (Ward) Sherman.[2] His grandfather and great grandfather were both named Henry Sherman.[2] In 1633 he arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, settling in Roxbury, where he was made a freeman the following year.[2]

Portsmouth Compact with Sherman's signature 13th on the list

In time Sherman became attracted to the preachings of the dissident ministers John Wheelwright and Anne Hutchinson, during the so-called Antinomian Controversy, and following their banishment from the Massachusetts colony, Sherman and many other followers were disarmed.[2] On 20 November 1637 he and others were ordered to deliver up all guns, pistols, swords, powder and shot because the "opinions and revelations of Mr. Wheelwright and Mrs. Hutchinson have seduced and led into dangerous errors many of the people here in New England."[2] The Roxbury church records give this account of Sherman, "He came into the land in the year 1632 [sic; should read 1633], a single man, & after married Sarah Odding, the daughter o[f] the wife of John Porter by a former husband. This man was of melancholy temper, he lived honestly & comfortably among us several years, upon a just calling went for England & returned again with a blessing: but after his father-in-law John Porter was so carried away with these opinions of familism & schism he followed them & removed with them to the Iland, he behaved himself sinfully in these matters (as may appear in the story) & was cast out of the church."[3]

Scores of the followers of Wheelwright and Hutchinson were ordered out of the Massachusetts colony, but before leaving, a group of them, including Sherman, signed what is sometimes called the Portsmouth Compact, establishing a non-sectarian civil government upon the universal consent of the inhabitants, with a Christian focus.[4] Planning initially to settle in New Netherland, the group was persuaded by Roger Williams to purchase some land of the Indians on the Narragansett Bay. They settled on the north east end of Aquidneck Island, and established a settlement they called Pocasset, but in 1639 changed the name to Portsmouth.[5] William Coddington was elected the first judge (governor) of the settlement.[6]

Sherman was in Portsmouth by May 1638 when he was present at a general meeting, and the following year he was selected as Secretary.[2] In 1640 he and four others were chosen to lay out lands within the town, and the following year he was made a freeman.[2] From 1648 to 1651 he was the General Recorder for the town,[2] and from 1649 to 1656 he was the town clerk.[3] He sat on the Portsmouth town council for many years from 1649 to 1657, and again in the early 1670s, but appears to have stayed out of public service between 1657 and 1665.[3] From 1665 to 1667 he once again served in a civil capacity when he was elected as a Deputy from Portsmouth.[2]

Philip Sherman house, Portsmouth

Though Sherman was never the governor or deputy governor of the colony, that he was highly esteemed by his fellow citizens was made very clear in 1676, during the difficult times of King Philip's War. On the 4th of April in that year, it was voted by the General Assembly that "in these troublesome times and straits in this Colony, this Assembly desiring to have the advice and concurrence of the most judicious inhabitants, if it may be had for the good of the whole, do desire at their next sitting the company and counsel of...Philip Shearman.." and 15 others, including several former governors and deputy governors such as Benedict Arnold, Gregory Dexter, and James Barker.[2] Sherman wrote his will on 30 July 1681, and it was proved on 22 March 1687.[2] He had become a member of the Religious Society of Friends, better known as Quakers.[7] His house, originally built in 1670, still stands in Portsmouth as a private residence, though moved from its original location.[8]

Family and descendants[edit]

While still living in Roxbury, in the Massachusetts colony, Sherman married Sarah Odding, the daughter of William and Margaret Odding.[9] He and Sarah had a large family of at least 11 children, most of whom survived childhood, married, and had large families.[2][10] Sherman's mother-in-law, Margaret Odding, married secondly John Porter, another signer of the Portsmouth Compact. With Margaret, Porter had one child, Hannah, who married Samuel Wilbur, Jr., whose father, Samuel Wilbore was another signer of the compact.[11] Among the many descendants of Philip and Sarah Sherman are former United States Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.[12] Other descendants include James S. Sherman, Susan B. Anthony,[13] Janis Joplin, Sir Winston Churchill, Lyndon LaRouche, Conrad Aiken, Mamie Eisenhower,[14] and possibly Marilyn Monroe.[15]


The ancestry of Philip Sherman is covered in Roy V. Sherman's 1968 genealogy of the family, with additional material published in 2013 by Michael Wood.[16][17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anderson 1995, p. 1672 (Austin adds two more children without documentation).
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Austin 1887, p. 178.
  3. ^ a b c Anderson 1995, p. 1670.
  4. ^ Bicknell 1920, p. 992.
  5. ^ Bicknell 1920, p. 993.
  6. ^ Bicknell 1920, pp. 992-3.
  7. ^ Sherman roots.
  8. ^ Sherman House.
  9. ^ Hatcher 1998, pp. 176-80.
  10. ^ Anderson 1995, pp. 1672-3.
  11. ^ Anderson 1995, p. 1503.
  12. ^ Roberts 2009, p. 463.
  13. ^ Roberts 1998, pp. 111-117.
  14. ^ Hart 2004, pp. 71-77.
  15. ^ Roberts 1999, pp. 130-140.
  16. ^ Sherman 1968, pp. 1-25.
  17. ^ Wood 2013, pp. 47-52.


  • Anderson, Robert Charles (1995). The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620–1633. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society. ISBN 978-0-88082-120-9. OCLC 42469253.
  • Austin, John Osborne (1887). Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island. Albany, New York: J. Munsell's Sons. ISBN 978-0-8063-0006-1.
  • Bicknell, Thomas Williams (1920). The History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Vol.3. New York: The American Historical Society. pp. 1046–54.
  • Hart, Craig (2004). A Genealogy of the Wives of the American Presidents and Their First Two Generations of Descent. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company. pp. 71–77. ISBN 9780786419562.
  • Hatcher, Patricia Law (July 1998). "Reconstructing Sarah (Odding) Sherman, Wife of Philip Sherman of Portsmouth, RI". The American Genealogist. 73: 176–180.
  • Roberts, Gary Boyd (1998). Notable Kin: An Anthology of Columns First Published in the NEHGS Nexus, 1986-1995. vol 1. Santa Clarita, CA: Carl Boyer 3rd. pp. 111–117. ISBN 9780936124179.
  • Roberts, Gary Boyd (1999). Notable Kin: An Anthology of Columns First Published in the NEHGS Nexus, 1986-1995. vol 2. Santa Clarita, CA: Carl Boyer 3rd. pp. 130–140. ISBN 9780936124209.
  • Roberts, Gary Boyd (2009). Ancestors of American Presidents, 2009 edition. Boston, Massachusetts: New England Historic Genealogical Society. ISBN 978-0-88082-220-6.
  • Sherman, Roy V. (1968). Some of the Descendants of Philip Sherman: The First Secretary of Rhode Island. Akron, Ohio: private. pp. 1–25.
  • Wood, Michael Johnson (January 2013). "The Earliest Shermans of Dedham, Essex, and their Wives". New England Historical and Genealogical Register. 167: 35–54. ISBN 0-7884-0293-5.

Online sources

External links[edit]