Amaziah Church Sherwood (1815-1860)

Amaziah Church Sherwood (1815-1860)
By Don Kruger – February 2017


So. That was it. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity!

For months I had been anticipating the great information I was going to discover when I finally had a chance to read this long lost obituary. This was going to break down my genealogical “Brick Wall.” I would have all the facts I’d need to build a family tree limb going all the way back in history to the first Sherwoods in America, who settled in Fairfield, CT, sometime in the 1630s.

Instead, what I discovered was a very glowing review of a person’s life that was, unfortunately, lacking in genealogical information. There is little information about what my ancestor did. Don’t get me wrong. I love to hear that my third great-grandfather was “a man of intellect.” And that, “He appeared to have the faculty of concentrating his mind upon a single subject, and holding it in a state of abstraction for a great length of time.” That’s all well and good, but beyond that, I wanted to read about exciting things that happened to him. Outside of studying medicine, initially with Dr. Henry Ingersoll of Ithaca, and later finishing a course at Geneva College, there is little to no mention of things such as hobbies, his relatives, or places he might have lived or traveled. I wanted to know who his parents were. Where was he was born? What were the names of his brothers and sisters? That kind of information is simply not in this clipping.

So I did some digging and ultimately found what I now refer to as the Cayutaville Quilt. It was being held in the loving care of its owner who, to my surprise, is a neighbor of mine here in rural Massachusetts. And when I researched the quilt and the diary that accompanies it, I found that Dr. Amaziah Church Sherwood’s descendants lived in Cayutaville for several generations. I found that he had been the physician who delivered the Ervay Quadruplets in 1855. And I found that he had been closely associated with the “Wide Awakes,” a para-military group supporting Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party in the Presidential Election of 1860.

In mid-nineteenth century Finger Lakes area newspapers, his name usually appeared as Dr. A. C. Sherwood. This may have been to save space and ink, or because it was unclear whether his first name was Amaziah with a ‘z’, or Amasiah with an ’s’. It could even have been that he preferred the nickname A.C. The only document I have ever found where his middle name, Church, was used was in the Geneva College Medical School catalog of 1840-41. I would expect to see a family name of Church somewhere in his heritage, but exactly where is anybody’s guess.


A. C. Sherwood was born in New York State on June 2, 1815. His birthdate is only a calculation from the information that was chiseled into his headstone, which can be easily found in the Cayutaville Cemetery. The fact that he was born in the State of New York is taken from later census data obtained from his children when they were requested to report in what State their parents were born.


Headstone of Dr. A. C. Sherwood  –  Photo by Mark Brown (2012)

His wife Lucy Ann Beebe was born in Salem, CT, in 1822. As an 8-year-old, Lucy Ann moved with her parents, John and Lydia (Palmer) Beebe, to the southern part of Cayutaville. The Doctor and Lucy Ann were married in 1840 and their only son, Orlando Beebe Sherwood, was born that same year. Four girls followed: Sarah Beebe Sherwood in 1843, Maria L. Sherwood in 1845, Harriet A.“Hattie” Sherwood in 1851 and Florence May Sherwood in 1856. Sarah Beebe Sherwood died on April 7, 1864, and is buried in the Cayutaville Cemetery near the graves of her father, A. C. Sherwood, and grandmother, Lydia (Palmer) Beebe. According to the 1860 census for Newfield, Tompkins County, NY, her occupation was said to be that of a “Com School Teacher,” which I have interpreted to mean Community School Teacher.


It may be that Lib Sharpe replaced Sarah Sherwood in that same Community Teaching position. Entries made in the diary begin on April 19, 1864, and the first day of school was recorded on May 16. Her school was located on the Hector/Enfield border, only a few yards into Enfield. Her students were from both towns.

Shortly after Dr. A.C. Sherwood died, his widow and children moved from Trumbulls Corners to the home of Lucy’s father, John Beebe, in Cayutaville. Next door was the Charles Culver household, which included Charles Culver and his wife Adeline (Evans) Culver, their eighteen-year-old son John Edgar Culver, and Adeline’s ten-year-old niece, Irene Lydia Sharpe.

In 1867, two years after the passing of his first wife, next door neighbor Charles Culver married Lucy Ann (Beebe) Sherwood. By this time, Orlando Beebe Sherwood had returned from the Civil War where he had been trained as a surgeon in the Union Army. Dr. O.B. Sherwood would settle and spend the remainder of his life in Cayutaville, serving the community as its physician. Maria L. Sherwood married Stephen Davenport in 1863 and they raised a family on the Davenport farms of Turkey Hill in Dryden, NY.

This is a list of quilt names and their relation to Dr. A. C. Sherwood.
Lucy Culver – Wife
May Sherwood – Daughter
Harriet Sherwood – Daughter
Marie Devenport – Daughter
Stephen Devenport – Son-in-law
Claude Devenport – Grandson
Fred Devenport – Grandson
John Beebe – Father-in-law
Harriet Tracy – Sister-in-law

In addition to these nine quilt tiles, there are four more that I associate with Dr. A.C. Sherwood, not because of who they were necessarily, but because of what they were. There are two sets of twins on the quilt. E. Allen (F) and E. Nivison (Emily and Emma Culver), were born to Enos and Grace Culver in 1847. W. Smith and Austin Smith, twin sons of Alexander Smith and Sarah Marie Saylor, were born in 1853.

While it is always exciting to hear about the occurrence of multiple births, just about a mile or two east of Cayutaville Foster and Lucinda Ervay of Newfield, NY, became the proud parents of quadruplets on August 26, 1855. The couple already had eight children. It was reported by the Syracuse Evening Chronicle that Dr. A. C. Sherwood was the physician who attended the birth.


In an October 2013 article by Robin Andersen of Newfield, NY, written for a newsletter of the Newfield Historical Society, Mrs. Gladys Morley, whose mother was one of the quadruplets was quoted:

“One can imagine the excitement and activity that resulted when the quadruplets were born. Extraordinary, creative things had to be done to keep the tiny babies alive. Foster made a bed from lumber from his farm. It was padded with wool that had been sterilized. In order to keep the babies warm, the bed was lined with heated fieldstones. They heated them on the hearth and there were always other stones warming as replacements, ready to use whenever the stones cooled too much. Mason jars were filled with warm water, too. When the Mason company heard about it, the Ervays were sent 200 two-quart jars and 100 one-quart jars. Little bottles were used for feeding with cotton stuffed around the top and goose quills in them, so they would get a drop at a time.”

“News of the births spread through the area, but not much was made of it until P.T. Barnum, the great circus man, heard of it and personally visited the Ervays, convincing them to allow him to take the babies to display them at his museum in New York City. Mr. Barnum left Foster $500 and told the parents to get a doctor, a registered nurse and two wet nurses to be constantly with the babies while they were away from their parents at the museum. Eventually, Barnum paid the Ervays an additional $5000.”

“Barnum sent his special train to pick the babies up. They were shown in one bed, being kept at some distance from the public to avoid contracting illness, and they had the agreed-upon medical attention at all times. However, after several weeks of being on exhibit, one of the girls, Iva Amelia, did not gain weight and the babies were returned to their parents. Iva died on October 5, 1855 and Ina Aurelia died the next year on March 4, 1856, before she was a year old.”

“Ida Adelia married George Lockerby. They had six children, two of whom were twins who died at the age of three months. Ida died October 16, 1920 at Waverly, NY at age 74. Her brother Irvan died two years later, at age 76.”

I think one can see that Dr. Sherwood, with his intellect and ingenuity and desire to serve his patients, had something to do with the concept and construction of the primitive incubator to which Mrs. Morley refers. Made of sterilized wool, heated fieldstones, and hot-water filled Mason jars, it was the device that kept the four babies alive during their first days. I have not seen any evidence that Dr. Sherwood was the physician selected to attend the babies when they were on display at the P. T. Barnum Museum in New York City.


From The Baby Show Poster – The Lost Museum

One of the most controversial issues in the year 1855 was P. T. Barnum’s Baby Show Exhibit. For certain the Baby Show was a top money maker for the museum. So much so, that Barnum began opening Baby Shows in Boston, Chicago and other major U.S. Cities. The baby shows were receiving more press and outdrawing even a seventeen-year old Tom Thumb. Please visit The Lost Museum, a website from The City University of New York (CUNY) about the P. T. Barnum Museum that burned in 1865. Many articles from 1855 about the Baby Show controversy are presented on their Baby Show Exhibit Archve page.

As one examines the information provided in the short biographical sketch of Dr. A. C. Sherwood a little more closely, a very important clue about the nature of the his political leanings is made evident.

“He was in the evening by the order of the Wide-Awakes conveyed to his last resting place.”

According to Wikipedia, “The Wide Awakes was a paramilitary campaign organization affiliated with the Republican Party during the United States presidential election of 1860.”
A report in the Havana, NY, Journal on October 27, 1860, gives a full description of a rally held on October 20 in Havana (present day Montour Falls). It is very likely that Dr. Sherwood was a participant in this rally. The author of the article was George A. Soule who may be related to the quilt through the Wintersteens or Levi Lambert Soule who married Dr. A. C. Sherwood’s daughter, Harriet.


Here is a rousing rendition of Lincoln’s 1860 campaign song, Lincoln and Liberty, performed by the late Ronnie Gilbert – who, along with Pete Seeger, was a members of the folk group “The Weavers” in the late 1950s/early 1960s. Some images in the video give clues to what an 1860 Republican Party political rally must have looked like.

Dr. Sherwood passed away after a brief illness on Monday, November 5, 1860, interestingly enough the day before Election Day. His funeral was probably held a few days later as the news of Abraham Lincoln’s election victory was still being celebrated in Cayutaville.

As I listen to the music I can’t help but wonder if perhaps a muted version of this song was sung, or maybe even just hummed by the Wide Awakes and all others who were present when Dr. Amaziah Church Sherwood was laid to rest.


A PDF of the October 2013 Newfield Historical Society Newsletter may be downloaded here.

Special thanks to Robin Andersen and Al Chafee and the Newfield Historical Society for supplying us with information about the Ervay Quadruplets. For more information about the history of Newfield, NY please visit their website and their FaceBook page.