Sherman, E. A. (fl. 1850s)
E. A. Sherman (fl. 1850s) was a carpenter and builder who constructed Coolmore Plantation house and outbuildings near Tarboro from designs by Baltimore architect Edmund George Lind. Sherman also built other notable structures in the Tarboro area and in nearby Wilson, none of which is known to survive. He remains an elusive figure, and his relationships with architect Lind and with local builder Oswald Lipscomb merit further exploration.
Edgecombe County planter and physician Joseph J. Powell, who often visited Baltimore, commissioned the architectural firm of Lind and Murdoch to design his plantation villa and to arrange for artisans and materials from Baltimore as well. Powell family papers include references to Sherman in Dr. Powell’s correspondence with Lind and some Baltimore manufacturers. On March 15, 1859, the J. Thomas firm reported to Powell that the firm was shipping to him in Tarboro the “lumber, brackets, ornaments, &c” from an order “furnished us by E. A. Sherman.” Sherman had visited the company and “examined the articles previous to shipment.” On April 5, 1860,with the interior work nearing completion, Lind and Murdoch reported to Powell that they had ordered certain items for the house and said, “We are anxious to know how the chair rail &c answers—we presume it fits well or we should have heard from Mr. Sherman.”
It is generally believed that Sherman was recruited by Lind in Baltimore, but there is evidence that Sherman was already working in North Carolina. The Tarboro Southerner of March 20, 1858, carried two adjoining notices. One, dated February 19, 1858, stated that the “copartnership heretofore existing between Edward A. Sherman & Oswald Lipscombe, is this day dissolved by mutual consent. All persons indebted to the Firm, will settle with the Subscriber. Oswald Lipscombe.” Lipscomb was a builder best known for his work in Wilson and vicinity. The period and nature of Lipscomb’s and Sherman’s association is not known. The adjoining notice, dated February 20, 1858, announced, “The business of building in all its branches will be carried on by subscriber in Edgecombe and surrounding counties by an experienced workman. Prepared to furnish drawings and specifications. E. A. Sherman.” Sherman continued to run this advertisement into 1860. According to the minutes of the Wilson County Court of April, 1859, Lipscomb and E. A. Sherman had previously accomplished the design and construction of the Wilson County Courthouse I and Jail, built for the new county formed in 1855 (Kate Ohno, Moses Rountree National Register nomination). The 1860 census showed Sherman, a carpenter of unknown age, residing along with many other men in a hotel in Tarboro. Perhaps the census taker took his information about the hotel residents from the hotel keeper; only a few of the men living there were noted by age or place of birth.
A transcription from Lind’s account book by Lind scholar Phoebe Stanton (1980) lists a series of projects by name, with the names of the clients and the costs of the building alongside them. E. A. Sherman’s name appears beside a few projects: in 1858 a schoolhouse in Tarboro and in 1859 “country stores” in Tarboro, and a Female Institute and a Primitive Baptist Church in Wilson. It is not clear whether Lind was providing designs directly to Sherman or Sherman was executing designs Lind had provided to clients. Further confusing the picture, the Tarboro Southerner of May 14, 1859, reported that Oswald Lipscomb had taken the contract for the church, and one David Conner for the seminary. The Wilson Female Seminary was a large, Italianate building, and the Primitive Baptist Church was a board and batten structure. Neither survives.
Late in 1860, Sherman advertised in the Wilson Ledger of December 13, 1860, “E. A. Sherman would respectfully announce to the citizens of Wilson and the vicinity that he has taken up residence in Wilson for the purpose of devoting his entire attention to contracting and erecting of buildings of all kinds. Having had eighteen years of experience in business and being assisted by Mr. E. G. Lind of Baltimore, an accomplished and thorough architect, he considers himself competent to meet all the demands of the public.” What was meant by “being assisted by” Lind remains unclear, though it may indicate that Lind was supplying designs or design expertise to Sherman.
What became of E. A. Sherman after this reference is not known. He may be the “Ned Sherman” mentioned in the Wilson Ledger of January 22, 1861—Ned being a common nickname for Edward. Other projects by Sherman remain to be identified. It is notable that in both Edgecombe and Wilson counties there were several examples of picturesque cottages from the mid-19th century, some of which have been attributed to Lipscomb but some of which may have involved Sherman. No record has been found of his whereabouts except for the brief period of 1858-1861 in Tarboro and Wilson.
- Kate Ohno and Robert C. Bainbridge, Wilson, North Carolina, Historic Buildings Inventory (1980).
- Kate Ohno and Mary Shoemaker, “Moses Rountree House,” National Register of Historic Places nomination (1981).
- Powell Family Papers, private collection, North Carolina.
- Dates:1858-1861Location:Tarboro, Edgecombe CountyStreet Address:US 64A, Tarboro vicinity, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialImages Puslished In:Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996).Note:Powell family papers (privately held) document thoroughly Lind's role in planning the house, ordering furnishings and other items from Baltimore, and other accounts. The house was completed on the eve of the Civil War. Regarded today as one of the most completely preserved of his residences, as well as a remarkably intact work of the Baltimore decorative painter Ernst Dreyer, Coolmore descended in the Powell family, who maintained it in its original condition, including its Italianate style outbuildings, furnishings, decorative paintings, and landscape. Dreyer's art is not actually fresco (painted in wet plaster) but paint on plaster; it is illustrated in Bishir, North Carolina Architecture. Coolmore is currently a stewardship property of the non-profit preservation organization, Preservation North Carolina.
- Dates:1850s; 1873 (addition, remodeling); ca. 1900-1902 (remodeling)Location:Wilson, Wilson CountyStreet Address:Wilson, NCStatus:No longer standingType:PublicNote:The accompanying image shows the Wilson County Courthouse after several changes had been made.
- Dates:1859Location:Wilson, Wilson CountyStreet Address:Wilson, NCStatus:No longer standingType:EducationalImages Puslished In:Kate Ohno and Robert C. Bainbridge, Wilson, North Carolina, Historic Buildings Inventory (1980).