Alva Sherwood
1906 A Twentieth Century History of Berrien County Michigan  
By Judge Orville W. Coolidge

Alva Sherwood.( Alva’s father Alonzo was running mate with David W Kean’s grandfather, David Preston in his bid for MI Governor race in 1884)

In referring to the life of his friend, Mr. E. K. Warren pointed out two predominating characteristics, modesty and faithfulness, adding, "he never sought places of responsibility but always filled them faithfully when they were committed to him." But not alone for the finer qualities of his life is Mr. Sherwood remembered, but also for his ability, of which it was said in an editorial during his life, "Mr. Sherwood is quick in seizing an opportunity, clear in understanding a situation, and prompt in applying necessary measures to meet an emergency; possesses great resources of perseverance and courage, yet withal is a modest man." It is then of such a man, kind, gentle, sincere, friendly, able, that this sketch is to deal.

Alva Sherwood was essentially a Berrien county man. His grandfather removed from Ohio to Michigan in 1833, and the major part of the life of his father, Alonzo Sherwood, was spent in this county. It was near Buchanan that Alva Sherwood was born, January 15, 1859. In a family of eight children he was the only son to reach maturity, and but two of his sisters, Mrs. William Convis and Mrs. William H. Smith, both of Los Angeles, California, are living.

Reared in Wesaw township Alva Sherwood acquired his early education in the public schools of New Troy, where he completed his course in 1877. This preparatory study was supplemented by a four-year course at the Michigan Agricultural College, from which he was graduated in 1881. Then followed a period of teaching in New Troy and in Three Oaks. He gave up the life of the school room for the life of the farm when he entered the employ of Mr. E. K. Warren, whose farm and stock interests he supervised in Three Oaks for several years. Feeling the need of a little special work he took a post-graduate course at the Michigan Agricultural College in 1892, and then accepted the management of the Essex Stock farm at Walkerville, Ontario. After successful service there, he resigned to complete a course in Veterinary Surgery, in the Detroit Veterinary College, and with his training completed in 1894 he returned to Three Oaks. Soon after he added one hundred and fifty acres to his farm of that size in Wesaw township, which he used in general farming and stock raising until a profitable sale was made of nearly his entire property shortly before his death.

In 1904 Mr. Sherwood was chosen as a delegate to the World's Fourth SundaySchool Convention in Jerusalem, Palestine, April 17th to 19th, and he left New York with his fellow delegates on the steamer Grosser Kurfurst, March 8th, for a cruise of over two months, including in the trip visits to the principal places on the shores of the Mediterranean sea and inland excursions into Syria, Egypt and Italy. The fellowship on board the convention steamer as well as the privileges of the convention was dear to the heart of Mr. Sherwood, and he proved himself companionable and sympathetic to a marked degree. He was always ready to do something for somebody else, and equally ready to take without complaint the necessary inconveniences attendant upon an excursion of that character.

During his residence in Three Oaks, prior to 1904, Mr. Sherwood had been prominent in the political and social life of Berrien county, and had for six years served as deputy sheriff. In this and other capacities he became well acquainted with the prominent men throughout the county. During his absence, his name was suggested as a candidate for county treasurer. Upon his return to Michigan he accepted the plans which had been made for him and entered the campaign, which resulted in his election in the fall of 1904. He assumed the office of county treasurer, to which he had been elected by a large majority, the 1st of January, 1905, and occupied it until his death.

On the 28th of November, 1888, Alva Sherwood was united in marriage with Ada M. Simpson, who was born in Carlton, Orleans county, New York, January 25, 1861, and came with her parents, Emery H. and Mary A. (Thompson) Simpson, to Hartford, Michigan, in 1863. The Simpson family was well known in this part of the state, Mr. Simpson having served two terms in the state legislature. To Mr. and Mrs. Sherwood were born four children—Emery Simpson and Catharine Clark, November 29, 1890; Catharine died February 10, 1897; Mary Thompson, born February 7, 1896, and Leland Alva, born March 26, 1898, and died September 5, 1898. Mrs. Sherwood with her two children, Emery Simpson and Mary Thompson, are making their permanent home in Three Oaks.

Mr. Sherwood's success in stock raising, his fondness for horses and his clear judgment of their values, led very naturally to his selection as superintendent of the horse department of the West Michigan Fair, at Grand Rapids, and in carrying out the duties of his position he met the accident which terminated fatally. He was mounted on a spirited horse, leading a cavalcade of horses and cattle. The horse was made restless by the prancing and tossing of horns of the animals around him. Seeing a man with whom he wished to speak, Mr. Sherwood leaned forward in his saddle; at the moment he did so his horse threw back its head, striking Mr. Sherwood in the forehead, and stunning him. In the agony of the blowT, Mr. Sherwood involuntarily jerked back on the reins; the horse reared straight into the air and falling backwards crushed his rider beneath him. Mr. Sherwood was immediately removed to a Grand Rapids hospital where expert assistance was rendered, but through the presence of internal injuries his recovery was impossible, and surrounded by his wife and friends he died September 26, 1905.

Alva Sherwood was a many-sided man. He knew what the proper proportions of life are, and he gave heed to the correct relation between the things of time and the things of Eternity. Developing thus a complete life, his service to the community in which he lived was and is inestimable. He was, perhaps, for a period of over two decades, the most prominent man in the educational life of Three Oaks. He had taught school, and taught it well, and his teaching which supplemented a good and thorough education, admirably fitted him later in life for the efficient supervision of the interests of the public schools, which, as the director of the school board, he exercised term after term. To the things which he knew, theoretically and practically, about education, he added a quick perception of situations, a ready sympathy in trying conditions, a fondness for children who always gave him the confidence which a good man inspires in a child.

In his business life Mr. Sherwood had learned how to serve himself profitably by serving others acceptably. He was both capable and industrious, a combination hard to defeat, whatever the conditions or circumstances of life. During the year or two immediately preceding his departure for the Orient, Mr. Sherwood disposed of most of his property, and left his affairs well regulated and in order. Many a man otherwise successful is found to be deficient when subjected to this test. The integrity of his business life can be shown no better than in the mute testimony which hundreds with whom he had had business relations gave, when they assembled at his funeral to offer that tribute of their regard for him.

While Mr. Sherwood was not a politician in the commonly accepted sense of that term, yet-he was always interested in political conditions in the county, state and nation, and he was rewarded at the hands of his party, both for his own ability and his stanch and loyal Republicanism. Such politics as he followed must first be clean and then as effective as his energy could aid in making them. He placed good citizenship higher than party, and would have preferred defeat on the former platform to victory on the latter, unless they could be merged as they were in his case.

These three sides of his life stand out distinctly, and yet not so distinctly as the side of which he gave the greater emphasis, though it was by the silent force of his consistent life, rather than by any noisy demonstration—sincere Christianity. Mr. Sherwood was a Congregationalist, and a member of the First Congregational church of Three Oaks, in which society he had served in almost every capacity, including that of clerk and trustee. He was a teacher in the Sabbath-school, and for many years an assistant superintendent. He was always ready to do the thing that was asked of him and to do it to the full extent of his ability. He was interested in every good movement, not only in the church and Sunday-school but in the community, and throughout his life he was a loyal representative on earth of the Master he served.

A fair estimate of Mr. Sherwood was made by those who paid their tribute to him when his many friends were gathered in Three Oaks to perform the last offices. William H. Anderson, president of the West Michigan State Fair Association said, "Alva Sherwood was as good a man in every way as one would wish to meet. He was always a gentleman in all that the word implies, and I feel the loss personally. I know that my sentiment will be echoed by all those connected with the West Michigan Fair Association." Lester J. Rindge, vice president of the association, added, "Mr. Sherwood was one of nature's noblemen. He was a man all through, and one who was respected by everyone, not only as a business man but as a friend. He was a man whom we, as well as the community in which he lived, exceedingly regret to lose."

Mr. Charles W. Garfield spoke feelingly of the loss which he felt personally, and in behalf of his colleagues voiced it in these words: "He was more than a capable and respected man: he was a good man. I do not know what church he belonged to, or if he was identified with any church, but he was a religious man. Religion is the mind of God in the heart of man. Seeking it is finding out about God. Alva Sherwood in this deep and true sense was a religious man. When one undertakes to fulfill his whole duty connected with the affairs of this world, and brings to bear upon public spirited enterprises his whole and dominant physical, mental, and moral ability, he is the strongest factor in God's hands for the accomplishment of the deeper and nobler purposes of life. In this sense Mr. Sherwood was God's husbandman."

Mr. Sherwood's pastor, Rev. George B. Hatch, sums up his estimate of the man, thus,—"First, he was characteristically a Christian man. The reason that he was so generally liked and trusted was that he put the spirit of Christ into all that he did. He was the sort of Christian who translates creed into deed. He exemplified the real beauty that is in real Christianity. That men liked him proves that they would like Christ if they knew Him. Secondly, he was a man to be counted on. Wherever you put him you could be sure of his being faithful to the trust reposed in him. He did not need to be watched. His principal was to do his part, whatever others might or might not do. In recognition of his absolute faithfulness the county wanted him as its servant. He did not seek his office, but took it when it was offered him, and gave to its duties his utmost care. And this was characteristic of him in all the activities which engaged him. Such men are too valuable to be easily spared. Thirdly, he found the text true which says that Godliness is profitable in the life that now is. Owing to his consistent efforts to do the will of God, his own life broadened out and was enriched. Some men's lives narrow in and become less and less joyous and free. His, on the contrary, became larger and fuller. Things kept coming his way. He sought the Kingdom of God, and the pleasures and profits of earthly life were added to him. This was noticeable during the last two years. He was on the road to better things right along. And now, since he has gone has he not already found that the second half of the text is true, and that Godliness is profitable also for the life to come? He is the kind of man that God likes, and must we not believe that his 'untimely' death is to be explained on the ground that God wanted to promote him to some position and service in the other world?"

Perhaps no one knew Mr. Sherwood better than his lifelong friend, Mr. E. K. Warren, with whose testimony this review closes: "Quite naturally I had expected that Mr. Sherwood, my friend, would be one of those who would perform this service for me, but he was called first. The words that I shall speak are not only for myself but I desire to voice the feelings as far as possible of a large number of Mr. Sherwood's friends. One-half or more of the audience before me have known him twenty years or more, many of them longer; some of them as his early schoolmates. Deep sorrow pervades our whole community at the loss of such a man, and when the news came the thought expressed, was, 'Mr. Sherwood, why he was my personal friend.' He had a wonderful faculty of winning confidence and friendship. He naturally begat confidence and thus strong friendships were made, and many of us have lost a valued personal friend.

"His life was a great success. All about him in these floral emblems I see evidences of our love, appreciation and sympathy for our friend. I am glad to say that they wrere not withheld from him until his death, but that in some measure at least he was advised of our confidence and appreciation of him. Only a few weeks since in our Sunday-school we devoted the greater part of the session in telling Mr. Sherwood what we thought of him. It was his last Sabbath with us. He had been for many years a faithful member of the church and an officer and teacher in the Sunday-school, constant in his attendance at the prayer meeting, and in every way showing his loyalty to Christian work. He was seated on the platform, other officers about him, and in a short time several of the officers, teachers and members of the school, closing with the pastor, had the pleasure of telling him what his life had meant to this community, and how sorry we were that he was to go out from us, but that we rejoiced that he went as a Christian man and a representative of the Master's cause. Tears of joy rolled down his cheeks during the time, and he was so affected that he could only offer a few words in response, but it was a great day for Mr. Sherwood and for us.

"His two strong characteristics were modesty and faithfulness. He never sought places of responsibility but always filled them faithfully when they w7ere committed to him. His service for twenty years in connection with our public schools has been one of great helpfulness to our entire community. As I see it now his last two years have been somewhat of a preparation for his going. He has spoken several times to me recently in reference to his life among us and that he had done so little, when we felt he had done so much. During the past two years many privileges have come to him. The Cruise and Jerusalem Convention he enjoyed very much. Last summer with his family he made a visit of several weeks to his father in Nebraska, and very recently his sister and family from California made a very enjoyable visit here, and during their stay a reunion was held of all old classmates possible from the New Troy school. During the past summer he made a trip with his wife to Toronto, Ontario, to attend the International Sunday-school convention, which they enjoyed thoroughly. All these things have rounded out and made the last few years and months very precious ones to Mr. Sherwood. His life was successful, not only in the things that I have stated, but as the world counts success; business success, political success, and best of all character. There is one title that seems especially fitting to him, A Christian Gentleman."

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