The Shearman brothers,
so prominent in Penn Yan in the first half of the 19th century, were descended
from a man named Francis Sherman who emigrated from the city of York to
Ireland in the middle of the 17th century. A number of generations later
the sons of another Francis Sherman left Ireland for America, settled for
a short time in Otsego County, and for some reason turned up in the first
years of the 19th century in Penn Yan.
Francis Sherman and
his wife Mary Badge had 11 sons and three daughters. At least five of their
sons lived at least briefly in the new settlement.
- John was born in Dublin
in 1782 and arrived in New York in 1800. In 1811 he married Anne, the daughter
of Elisha Woodruff. He stayed in Penn Yan for a while, but later moved away,
and died in Thompson county, Pa., in 1846, leaving a number of children.
- George was born in
Dublin in 1790 and arrived in Penn Yan in 1804. He also married in 1811,
to Rebecca, the youngest daughter of David Wagener. He died in Penn Yan
in 1859, leaving a numerous family who also figured well into the village's
social and mercantile life.
- Robert was born in
Dublin in 1795, and married in 1818 to Elizabeth, daughter of David Kidder.
He died in Penn Yan in 1852, leaving children.
- Francis died unmarried
in Penn Yan in 1833.
- James was born in
Dublin in 1805 (the youngest of his parents' children) and was still living
unmarried in Penn Yan in 1863.
George Shearman probably
had the greatest effect of any of his family on the life of the young village.
He and his brother John first purchased some land in Penn Yan in 1808; this
was the three-acre lot eventually subdivided by Melatiah Lawrence. The pair
had a store in Abraham Wagener's mill, then moved in 1818 to the north corner
of Main and Jacob (now East Elm) streets. Long after his father's death,
George Shearman Jr. gave an interview in which he stated that he had been
born on that corner, and at that time only two or three houses stood between
his father's house and the head of the street. This wasn't true, there were
more than that, but still not awfully many. Nearly all the stores were near
the crossroads, and most of the houses. The foot of the street did not become
the dominant commercial area until after incorporation and the opening of
the Crooked Lake Canal in 1833. When George and John Shearman opened their
store on the corner where 101 Main Street stands today, the only other store
downtown was on the "Stewart corner" directly across Main Street.
It's well worth telling
a story here about Rebecca, George Shearman Sr.'s wife. She was the youngest
daughter, as has been mentioned, of David Wagener, and the only one of Wagener's
children born in what is now Yates County. She and her mother (also named
Rebecca) had been given some feathers to decorate their bonnets with, and
wore the new hats one spring day to ride to Quarterly Meeting in what is
now Gorham village, an important and exciting occasion for Methodists from
all over the surrounding region. However, when the woman and the girl arrived,
they were not permitted to enter on account of the two feathers each were
wearing in their hats; and so they missed the Love Feast. The tale does
not mention whether at the next Quarterly Meeting they forewent the feast
or the feathers.