Chapter 5: California, New York, and Kansas. 1857-1859.
Having closed the bank at San Francisco
on the 1st day of May, 1857, accompanied by my family I embarked in the steamer Sonora
, crossed the isthmus, and sailed to New York, whence we proceeded to Lancaster, Ohio
, where Mrs. Sherman
and the family stopped, and I went on to St. Louis
I found there that some changes had been made in the parent-house, that Mr. Lucas
had bought out his partner, Captain Symonds
, and that the firm's name had been changed to that of James H. Lucas
It had also been arranged that an office or branch was to be established in New York City, of which I was to have charge, on pretty much the same terms and conditions as in the previous San Francisco
, Major Turner
, and I, agreed to meet in New York, soon after the 4th of July.
We met accordingly at the Metropolitan Hotel
, selected an office, No. 12 Wall Street, purchased the necessary furniture, and engaged a teller, bookkeeper, and porter.
The new firm was to bear the same title of Lucas
& Co., with about the same partners in interest but the nature of the business was totally different.
We opened our office on the 21st of July, 1857, and at once began to receive accounts from the West
and from California
, but our chief business was as the resident agents of the St. Louis
firm of James H. Lucas
& Co. Personally I took rooms at No. 100 Prince Street, in which house were also quartered Major
, and Lieutenant J. B. McPherson
, United States Engineers, both of whom afterward attained great fame in the civil war.
My business relations in New York were with the Metropolitan Bank and Bank of America; and with the very wealthy and most respectable firm of Schuchhardt & Gebhard, of Nassau Street. Every thing went along swimmingly till the 21st of Au gust, when all Wall Street was thrown into a spasm by the failure of the Ohio Life
and Trust Company, and the panic so resembled that in San Francisco
, that, having nothing seemingly at stake, I felt amused.
But it soon became a serious matter even to me. Western stocks and securities tumbled to such a figure, that all Western banks that held such securities, and had procured advances thereon, were compelled to pay up or substitute increased collaterals.
Our own house was not a borrower in New York at all, but many of our Western correspondents were, and it taxed my time to watch their interests.
In September, the panic extended so as to threaten the safety of even some of the New York banks not connected with the West
; and the alarm became general, and at last universal.
In the very midst of this panic came the news that the steamer Central America
, formerly the George Law
, with six hundred passengers and about sixteen hundred thousand dollars of treasure, coming from Aspinwall
, had foundered at sea, off the coast of Georgia
, and that about sixty of the passengers had been providentially picked up by a Swedish bark, and brought into Savannah
The absolute loss of this treasure went to swell the confusion and panic of the day.
A few days after, I was standing in the vestibule of the Metropolitan Hotel
, and heard the captain of the Swedish bark tell his singular story of the rescue of these passengers.
He was a short, sailor-like-looking man, with a strong German or Swedish
lie said that he was sailing from some port in Honduras
, running down the Gulf
Stream off Savannah
The weather had been heavy for some days, and, about nightfall, as he paced his deck, he observed a man-of-war hawk circle about his vessel, gradually lowering, until the bird was as
it were aiming at him. He jerked out a belaying-pin, struck at the bird, missed it, when the hawk again rose high in the air, and a second time began to descend, contract his circle, and make at him again.
The second time he hit the bird, and struck it to the deck.
This strange fact made him uneasy, and he thought it betokened danger; he went to the binnacle, saw the course he was steering, and without any particular reason he ordered the steersman to alter the course one point to the east.
After this it became quite dark, and he continued to promenade the deck, and had settled into a drowsy state, when as in a dream he thought he heard voices all round his ship.
Waking up, he ran to the side of the ship, saw something struggling in the water, and heard clearly cries for help.
Instantly heaving his ship to, and lowering all his boats, he managed to pick up sixty or more persons who were floating about on skylights, doors, spars, and whatever fragments remained of the Central America
Had he not changed the course of his vessel by reason of the mysterious conduct of that man-of-war hawk, not a soul would probably have survived the night.
It was stated by the rescued passengers, among whom was Billy Birch
, that the Central America
had sailed from Aspinwall
with the passengers and freight which left San Francisco
on the 1st of September, and encountered the gale in the Gulf
Stream somewhere off Savannah
, in which she sprung a leak, filled rapidly, and went down.
The passengers who were saved had clung to doors, skylights, and such floating objects as they could reach, and were thus rescued; all the rest, some five hundred in number, had gone down with the ship.
The panic grew worse and worse, and about the end of September there was a general suspension of the banks of New York, and a money crisis extended all over the country.
In New York, Lucas
& Co. had nothing at risk.
We had large cash balances in the Metropolitan Bank and in the Bank of America, all safe, and we held, for the account of the St. Louis house
, at least two hundred thousand dollars, of St. Louis city
and county bonds, and of acceptances falling due right along, none extending beyond ninety days. I was advised from St.
Louis that money matters were extremely tight; but I did not dream of any danger in that quarter.
I knew well that Mr. Lucas
was worth two or three million dollars in the best real estate
, and inferred from the large balances to their credit with me that no mere panic could shake his credit; but, early on the morning of October 7th, my cousin, James M. Hoyt
, came to me in bed, and read me a paragraph in the morning paper, to the effect that James H. Lucas
& Co., of St. Louis
, had suspended.
I was, of course, surprised, but not sorry; for I had always contended that a man of so much visible wealth as Mr. Lucas
should not be engaged in a business subject to such vicissitudes.
I hurried down to the office, where I received the same information officially, by telegraph, with instructions to make proper disposition of the affairs of the bank, and to come out to St. Louis
, with such assets as would be available there.
I transferred the funds belonging to all our correspondents, with lists of outstanding checks, to one or other of our bankers, and with the cash balance of the St. Louis house
and their available assets started for St. Louis
I may say with confidence that no man lost a cent by either of the banking-firms of Lucas
& Co., of San Francisco
or New York; but, as usual, those who owed us were not always as just.
I reached St. Louis
October 17th, and found the partners engaged in liquidating the balances due depositors as fast as collections could be forced; and, as the panic began to subside, this process became quite rapid, and Mr. Lucas
, by making a loan in Philadelphia
, was enabled to close out all accounts without having made any serious sacrifices.
Of course, no person ever lost a cent by him: he has recently died, leaving an estate of eight million dollars. During his lifetime, I had opportunities to know him well, and take much pleasure in bearing testimony to his great worth and personal kindness.
On the failure of his bank, he assumed personally all the liabilities, released his partners of all responsibility, and offered to assist me to engage in business, which he supposed was due to me because I had resigned my army commission.
I remained in St. Louis
till the 7th of December, 1857, assisting
in collecting for the bank, and in controlling all matters which came from the New York
and San Francisco branches. B. R. Nisbet
was still in San Francisco
, but had married a Miss Thornton
, and was coming home.
There still remained in California
a good deal of real estate
, and notes, valued at about two hundred thousand dollars in the aggregate; so that, at Mr. Lucas
's request, I agreed to go out again, to bring matters, if possible, nearer a final settlement.
I accordingly left St. Louis
, reached Lancaster
, where my family was, on the 10th, staid there till after Christmas, and then went to New York, where I remained till January 5th, when I embarked on the steamer Moses Taylor
) for Aspinwall
; caught the Golden Gate
) at Panama
, January 15, 1858; and reached San Francisco
on the 28th of January.
I found that Nisbet
and wife had gone to St. Louis
, and that we had passed each other at sea. He had carried the ledger and books to St. Louis
, but left a schedule, notes, etc., in the hands of S. M. Bowman
, who passed them over to me.
On the 30th of January I published a notice of the dissolution of the partnership, and called on all who were still indebted to the firm of Lucas
& Co. to pay up, or the notes would be sold at auction.
I also advertised that all the real property was for sale.
Business had somewhat changed since 1857.
& Co.; Garrison
& Co.; Drexel
& Church, and Tallant & Wilde
, were the principal bankers.
Property continued almost unsalable, and prices were less than a half of what they had been in 1853-954.
, had rented my house on Harrison Street; so I occupied a room in the bank, No. 11, and boarded at the Meiggs House
, corner of Broadway and Montgomery, which we owned.
Having reduced expenses to a minimum, I proceeded, with all possible dispatch, to collect outstanding debts, in some instances making sacrifices and compromises.
I made some few sales, and generally aimed to put matters in such a shape that time would bring the best result.
Some of our heaviest creditors were John M. Rhodes
& Co., of Sacramento
& Co., of Downieville
and E. H. Strange
, of Murphy
's. In trying to put these debts in course of settlement, I made some arrangement in Downieville
with the law-firm of Spears
, to collect, by suit, a certain note of Green
for twelve thousand dollars. Early in April, I learned that Spears
had collected three thousand seven hundred dollars in money, had appropriated it to his own use, and had pledged another good note taken in part payment of three thousand and fifty-three dollars. He pretended to be insane.
I had to make two visits to Downieville
on this business, and there made the acquaintance of Mr. Stewart
, now a Senator from Nevada
He was married to a daughter of Governor Foote
; was living in a small frame-house on the bar just below the town; and his little daughter was playing about the door in the sand.
was then a lawyer in Downieville
, in good practice; afterward, by some lucky stroke, became part owner of a valuable silver-mine in Nevada
, and is now accounted a millionaire.
I managed to save something out of Spears
, and more out of his partner Thornton
This affair of Spears
ruined him, because his insanity was manifestly feigned.
I remained in San Francisco
till July 3d, when, having collected and remitted every cent that I could raise, and got all the property in the best shape possible, hearing from St. Louis
that business had revived, and that there was no need of further sacrifice, I put all the papers, with a full letter of instructions, and power of attorney, in the hands of William Blanding
, and took passage on the good steamer Golden Gate
, Captain Whiting
, for Panama
I reached Lancaster
on July 28, 1858, and found all the family well.
I was then perfectly unhampered, but the serious and greater question remained, what was I to do to support my family, consisting of a wife and four children, all accustomed to more than the average comforts of life?
I remained at Lancaster
all of August, 1858, during which time I was discussing with Mr. Ewing
and others what to do next.
and Mr. Lucas
, in St. Louis
, were willing to do any thing to aid me, but I thought best to keep independent.
had property at Chauncey
, consisting of salt-wells and
coal-mines, but for that part of Ohio
I had no fancy.
Two of his sons, Hugh and T. E., Jr., had established themselves at Leavenworth, Kansas
, where they and their father had bought a good deal of land, some near the town, and some back in the country.
offered to confide to me the general management of his share of interest, and Hugh and T. E., Jr., offered me an equal copartnership in their law-firm.
Accordingly, about the 1st of September, I started for Kansas
, stopping a couple of weeks in St. Louis
, and reached Leavenworth
I found about two miles below the fort, on the river-bank, where in 1851 was a tangled thicket, quite a handsome and thriving city, growing rapidly in rivalry with Kansas City
, and St. Joseph, Missouri
After looking about and consulting with friends, among them my classmate Major Stewart Van Vliet
, quartermaster at the fort, I concluded to accept the proposition of Mr. Ewing
, and accordingly the firm of Sherman
was duly announced, and our services to the public offered as attorneys-at-law.
We had an office on Main Street, between Shawnee
, on the second floor, over the office of Hampton Denman, Esq.
, mayor of the city.
This building was a mere shell, and our office was reached by a stairway on the outside.
Although in the course of my military reading I had studied a few of the ordinary law-books, such as Blackstone
, etc., I did not presume to be a lawyer; but our agreement was that Thomas Ewing, Jr.
, a good and thorough lawyer, should manage all business in the courts, while I gave attention to collections, agencies for houses and lands, and such business as my experience in banking had qualified me for. Yet, as my name was embraced in a law-firm, it seemed to me proper to take out a license.
Accordingly, one day when United States Judge Lecompte
was in our office, I mentioned the matter to him; he told me to go down to the clerk of his court, and he would give me the license.
I inquired what examination I would have to submit to, and he replied, “None at all;” he would admit me on the ground of general intelligence.
During that summer we got our share of the business of the profession, then represented by several eminent law-firms, embracing
names that have since flourished in the Senate, and in the higher courts of the country.
But the most lucrative single case was given me by my friend Major Van Vliet
, who employed me to go to Fort Riley
, one hundred and thirty-six miles west of Fort Leavenworth
, to superintend the repairs to the military road.
For this purpose he supplied me with a four-mule ambulance and driver.
The country was then sparsely settled, and quite as many Indians were along the road as white people; still there were embryo towns all along the route, and a few farms sprinkled over the beautiful prairies.
On reaching Indianola
, near Topeka
, I found everybody down with the chills and fever.
My own driver became so shaky that I had to act as driver and cook.
But in due season I reconnoitred the road, and made contracts for repairing some bridges, and for cutting such parts of the road as needed it. I then returned to Fort Leavenworth
, and reported, receiving a fair compensation.
On my way up I met Colonel Sumner
's column, returning from their summer scout on the plains, and spent the night with the officers, among whom were Captains Sackett
, etc. Also at Fort Riley
I was cordially received and entertained by some old army-friends, among them Major Sedgwick
, Captains Totten
, Eli Long
and children arrived out in November, and we spent the winter very comfortably in the house of Thomas Ewing, Jr.
, on the corner of Third and Pottawottamie Streets. On the 1st of January, 1859, Daniel McCook
, was admitted to membership in our firm, which became Sherman
Our business continued to grow, but, as the income hardly sufficed for three such expensive personages, I continued to look about for something more certain and profitable, and during that spring undertook for the Hon. Thomas Ewing
, of Ohio
, to open a farm on a large tract of land he owned on Indian Creek
, forty miles west of Leavenworth
, for the benefit of his grand-nephew, Henry Clark
, and his grand-niece, Mrs. Walker
These arrived out in the spring, by which time I had caused to be erected a small frame dwelling-house, a barn, and fencing for a hundred acres. This helped to pass away time,
But afforded little profit; and on the 11th of June, 1859, I wrote to Major D. C. Buell
, assistant adjutant-general
, on duty in the War Department with Secretary of War Floyd
, inquiring if there was a vacancy among the army paymasters, or any thing in his line that I could obtain.
He replied promptly, and sent me the printed programme for a military college about to be organized in Louisiana
, and advised me to apply for the superintendent's place, saying that General G. Mason Graham
, the half-brother of my old commanding general, R. B. Mason
, was very influential in this matter, and would doubtless befriend me on account of the relations that had existed between General Mason
and myself in California
Accordingly, I addressed a letter of application to the Hon. R. C. Wickliffe
, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
, asking the answer to be sent to me at Lancaster, Ohio
, where I proposed to leave my family.
But, before leaving this branch of the subject, I must explain a little matter of which I have seen an account in print, complimentary or otherwise of the firm of Sherman
, more especially of the senior partner.
One day, as I sat in our office, an Irishman came in and said he had a case and wanted a lawyer.
I asked him to sit down and give me the points of his case, all the other members of the firm being out. Our client stated that he had rented a lot of an Irish landlord for five dollars a month; that he had erected thereon a small frame shanty, which was occupied by his family; that he had paid his rent regularly up to a recent period, but to his house he had appended a shed which extended over a part of an adjoining vacant lot belonging to the same landlord, for which he was charged two and a half dollars a month, which he refused to pay. The consequence was, that his landlord had for a few months declined even his five dollars monthly rent until the arrears amounted to about seventeen dollars, for which he was sued.
I told him we would undertake his case, of which I took notes, and a fee of five dollars in advance, and in due order I placed the notes in the hands of McCook
, and thought no more of it.
A month or so after, our client rushed into the office and said
his case had been called at Judge Gardner
's (I think), and he wanted his lawyer right away.
I sent him up to the Circuit Court, Judge Pettit
's, for McCook
, but he soon returned, saying he could not find McCook
, and accordingly I hurried with him up to Judge Gardner
's office, intending to ask a continuance, but I found our antagonist there, with his lawyer and witnesses, and Judge Gardner
would not grant a continuance, so of necessity I had to act, hoping that at every minute McCook
But the trial proceeded regularly to its end; we were beaten, and judgment was entered against our client for the amount claimed, and costs.
As soon as the matter was explained to McCook
, he said “execution” could not be taken for ten days, and, as our client was poor, and had nothing on which the landlord could levy but his house, McCook
advised him to get his neighbors together, to pick up the house, and carry it on to another vacant lot, belonging to a non-resident, so that even the house could not be taken in execution.
Thus the grasping landlord, though successful in his judgment, failed in the execution, and our client was abundantly satisfied.
In due time I closed up my business at Leavenworth
, and went to Lancaster, Ohio
, where, in July, 1859, I received notice from Governor Wickliffe
that I had been elected superintendent of the proposed college, and inviting me to come down to Louisiana
as early as possible, because they were anxious to put the college into operation by the 1st of January following.
For this honorable position I was indebted to Major D. C. Buell
and General G. Mason Graham
, to whom I have made full and due acknowledgment.
During the civil war, it was reported and charged that I owed my position to the personal friendship of Generals Bragg
, and that, in taking up arms against the South
, I had been guilty of a breach of hospitality and friendship.
I was not indebted to General Bragg
, because he himself told me that he was not even aware that I was an applicant, and had favored the selection of Major Jenkins
, another West Point
had nothing whatever to do with the matter.