Roger Sherman Childhood

Early Life and Education

Roger Sherman was born in Newton, Massachusetts and later lived in Stoughton. Despite sparse formal schooling, he pursued a rigorous self-education with support from his father's well-stocked library. This ignited his intellectual curiosity from a young age.

Though his days were predominantly consumed by farming duties, Sherman's engagement with books was exceptional. He read broadly on subjects critical to a future statesman such as mathematics, history, and jurisprudence. The local grammar school he attended, along with the minister Rev. Samuel Danbar, provided him fundamental grounding in several academic disciplines, combining formal education with resolute autodidactism.

The loss of his father at 19 marked a sharp turn of responsibility as Sherman assumed headship of his family, intertwining his need for personal growth with familial obligations. Moving to New Milford to live with his older brother extended an invitation into adulthood, and Sherman responded by immersing himself into the town's civic and religious life.

Sherman's intellectual pursuits and growing responsibilities merged into a role as the town's key land surveyor by age 22—an indication of both aptitude and ambition.1 This role funded deeper explorations into law and eventually propelled him into the spheres of state and national governance. Sherman's background, devoid of opulence but rich in individual ardor and familial instruction, set a solid foundation for the layers of political philosophy and dedication he would later exhibit on the national stage.

Young Roger Sherman studying books in a library

Early Responsibilities and Migration

At 19, Sherman found himself managing the intricacies of economic sustenance for his family following the unexpected demise of his father. The dual obligation of personal ambition and pressing familial duty cultivated a maturing perspective on reliance and enterprise. Amid modest opportunities in rural Massachusetts, Roger and his family moved in 1743 to New Milford, Connecticut, a move that promised broader horizons.

In New Milford, Sherman deepened his interaction with the community. The burgeoning and vibrant town offered fertile ground to cultivate his budding interests in surveying and commerce. His skill as a land surveyor was pivotal in a community where land ownership and management were critical, leading to appointments as New Haven and Litchfield County surveyor.

Furthermore, Sherman ventured into retail, a business enterprise that met immediate financial needs while laying groundwork for later political engagements. The store, starting modestly and growing to feature household items, built and cemented bonds with his fellow New Milford occupants, embedding him deeper into the social and municipal fabric.

These early responsibilities shaped Sherman's work ethic profoundly. Managing both enterprise and sizeable domestic responsibility honed his administrative and interpersonal skills. Each phase of his early life sewed layers of diligence, foresight, and community consciousness—attributes that would translate into his later legislative and jurisprudential roles.2 Well before entering any official seat of power, Roger Sherman exhibited a blend of resourcefulness and civic commitment that became the hallmark of his contributions to America's fundamental frameworks.

Roger Sherman working as a surveyor in New Milford, Connecticut

Initial Career and Community Engagement

Roger Sherman's entry into public service began with his role as a surveyor, intricately intertwining his disposition toward thorough study with practical civic utility. His commitment to precision and fairness in land assessments quickly established his reputation as a man of integrity and capability, inching him closer to more substantive roles within local governance.

Sherman's finely attuned understanding of local affairs, particularly the mechanics of land distribution and management, was crucial during a period when land was central to economic life and social stratification in colonial America. In this capacity, Sherman laid the early building blocks of what would be a laudable career in legislation and governance, ensuring all dealings were conducted with an unwavering moral compass.

As a natural progression from his surveying successes, Sherman took up several roles including town clerk. The position placed Sherman at the center of New Milford's communal and legal affairs. Documenting town proceedings, elections, and public interactions provided Sherman a deeper entrance into civic welfare and the procedural backdrop of the town's frameworks. It also served as a critical learning platform for:

  • Drafting legislations
  • Understanding civic priorities
  • Contributing decisively to community planning and decision-making processes

Sherman's roles expanded to include responsibilities as a juryman and later as a school committeeman, reflecting a continued commitment to public service that straddled various facets of community life.3 This blend of educational and judicial roles offered Sherman a broader view of the societal structures that governed local life and nuanced insights into human interactions and their underlying legalities. His contributions in these capacities were characterized by clear judgment and steadfast dedication to fairness.

Through these civic involvements, Sherman tied his fate to the burgeoning needs of his locality and later, to broader American revolutionary ideals. The adept handling of local politics, combined with an amassed wealth of civic experience, fostered the qualities necessary for a leadership role within the larger colonial resistance against British rule. This progressive engagement deeply rooted in community service was a prelude to his iconic standing as a key architect of American independence.

Roger Sherman engaged in civic duties in colonial New England
  1. Hall MB. Roger Sherman. Dictionary of American Biography. 1936;17:85.
  2. Rommel JG. Connecticut's Yankee Patriot: Roger Sherman. Hartford: American Revolution Bicentennial Commission of Connecticut; 1979.
  3. Boardman RW. Roger Sherman: Signer and Statesman. New York: Da Capo Press; 1971.