Biography of William Bird Sherrard

William Bird Sherrard, born in County Tyrone, Ireland, in 1837, descended from Scottish and English ancestry. Despite their Presbyterian faith, his family supported the Catholic church, aligning with the struggle for Irish independence. After immigrating to America in 1864, Sherrard settled in Chicago and became involved in assisting newsboys and bootblacks. His dedication led to the establishment of the Newsboys and Bootblacks’ Association. Later, he pioneered the Children’s Home Society in South Dakota, caring for hundreds of children and building assets of forty thousand dollars. Sherrard’s success is attributed to his devoted wife and his unwavering commitment to the cause.

WILLIAM BIRD SHERRARD is a native of the Emerald Isle and comes from staunch Scottish ancestry in the agnatic line and English in the maternal line. He was born in County Tyrone, Ireland, on the 8th of June, 1837, and is a son of Joseph and Susan (Bird) Sherrard, both of whom were likewise born and reared in the Emerald Isle, where the respective families had been established for several generations previously, while our subject states that the chief heritage of the immediate family was pride and poverty. Although holding to the rigid faith of the Presbyterian church, the family gave its influence to the Catholic church in Ireland, the representatives of this great body in the “most distressful country” representing an element that was earnestly striving to throw off the yoke of virtual bondage. By reason of this attitude on the part of the family, it met with persecution from the Tory faction, so that when leases of land expired, the owners of the property in fee simple would not renew them. The result was severe financial losses to the family, in common with many others.

Mr. Sherrard received his early educational discipline in the excellent national schools, and at the age of fourteen years, he was, in accordance with the customs of the country, apprenticed to learn the dry-goods business. At the age of twenty-one, he engaged in business on his own responsibility, but his health became so seriously impaired that he was compelled to abandon the enterprise. In the spring of 1864, shortly before attaining the age of twenty-seven years, he came to America. After spending about six months in the national metropolis, he came west and located in the city of Chicago, where he remained until 1877, having in the meanwhile gained a prominent position in a business house. In the meantime, he was induced to take up work on behalf of the newsboys and bootblacks of the city, and his abiding interest in the unfortunate waifs was of the most insistent order. He placed the Newsboys and Bootblacks’ Association on a substantial and permanent footing and did much to make strong and useful citizens of the boys who came under his influence.

In 1877, he moved to Kansas, where he was engaged in ranching until 1893. He then found himself once more drawn into work that he loved and in which he has continued to labor with all of his devotion and with most gratifying success. In that year, he came to South Dakota and inaugurated the work of the Children’s Home Society, and the general verdict is that a more successful work has not been accomplished in any section of the Union, all things taken into consideration. Thus, our subject finds his reward unstinted in the highest sense, while he asserts that whatever success he has achieved in life is chiefly attributable to his having a wife who is without an equal in the land for self-sacrificing toil on behalf of others, coupled with “consecrated common sense.” The society has cared for nearly nine hundred children and has assets amounting to forty thousand dollars, with the headquarters of the institution being in the city of Sioux Falls, where Mr. and Mrs. Sherrard have maintained their home for more than a decade, holding the high esteem and affectionate regard of all who know them. Both are devoted members of the Baptist church, and Mr. Sherrard is an uncompromising Prohibitionist in his political allegiance, being an active and zealous worker in the cause.

On the 9th of October, 1869, the marriage of Mr. Sherrard to Mrs. Elizabeth (Hazelton) Bixby was solemnized. She was born in Madison County, New York, on the 5th of November, 1829, being a daughter of Squire and Catherine (Robertson) Hazelton. They have no children of their own, but the subject states that through their association with work for children, they have a “tax title to about two thousand.”


Robinson, Doane, History of South Dakota: together with mention of Citizens of South Dakota, [Logansport? IN] : B. F. Bowen, 1904.

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