Monday, April 25, 2005

Joseph Lockley Sherburne

Joseph Lockley Sherburne, in the line of the Sherburne family, Joseph VIII, was born November 22, 1883, at Ponca Indian Agency. His father, J.H. Sherburne, was licensed by the United States to trade with the Indians on the reservation. He was also the first Postmaster in Ponca.

When his father sold his business at Ponca and moved to Arkansas City, Kansas, he moved not only his family but his house across the prairie, a distance of some thirty-five miles by team. They lived there for a number of years. School memories here with so many strange white children were not as pleasant as they had been among the Indians who were so friendly and with whom acquaintance was made so easily.

After leaving Arkansas City, the family moved to Pawnee, where his father established a trading post under Federal License with T.M. or Tom Finney as his partner. It was here during the McKinley and Hobart campaign he began early in his life to defend his political beliefs. His father and family were ardent Republicans. Young Finney and the Sherburne boys were some of the few to wear the Republican labels which were printed at the printer’s office. As the community was almost entirely Democratic, they took many a beating on the school grounds through the weeks of that campaign trying to wear those badges and maintain their rights as Republicans. No harm came of it except they often got bloody noses and black eyes.

In the spring of 1896, his father left Pawnee for Montana to establish a new store and home. In June, the family, consisting of his mother, his brothers, Frank and Arthur; his three sisters, Hazel, Agnes and Theo, left for Montana. The first part of the trip was to Topeka, Kansas, where the family visited a short while. They left Topeka early in July to go West by train. after the long, hard and slow trip they finally ended their train trip at Blackfoot, Montana, and made an eight mile wagon trip to Browning. In contrast to the heat of the south, here was a beautiful, cool country -- never hot in the daytime and always cool at night, being only twelve miles east of the Rocky Mountains.

The only school in this vicinity at this time was the Indian Boarding School about two miles west of Browning, which was filled to capacity, so in the newly finished home his father arranged for private classes for the Sherburne family and several others until a regular school house could be built.

His high school education was completed in Minneapolis, where the entire family went each school season. His father remained in Browning to carry on his business. Joe’s spring and summer vacations were spent in Montana, employed with the United States Survey parties working around the St. Mary’s Lake and the Swift Current Valley area.

During that time the first oil wells in the State of Montana were being drilled in the Valley. He frequently spent Sundays watching those operations. The first oil produced on the old Swift Current Land and Power Company drilling location was placed on display at the State Fair in Montana.

In June, 1908, Joe and a cousin, Walter Sheppard, left Browning to make a bicycle trip to Yellowstone Park. This distance took a week and from there they continued on to Portland and then Salem, Oregon where Walter’s home was located. They worked through the cherry picking season, into the summer harvest and helped thresh wheat and other grain. He ended his vacation by taking a fishing and camping trip with his uncle, Fred Lockley Sherburne, at Yaquina Bay, Oregon. He returned to his home in Montana by train from Portland.

After graduation from high school in Minneapolis in 1904, J.L. Sherburne entered the University of Minnesota as a freshman. Early in the school year he became ill with typhoid and that long and severe illness prevented his returning to classes that year. This ended his planned college career.

He returned to Montana at the end of that year to hep his father operate the Sherburne Mercantile, a well-established store in Browning. A branch store was opened at Babb in 1906, where Joe lived until his marriage to Eula Churchill on June 28, 1908. They were married at Cut Bank Boarding School about five miles northeast of Browning, where her father was superintendent of that Indian school. To obtain their lincense it was necessary to send a messenger by horseback about seventy-eight miles to Choteau, the county seat of Teton County, the nearest place a license could be obtained.

Eula Churchill was the only daughter of Clarence A. and Drusilla Churchill. She was born in 1888 in Geneso, Kansas. Her childhood and early childhood were spent on various Indian reservations, where her father was Superintendent, employed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He came to Browning as Superintendent of the Cut Bank Boarding School and later became Superintendent of the Blackfeet Indian Agency.

During the period of the next few yaers, three children were born to Joe and Eula -- one of which died at an early age; Faithe Sherburne Bercovich, now residing with her husband William and small daughter Elaine at Browning; and Frederic Churchill Sherburne, who with his wife Doris and four small sons owns and operates the Mountain Pine Motel at East Glacier Park, Montana.

In 1915 he was elected a member of the School Board and for the next ten years he remained on the board, part of the time as chairman. During that period the first modern school building was built in Browning. Up until then, there had been just the old fashioned type of one room school which began in the Sherburne home in Browning with a tutor hired to conduct classes.

Also in 1915, he was made vice president and assistant manager of the Sherburne Mercantile Company established by his father, J.H. Sherburne, in 1896. He served as such until 1938, when upon the death of his father he became president and manager and conducted the business until his death.

In 1942, the original building, which had housed the Mercantile since its establishment, burned to the ground. Since it was during World War II and building materials were unavailable for non-essential construction, business was continued without losing a day’s transactions on the books by moving the various departments into quarters scattered about the business district of Browning. In 1945 the drug department and the grocery and dry goods were sold to Buttrey’s of Montana. The Sherburne Mercantile Company continues its existence as a lumberyard, hardware and materials outlet.

In 1916, the First National Bank of Browning was established by Joe’s father in order to set up a regular banking business which had started in a small way as part of the Mercantile as a loan “department.” Joe was cashier and served in that capacity for a number of years until 1938 when he was made president. He filled that office until his death. He was recognized in banking circles as one of the pioneer bankers of Montana.

In 1920, Joe became agent for several fire and casualty insurance companies, all stock companies, and from that date until the time of his death he had maintained an office for sale of insurance, real estate and bonds.

At various times he was an officer or director of the Browning Development Company, the Rocky Mountain Realty Company, Yellowstone to Glacier Highway Association, the Montana Citizens Council, Montana Tax Equality Association, Montana Stock Grower’s Association, National and State Associations of Realtors, and Chamber of Commerce, both local and state.

For a number of years he served as Home Service Chairman for the Blackfeet Reservation Chapter of the American Red Cross which his mother had been instrumental in orqanizing in 1917. During World War II, besides being a member of the War Labor Board, he was also chairman of the “Dogs for Defense” committee.

He was an ardent Republican during his lifetime and gave much of his time and effort on behalf of the organization, on both local and state levels. In 1940, he went as alternate delegate to the National Republican Convention in Philadelphia.

He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, serving at various times on the Board of Trustees and acting as treasurer.

He was a Thirty-Second Degree Mason, having been a charter member of Glacier Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons No. 147. He was a Shriner and a charter member of the Browning Chapter No. 120, Order of the Eastern Star, serving as Patron for several years.

As an adopted member of the Blackfeet Tribe, his Indian name was Natucina which meant Sun Chief.

He had lived among Indians all his life, first in Indian Territory in Oklahoma, where he was born, and at Browning on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. He admired and revered a host of them and counted them among his most cherished friends. Their interests were always first and foremost in his mind and it was never too much trouble or too time-consuming to listen to their stories or needs and to help them. Some of the happiest days of his life were spent among them at meetings or celebrations on the reservation. He spent much time in their homes and always enjoyed dropping in for a noonday meal. He had only hoped he could live long enough to see the income from producing oil or gas wells so every member of the Blackfeet Tribe would benefit to the extent that they would all have modern homes and live in comfort.

He was a charter member of the Browning Lions Club and was their first president. Civic betterment, one of the aims of Lions International, was one of his main purposes and he gave much time to furthering his special projects. Nothing could have been more appropriate than the fact that he was in attendance at a regular Lions Club dinner and Christmas party when he was fatally stricken by a heart attack, and it was from there that he was taken by his brother Lions to his home where he lived only about four hours, passing away that same evening on December 14, 1955.


Anonymous said...

I was interested to read what you had posted about the Sherburnes, as I am a decendant of that clan. Would you mind telling me what your sources of information were, beyond the biography book?

Lisa Smith

prairie mary said...

I responded to Lisa at her email address, but the short answer is that Joseph Lockley Sherburne's father brought my ex-husband's father to Browning, Montana. The Sherburnes and the Scrivers lived next door to each other and their histories were entwined for a while.

Prairie Mary