The Difference One Man Can Make: Remembering (And Reviving) The Spirit Of Glancy Sherman

  • Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Glancy Sherman Mansion
Glancy Sherman Mansion

Sequatchie, Tn., a small, unincorporated village in Marion County, economically speaking, isn’t much to see these days, but natural beauty abounds. The area lacks investment, services, and jobs for those who live there.

But it wasn’t always this way. Sequatchie was once a thriving village with resources, self-sufficiency, strong community ties, and a spirit of optimistic industrialization. Like many towns, cities, and villages across America, it has fallen into disrepair and some might say forgotten. Many of those who cared enough to nurture and feed the village to its great successes have long since died or moved elsewhere.

One exception in Sequatchie is the Glancy Sherman Mansion. Built in 1927 and lived in by Glancy Sherman and his wife, Bertha Ann Tower, the manor still displays the glory of its founding and stands as a proud reminder of what Sequatchie once was. Many would argue that Sherman (born in 1862 in Wellsburg, PA; died in 1935 in Sequatchie) was the village’s true founder.

While it is true that in 1889, a group of New Englanders officially founded the town to mine it of its natural resources, Sherman, an agent of these businessmen brought in initially to assist in stripping the land, became enamored with the beauty of the setting and the people of the community. He began leading a structured development of the town, making a spring available to provide a fresh water supply, constructing dams to deliver electricity and control flooding prior to Tennessee Valley Authority’s development, building roads, and nurturing extensive agriculture on his expansive property.

Sherman was involved in many industrial ventures, from being president, general manager, and treasurer of Sequatchie Handle Works, to seeing the potential in this small sawmill that he developed into a large, international operation offering employment to many in the community. He also owned a tourist hotel and a gas station.

While hard work, industrialism, and entrepreneurship are hallmarks of Glancy Sherman, perhaps he should most be remembered for his deep philanthropy and caring for his community. Sherman unostentatiously extended care, help, and resources to the young of the community and people in need. He gave away acres of land to the Girl and Boy Scouting programs, set up tents on his lawn for shelter during the Depression, and held punch and ice cream socials to bring the community together.

Today, the Glancy Sherman Mansion has a new owner: Sequatchie native John A. Smith, and he is taking Sherman’s spirit very much to heart. Mr. Smith, founder of cybersecurity company Conversant Group, and his family returned to Sequatchie to maintain the mansion and its extensive grounds as well as to rally the community to improve the village’s civic function. Mr. Smith is known for his philanthropy and generosity in the Chattanooga area, providing funding for STEAM education, youth programs, food banks, veterans’ organizations, and other causes. Now, he is focused on taking the baton from Glancy Sherman to rally the community to help restore Sequatchie. Because the people who currently reside in Sequatchie still have an enduring spirit kindled decades ago at its founding, all that is needed is a spark of caring and some investors willing to assist, he notes.

Mr. Smith’s current focus is holding the First Annual Glancy Harvest Festival on Oct. 21 from 3 p.m. central until past dark at the Glancy Sherman Mansion. Mr. Smith rallied allied businesses eSentire, First Citizens Bank, BuiltWell Bank, LBMC, Chambliss Bahner & Stophel, Conversant Group, and Enzoic to cosponsor the event with the goal of raising funds for the volunteer fire department.

The Harvest Festival will feature food, music, games, crafts, and fireworks, and come with the spirit of community Sequatchie hasn’t seen in some time. But for John Anthony Smith, this is just a start. He said he intends to start a charity with the overall goal of uniting the community, battling poverty, aiding those with addictions, improving civic function, and reducing depression.

He said, “We are seeing so many communities fall into disrepair - it’s really sad to see. We can’t sit, inactive, waiting for the government to come make our communities thrive. I love Sequatchie - the people here are my friends and family, and I want to see it and them thrive. This festival is a great start, but it is only a beginning. The goal is to continue to rally a sense of community pride and build on it, restoring Sequatchie in the spirit of Glancy Sherman.”

Perhaps Glancy Sherman and John A. Smith are onto something - as American towns and cities continue to degrade, it’s time for its citizens to not only take action, but to find the spirit of caring that founded our villages and towns in the first place.

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