Sherwood Anderson, Once of Clyde

By Edith Brilliant

[Reprinted from the Sandusky Register, Sunday, August 29, 1926]

From grocery boy to novelist is the path that Sherwood Anderson, writer, has trod in his climb upward to his place of prominence in the “Who’s Who” of the world. Sherwood Anderson, although born at Camden, O., was a former Clyde, O., resident and the town is full of anecdotes about his life.

There’s a little cottage on Cherry St., the home of Miss Lucy Hurd, where Anderson used to come as a boy to play with his chum Herman Hurd, Miss Hurd’s brother. Miss Hurd remembers the boy as a tall, rather slim youth with black hair. He often came to visit her brother and he was known as a rather shiftless, carefree youngster.

Brother is Artist

None of his Clyde friends recall that he showed any remarkable talent for writing or anything else. But the “artistic” strain showed itself in his family in his two brothers, Carl and Ray. Carl Anderson is a painter of some fame and his work is frequently seen in magazine covers and commercial advertisement.

Anderson, however, had all the melodramatic background for the famous man. Clyde residents remember his father as a town ne’er-do-well. The mother, it is said, helped to support her family during the none too successful days of the head of the family. Young Anderson picked up anything he might do to earn a few extra pennies. When the Buckeye St. sewer construction was being laid in 1890 he was a waterboy. He delivered groceries for T. P. Hurd, the town grocer. He took care of the neighborhood furnaces and chopped the wood. Anderson was ambitious in a carefree way.

Had Several Trades

The father of the family plied a number of trades, including house painting, harness worker in Ervin Brothers Harness Store, and paper hanger.

Sherwood Anderson is only one of two already famous people produced by the little town while Anderson was a resident there. He went to school with John Emerson. Emerson recently married Anita Loos, famous for “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds.” Mr. Emerson has been a prominent figure in the theatrical world of New York and will soon picturize his wife’s novel.

But Clyde residents are not the only people who knew Sherwood Anderson in his teen years in Clyde. Mrs. J. D. Parker, wife of Dr. J. D. Parker of this city, often visited in Clyde and met Sherwood Anderson. Anderson often came to the home of Mrs. Parker’s sister, Mrs. W. E. Gillette, to pay court to Mrs. Parker’s younger sister, Miss Harriett Day, who is now Mrs. E. E. Messmer, Bowie, Texas.

When the Gillette family moved from Clyde, a number of letters written by Sherwood Anderson to the family were destroyed. The Gillette family and Mrs. Gillette’s younger sister were close friends of the Anderson family and especially with Sherwood Anderson and his sister Stella, who died a few years ago. When the family moved to Chicago, Mrs. Messmer visited the sister, Stella.

Remembered Clyde

Although absent from the community for 25 or more years, Anderson has retained a good memory of its inhabitants. A few years ago Sherwood Anderson was asked to appear before the Federation of Women’s Clubs in Toledo. Mrs. Gillette, who lived in Toledo and was a member of the Federation, remembered the boy who had become a famous man and attended his lecture. Following the lecture she stepped to the platform to shake hands with the boy who had been such a welcome visitor at her home in Clyde.

“Mother,” Sherwood Anderson cried as he recognized her and took her into his arms to kiss her and weep as he remembered the many times when Mrs. Gillette had been a real mother to him in the days in the town of Clyde.

Place in His Writings

Anderson’s life in Clyde is taking its place in literature. Winesburg, Ohio mentions Sandusky, Cedar Point, Monroeville and a number of other nearby towns and often refers to the rich vineyards of this district.

In “The Sad Horn Blowers,” appearing in Harper’s Magazine for February 1923, Mrs. Parker and many other people who are familiar with his life believe that he has pictured himself in the life of the small town. Anderson calls his town Monroeville but by the names used it is believed that the village pictured is really Clyde. The father in the story is a house painter like Anderson’s father. The familiar Clyde names used in the story are A. P. Wrigley, Mr. and Mrs. Bradshare, Mrs. Childers, Alfred Geiger, John Wyatt, Dr. Musgrave. Anderson also refers to Piety Hill and Maumee Pike.

The Anderson family are well remembered in Clyde. The children included Sherwood, Stella, Ray, and Carl. Before leaving Clyde, the sister, Stella, taught in the Clyde schools.

Anderson’s experiences were rich during his life in the town. His difficult life gave him hardships from the day he was old enough to assume any family responsibility. During the Spanish American War he served in the company that went from Clyde.