Conant, Sherman

Sherman Conant 1840 – 1890

Sherman Conant is a fascinating Littletonian.   Along with 2 siblings, Benjamin and Henry, Sherman was born in Dublin, New Hampshire on 21 December 1839.  His parents, Levi Conant and Anna Whitney Mead were married in Littleton by William H. White on 24 May 1836.  They removed to Dublin in 1837 where Levi is listed in a directory as a shoemaker.

In 1845, Levi and his family moved back to Littleton and his occupation in the 1850 census is “shoemaker” but changes to “farmer” in subsequent census.

Additional children born to Levi and Anna in Littleton include Ellen Sherwin, 1846, Henry Conant 1848, Anna Jane 1849, Amelia Breck 1851, George Arthur 1854, Levi Leonard 1857 and Elmer Kimball 1862.

Levi and Anna remain in Littleton.  George Arthur moved to Abeline Texas where he owned a large sheep ranch.  Levi Leonard became a teacher and lived in Rapid City, Dakota Territory.  Elmer Kimball removed to New York City where he owned a business.   Sherman is listed in the Littleton 1865 census as being “in the army.”

In 1862, Sherman enlisted in the 39th Mass Regiment in which he remained about a year.    The 39th Mass Regiment was organized at Lynnfield 13 August to 2 September 1862.  It was attached to Grover’s Brigade, Defences of Washington until February 1863.   Duty in the Defences of Washington from Fort Tillinghast to Fort Craig, until 13 September 1862; guarded the Potomac from Edward’s Ferry to Conrad’s Ferry and Seneca Creek until October 20th.  Moved to Washington D.C. April 15-17 and guard and patron duty there until July 9th.

On the 17th of June 1863 Major George L. Stearns was appointed recruiting commissioner for U.S. colored troops and fixed his headquarters at Philadelphia, Pa. where a committee was engaged in raising colored troops under authority issued on 18th June 1863.  The 3rd Regiment U.S. Colored troops completed recruitment on 5th of August.  The regiment was ordered to Morris Island, South Carolina in time to take part in the operations against Forts Wagner and Sumter.

“Morris Island was heavily fortified to defend Charleston harbor, with the fortifications centered on Fort Wagner. It was the scene of heavy fighting during the Union Army‘s campaign to capture Charleston, and is perhaps best known today as the scene of the ill-fated assault by the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, an African-American regiment. The regiment and this assault, where it suffered over 50% casualties, was immortalized in the film Glory.

After the Confederates abandoned Morris Island in 1863, the Union occupied it and transferred 520 Confederate officers from Fort Delaware to Morris Island. They were used as Human Shields in an attempt to silence the Confederate artillery at Fort Sumter and soon became known in the South as the Immortal Six Hundred. This was done by the Union when it was learned that the Confederacy had a similar number of human shields in Charleston to deter Union ships from firing on the city.”    …Wikipedia

 3rd Regiment, United States Colored Infantry


Organized at Camp William Penn, near Philadelphia, Pa., August 3-10, 1863. Ordered to Dept. of the South. Attached to 4th Brigade, Morris Island, S. C., 10th Corps, Dept. of the South, to November, 1863. 3rd Brigade, Morris Island, S. C., 10th Corps, to January, 1864. Montgomery’s Brigade, District of Hilton Head, S. C., 10th Corps. to February, 1864. 2nd Brigade, Vodges’ Division, District of Florida, Dept. of the South, to April, 1864. District of Florida, Dept. of the South, to October, 1864. 4th Separate Brigade, District of Florida, Dept. of the South, to July, 1865. Dept. of Florida to October, 1865.


Siege of Forts Wagner and Gregg, Morris Island, S. C., August 20-September 7, 1863. Action at Forts Wagner and Gregg August 26. Capture of Forts Wagner and Gregg September 7. Operations against Charleston from Morris Island till January, 1864. Moved to Hilton Head, S. C., thence to Jacksonville, Fla., February 5-7, and duty there as Heavy Artillery till May, 1865. (1 Co. at Fernandina, Fla.) Expedition from Jacksonville to Camp Milton May 31-June 3, 1864. Front Creek July 15. Bryan’s Plantation October 21. Duty at Tallahassee, Lake City and other points in Florida May to October, 1865. Mustered out October 31, 1865.Taken from the National Park Service

 “Sherman Conant was promoted to a captaincy in the 3rd Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops and stationed on Morris Island, where he remained till the first expedition to Florida; was promoted to the rank of major before the close of the war.  After the war he settled in Jacksonvillle, Florida and took an active part in reorganizing the state government.  He has been U.S. Marshal of the district and is now general manager of the Florida Southern Railroad.  He married in 1867 Frances, daughter of Frederick and Hannah (Pratt) Dewey  of Boston, Mass.   2 children Annie Whitney 1867-1881 and John Sherman 1876-“

 Conant, Sherman


3rd Regiment, United States Colored Infantry











M589 roll 19


39 Mas. Vols.



Sherman Conant


After the war, Sherman settled in Jacksonville, Florida.  He was the U.S. Marshall of the northern District of Florida from 1871 to 1879.

According to the Biographical Directory of the Railway Officials of America:

“Conant, Sherman, General Manager Florida Southern Ry. Office Palatka, Florida.  Born Dublin, NH December 21, 1839.  Entered railway service June 1872 to June 1873, general manager and May 1879 to September 1882; receiver Jacksonville, Pensacola & Mobile RR; January 1883 to date, general Manager Florida Southern Ry.”

Sherman Conant died 21 November 1890 in Palatka, Florida.

One of his legacies is the Conant Ghost Town
Conant Ghost Town

Conant was established in 1884 by wealthy Englishmen and was named for Major Sherman Conant, a financier of the Florida Southern Railroad.  It stretched from what is now Lady Lake to north of the Marion County line.  The town included a luxurious three story hotel catering to the area’s upper class.  Given the rugged frontier, Conant swiftly gained a prominent reputation n the area for its pretentiousness.  “It is the only town that made a practice of snobbery, for the usual spirit of the communities in Lake County was comradeship, helpfulness and hospitality, according to The History of Lake County Florida by William T. Kennedy.  Conant’s residents snubbed those who toiled in orange groves, ostracizing the pioneers and laborers who sent their children to public schools.  By 1919 Conant was merely an unpleasant memory.  The Big Freezes of 1894 and 1895 descended on the community, repaying Conant’s cold residents with frozen crops and wildfires, forcing them to relocate to other towns, or return to civilization and high society.  What is known as Griffin Road today was called Conant Road until the 1950’s the only small reminder of those who lived before.         Submitted by Jim Pike

Nothing remains of the original town.  Now a part of the Lady Lake area. 
LADY LAKE — If there are ghostly sightings of a woman driving a horse and buggy at Water Oak Country Club Estates, more than likely it’s “Miss Estelle.”

“She’d be a friendly ghost,” mused Norma Delaney, curator of the Lady Lake Historical Society. Miss Estelle was Dr. Olive Estelle Worcester, an early Florida female doctor who practiced in and around the town of Conant for 40 years and was revered.  Delaney pointed out that Conant, a bustling town in the 1880s, was named for Major Sherman Conant, one of the financiers of the Florida Southern Railroad. Nowadays it’s listed as a ghost town. The Water Oak golf course occupies 20 acres of land once owned by the Worcester family of Conant. …Orlando Sentinel July 18, 2011

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