By Dave Thornton
General Frank Sherman Henry on his 1948
Olympic Gold Medal ride.
America has long looked to the small town to
nurture greatness in its citizens. Like pure water from the
mountains, young talent flows steadily from the protected
environments of America's rural communities. There, where the ideals
of the Republic are yet nourished, the excitement is not so great as
to discourage a young man or woman from setting forth into the
Frank Sherman Henry was such a small-town boy. He
was born and raised on East Main St. in Cambridge, NY, a Village of
2,000 inhabitants nestled among the foothills of the Green Mountains
in the picturesque valley of the Owl's Kill.
His parents were middle class, his father a
store-keeper and active in Republican politics.
Nonetheless, the small-town boy grew up to be a
United States cavalry officer in the classic mould, who set an
Olympic riding record that stands to this day.
Frank Sherman Henry was born in 1909 at 99 East
Main St., in a house presently owned by the Nolan family. The Henrys
lived in an apartment.
Later, they bought as the family home at 95 East
Main. Sherman, an only son, retained possession of the house and
store until in the late 1970s.
JOHN HENRY'S STORE
Sherman's father was John Henry, who, with the
help of Ted Williams Sr., ran "John Henry's Store", a double
storehouse of general merchandise on the first floor of Hubbard's
Significant for the community, in Hubbard's Hall,
the Henrys passed along one of the finest examples in existence of a
19th century performance hall.
Also significant, Sherman retained the Henry
horse track immediately north of 95 East Main. Late in his life, he
placed this under the stewardship of a group of local men, with the
stipulation that the land be preserved forever as a recreation area
for the Village children.
That area has been developed into a modern
complex of playing fields and courts. A new generation of village
volunteers, the Cambridge Valley Athletic Assoc., now superintends
On Monday, May 31, as a part of the annual
American Legion memorial service, that complex was be dedicated to
its founder, the late Frank Sherman Henry: Scholar, Horseman,
Olympic Athlete and Brigadier General of the US Army.
In childhood, "Sherm" paled around with the other
kids on East Main. One chum, the late Gardner Cullinan, lived a few
doors east of the Henrys. He was in his 80's when this writer
interviewed him; but his memories of Sherman are vivid.
Like Sherman, Gardner served his country in World
War II. But unlike him, Cullinan returned to Village life. Here in
the Owl's Kill Valley, Gardner published the Washington County Post,
until its demise, the oldest weekly in America; and got himself
elected to just about every post there was in local politics.
There wasn't much in the way of recreational
facilities on East Main in those days. There was the track, but few
of the "East End Gang" besides Henry had a horse.
There were some ramshackle buildings on Division
St., where the Gang would go to play "war" with "B-B" guns.
Behind the Cullinan house was a large barn. There
Gardner and the neighborhood boys established a gymnasium where they
could work out. There was a boxing ring and punching bag, weights, a
trapese and a climbing rope.
EAST END GANG
In those days, little Cambridge High School was
famous for its great football teams. Many of these players
congregated at Cullinan's barn. Of course, one of them was Sherman
Frank Sherman Henry died in 1989, his body
returned to Cambridge with full military honors. Most of the East
End Gang preceded him in death. Gone are friends Lewis Buckley,
Jimmy Frazier, Don Weir and Jimmy Duddy.
Gone is the talented John Galloway, CHS and
Colgate University football star, who was also a frequent visitor to
"Cullinan's gym Only Gardner, four years his junior, remained to
tell the tale of the young Sherman Henry.
Sherman would work out at the "gym" and engage in
the B-B gun fights. Dr. Hiney, the dentist, owned some abandoned and
dilapidated buildings on Division St. The boys went there, chose up
sides and banged away at one another, until one day a visiting lad
amost lost an eye.
That was Sherman's first taste of "war", Cullinan
It was also what passed as recreation on Division
St. in those days. The lack of a place for him and his friends to
play in safety may explain Sherman Henry's determination to provide
a proper facility for later generations.
"Sherm" was a small, wirey lad, who was quick,
intelligent and mischievous. Friend Gardner lost the seat from his
best pair of knickers to a well-thrown Sherman Henry fire-cracker.
For a reason even Gardner himself never
understood, Sherman nick-named him "Pete". "Sherm" ostensibly made
amends by presenting "Pete" with a Christmas gift.
Candy was hard to come by in those days, Cullinan
recalled. He spent several days before Christmas admiring the
present Sherman had given him, convinced it was a box of chocolates.
But it turned out to be a "gag', a book that no
red-blooded boy of that era would have been caught dead possessing,
much less reading: "The Bobbsey Twins Out West".
The future Olympian didn't hang out with the
"East End Gang" that much.
"I wouldn't call him a loner," Gardner said. But
Sherman had a horse named "Pearl", and she was his best pal. As few
of the Gang had a horse, Sherman spent many childhood hours alone
The seeds of his future greatness were evidently
sewn on those lonely rides through the community and over the very
grounds that were dedicated to the memory of Sherman Henry.
"Sherm" at 16 was too young and too light to be
much of a factor on such "crack" teams as CHS turned out in those
days, but he did substitute on some of the greatest football teams
in the history of Old Cambridge.
He and Charles Raymond, another future West
Pointer, were subbing on the high school teams as early as 1923.
Both would have illustrious military careers.
In 1923, when "Sherm" was only 14 years old, he
played alongside such immortals of the local gridiron as Emerson
McLenithan, John Maloy, William Robertson, Tom Tellier, Nick Canzeri,
Frank Frazier, Forrest Coulter and the "Galloping Ghost", John
His father, John Shields Henry, was president of
the school board in those days.
The only loss for the 1923 team was the last
game, to Albany High School for the championship of the Northeast,
the highest you could go in competition in those days.
In 1924, Sherman Henry subbed on the CHS team
that won their first title as "Champions of the World", defeating
Albany High 20-0. But that title was sullied, as the team had a loss
--- inexplicably --- to Troy High the week before.
"Sherm" was back for his final year at Cambridge
High School in 1925, the year that the Cambridge team got just about
as good as a team can get.
With Sherman Henry and Charles Raymond providing
"bench depth", Cambridge rolled up victory after victory. "Sherm"
and Charles would go in when a regular was injured or needed a
"breather", and when the game was "on ice".
In the Saratoga game, which Cambridge won 26-0,
both Charles and Sherman saw playing time in the line, Charles for
Martin Church ---who was one of the largest linemen in America at
the time --- and Sherman for William Robertson.
That November, Cambridge won its fourth
consecutive Northern League championship with a 34-0 wash of
By seasons end, when they again defeated Albany
High for the championship of the Northeast, the Cambridge country
boys had out-scored their opponents an incredible 302-8.
It was an exploit never even approached by a CHS
squad until the State "C" Championship team of 1992.
Sherman Henry was "game", but football wasn't his
sport. His father's love of horses rubbed off on him. John Henry
maintained a trotting track that encompassed what is today the youth
recreation complex. He always had an outstanding horse in his
As a young girl, Connie Cullinan, wife of
Gardner, took many a tour of the track in the sulky, exercising a
Connie recalled that one of John Henry's best
trotters was J.T. Barnes, who could turn a mile in just over two
minutes. This was right up there with the "big time" in those days.
Gardner recalled that John Henry was offered
$30,000 for the horse, more than $300,000 in modern money, but he
turned it down. He loved the horse too much.
John Henry's love of horses was passed down to
his son. Sherman accelerated through Cambridge High School,
finishing in three years at the age of 16. He had long decided upon
a career in the US Cavalry, but the appointment to West Point was
John Henry was deeply involved in county
politics. He served as a county Republican committeeman, in the days
when the Republican Party "owned" Washington County.
John Henry served alongside two other locals,
Malcolm Parrish and William Robertson. Parrish was for many years
County Treasurer. Both John Henry and Robertson served terms as
County Sheriff. This was in the days when the office of Sheriff was
a "political plum". The Under Sheriff ran the Dept. Neither Henry,
as shop-keeper, nor Robertson as barber, had to give up his vocation
in order to fill the post, much less engage in law enforcement.
With his father so active in politics, the
appointment to the US Military Academy at West Point would come,
After graduating from CHS, Sherman spent a year
at New York Military Academy. Then he studied civil engineering at
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Others might have lost hope, but in Sherman
Henry, the urge toward a military life was in the blood. His mother,
a Sherman, was descended from Hon. Samuel Sherman of Connecticut and
Gov. William Bradford of the Mayflower.
His grandfather on the Henry side was a Civil War
soldier, Corporal James Alexander Henry, who served in Co. E of the
New York Volunteer Infantry.
This was the famed Washington County Regiment,
one of the few regiments to be recruited from a single county and
kept "pure" throughout the war by home-town recruiting.
The 123rd fought valiantly in defeat at
Chancellorsville, then marched in bloody triumph with Gen. William
Tecumseh Sherman through the heart of the Southland to besiege and
capture the city of Atlanta.
The West Point appointment came in 1929. Sherman
graduated with the class of 1933. He was 33rd in a class of 347 and
elected to Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.
Just as he had dreamed while a boy on East Main
St., Lt. Henry was commissioned into the US Cavalry. He was assigned
to the 3rd Regt. at Ft. Myer, Virginia. There in off-duty time he
participated in the many equestrian events that took place in nearby
Virginia and Maryland.
It was soon evident to all that Sherman Henry was
uncommonly talented. His riding ability brought him great success in
show jumping during his four years there.
It was while stationed at Ft. Myer that he met
and married Nell Elizabeth Archer in 1935.
In 1939, Sherman Henry graduated from the
Advanced Equitation Course at the Cavalry School, Ft. Riley, Kansas
and joined the US Army Equestrian Team that was training for the
1940 Olympic Games.
But World War II interrupted those plans. The
games were cancelled and the team dissolved.
When war replaced the 1940 games, Sherman Henry
became an equitation instructor at the Cavalry School. It is a
signal of his brilliance that each time he graduated from a military
school, Henry was kept there to instruct others.
It was at Ft. Riley, in 1941, that the Henry's
only child, Joan Henry Gooding, was born.
[Authors note: Mrs. Gooding is the source of
much of the date on Sherman Henrys career and adult life.]
In 1942, Henry graduated from the Command and
General Staff School, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, and was assigned
there as a faculty member.
With the war in full swing, Henry was ordered to
the Operations Division of the War Dept. General Staff. He soon
became an Army member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff War Plans
In 1945, he was assigned to the headquarters of
Gen. Douglas MacArthur, first in Manilla and later in Tokyo.
His Pacific tour was cut short in late 1946, when
Henry was again assigned to Ft. Riley, Kansas. He began training for
the 1948 Olympic Games, the first to be held since the infamous 1936
ON US TEAM
Henry made the United States Equestrian Team,
which in 1947 moved to Munich, Germany to train. The 1948 Olympics
were to be held in England.
In those Games, the Old Cambridge boy, Sherman
Henry, won three medals, one Gold and two Silvers. The Gold was the
first place medal won by the US team. Henry also won an individual
Silver in the Three Day Event and a team Silver in Grand Prix
To have earned three medals in the equestrian
events of a single Olympiad established a record that has been
equaled once, by Gen. Humberto Mariles, a noted Mexican rider
competing in the same Olympics. (As of 1996, the record had not been
Like many another great athlete, Sherman Henry
sacrificed his prime years to the war.
At the cancelled 1940 games, he would have
competed at age 31. For the 1944 games, he would have been 35. At
the 1948 Olympics, where he earned three medals, he was 39 years
old! One may only speculate at the scope of the Henry legend, had he
competed at those cancelled games.
After the Olympics, Henry was assigned to West
Germany, where he became chief of plans, Headquarters, US
Constabulary and its successor, Headquarters, 7th Army.
Succeeding assignments were as chief of staff,
1st Armored Div.; graduate of the War College, class of 1953; staff
planner, HQ, Continental Army Command; Army attache and later chief,
Military Assistance Advisory Group, Baghdad, Iraq.
Following a tour at the Pentagon as Chief of
Armor in the Officer Personnel Section, Henry went to Korea as Asst.
Commander and briefly as Commander, 7th Infantry Div.
His final assignment was as Chief of Staff, III
Corps at Ft. Hood, Texas. He retired from the Army there in August,
His decorations include the Legion of Merit with
Oak Leaf Cluster and the Korean Order of Service Merit 3rd Class.
After retirement, the Henrys moved to Virginia.
Although too old to compete, his continuing love for horses
manifested in Sherman's role as a judge for the American Horse Show
After seven years, the Henrys moved to Florida.
There Sherman joined Sertoma International and worked with children
in need of help.
In 1979 the Henrys moved to St. Louis, Mo. to
live near daughter Joan and her three children. Ten years later,
Frank Sherman Henry's body was laid to rest in Woodlands Cemetery,
on a hill over-looking East Main St., where his quest for individual
greatness had begun.
There is room in the Henry legend for the handful
of Village men who built the youth recreation complex on the old
Henry trotting track. According to his attorney in those times, John
Briggs, it was Sherman Henry's desire that the trotting track become
a permanent youth recreation field.
There were a few men raising families in the
Village at that time who also dreamed of such a use for the land.
Henry sold them the field on favorable terms.
These were "blue collar", working fathers, with
not a lot of cash to spare. It was hard for them to raise the money,
but they did it. And they have shepherded the field all these years,
only recently passing the legacy and the responsibility to a younger
The pioneering efforts of those early community
volunteers rightfully belong in the Henry story.
A ROLE MODEL
As for Sherman Henry, his legacy to this
community is his life, as a role model. Sherman Henry's life reveals
most clearly that growing up in a small town can assuredly be an
excuse for failure; but it is certainly not a barrier to greatness.