Sherrill stands out because it sits near a bump in the landscape, but you are most likely to notice the steeples of Sherrill’s four historic churches before you notice anything else. The town is also home to one of the oldest inns in the region.
If you have questions about Sherrill, your best bet is to call the Black Horse Inn (563.552.1800).
Sherrill, once called Sherrills Mound or Sherrills Mount, is named for brothers Adam and Isaac Sherrill, who were the first permanent residents after leaving their native Kentucky. They settled in the area in 1833—as squatters—hoping to strike it rich in the mining industry but settled into farming by the early 1840s. The Sherrill brothers had a reputation for ruthlessness. According to one story, a neighbor had the audacity to speak ill of the brothers, so they killed him, naturally. The brothers were only charged with illegal possession of a weapon; it seems the rest of the town was glad to be rid of the man who chose his words poorly. Isaac moved to Illinois in 1852, and Adam sold his property and left in 1856, leaving the business of town-building to others.
One of those others was Peter Fries, an immigrant from Austria, who built a hotel and tavern in 1856 called Sherrill’s Mount House. He hosted dances, fed people, and served drinks like his homemade wine. It was a popular destination for honeymooners and travelers: Jesse James and his gang spent a quiet night here in 1876, shortly before many of them were killed in an attempted robbery at Northfield, Minnesota. The tavern business ended in 1894 when Iowa went dry. During Prohibition, the building was divided into apartments; residents of one unit were arrested for having their own still. A lot of booze was stored in the trees behind the house, which the feds confiscated. After the feds left, another still went into production. Some places are just meant to be drinking establishments.
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Here’s a quick summary of Sherrill’s four churches. The Congregational Church was organized in 1849 as the First German Reformed Congregational Church. The present stone church was completed in 1911 (4995 Sherrill Rd, 563.552.1108); they became affiliated with the United Church of Christ in 1962.
Catholic worship in Sherrill began in the 1840s with the arrival of immigrants from Germany and Luxembourg. Local Catholics built a log church in 1852 and called it St. Williams. It was replaced by a frame church in the 1860s, at which time the name was changed to St. Peter and Paul Catholic Church. The current brick church was completed in 1889 (5131 Sherrill Rd., 563.552.2611).
The first St. Matthew Lutheran Church (5350 Sherrill Rd.) was a frame church built in 1864; it was replaced with a brick church in 1903. Most of the early members were German; they enjoyed services in their native language until 1948. The most recent renovation needs were too expensive for the small congregation, so most of work was donated by member Jeanne Spoerl. She labored for 3½ years to faithfully replicate the original painting scheme and continues to volunteer her time to keep the paint looking fresh.
Sherrill United Methodist Church
(5501 S. Mound Rd, 563.556.6899) is the oldest congregation in town, dating to 1844 when a log church was built; it was replaced with a stone church in 1856. The current Gothic Revival church was completed in 1894. Like some of its neighboring churches, Sherrill’s Methodists held services in German until the early 20th century.
Sleeping and Eating
Bed and Breakfast
The building constructed by Peter Fries in 1856 as a roadhouse is now the Black Horse Inn (5259 S. Mound Rd.; 563.552.1800), a unique bed-and-breakfast and still the center of the town’s social life. The current owner spent six years restoring the house after it sat abandoned forten years. Rooms—suites, really—are stylish and comfortable, and two have walk-in showers. The house is decorated with objects collected during the owner’s many years living abroad. Friday and Saturday evenings they serve a four-course meal with a menu built around seasonal ingredients. On Sundays, the inn hosts a buffet brunch. Also watch for their popular OctoberFest celebration.
Post Office: 14795 Sherrill Rd.; 563.552.2102.
Heading upriver? Check out Balltown.
Heading downriver? Check out Sageville.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2009