Where is the most scary and imposing structure in Texoma? Many would argue, and rightfully so,
that the Woodman Circle Home overlooking US 56 and FM 1417 in Sherman, Texas would take first place.
But what is it about this long ago abandoned place that seems to pull at you when you pass by?
Why does it beckon and call almost like a mother calling for a lost child?
Thanks to the current owner of the home I was allowed to take a closer look at this historic
estate and make a photographic record of how it looks today. The curious must be warned to keep their
distance. The current owner of the estate keeps the area under constant surveillance and prosecutes
trespassers to the fullest extent of the law which includes very hefty fines. They do this not out of malice
but for your own protection. Vast sections of the grounds and the buildings are very dangerous and in a
state of collapse. A falling ceiling or floor stand ready at any moment, and without notice, to severely
injure or perhaps do even worse to a individual who chooses to ignore the warnings. Those who escape
the property unscathed will likely find the Sherman Police Department waiting to take them on a ride downtown.
This estate has had more stories told about it than any other “Haunted House” in the area.
The truth is very interesting, but no ghosts, no apparitions, or spooks of any kind were anywhere to be found.
Linda Robertson the former employee who took me on a tour through the grounds, said that neither
herself nor anyone she knew who worked there had ever experienced anything paranormal. Linda
was a nursing assistant at the facility before it closed and knows a great deal about the history of the estate.
The facility was constructed during 1929-1930 by the Supreme Forest Woodman Circle.
The purpose was to provide a home to orphans and widows of members of the Woodmen’s fraternal
organization. The Woodman Circle was the ladies branch of the Supreme Forest Woodmen.
The original grounds covered almost 240 acres of which 13 of these remain today. Built at a
cost of over $150,000 the funds were sent in by Woodmen members from all over the country.
The idea for the home came from Mrs. Talley Alexander who saw the need for such a place.
It was thus the dream and vision of a great woman. In a time when government did little or
nothing to help the widowed and orphaned, it fell upon organizations like the Woodman’s to
provide such services. The location was picked because the hill was the highest in town and
the breeze was perfect. In order to get into the home, a woman had to be 65 years old and
had to sign away material possessions to help pay for her room and board. She did this
knowing that she would be taken care of for the rest of her days.
Mrs. Talley Alexander was not alone in her task. Mary E. LaRocca who was elected the
Circle's third president in 1919 and served until 1934 was a big influence. She guided the
organization through the tough years of the Great Depression and managed to secure funding
for the magnificent facility.
In 1931, a dedicated building was constructed to house orphans apart from the widows.
Built behind the main house is the Pennsylvania house, which was constructed for this purpose.
It is so named because the funds raised for its construction came largely from the state of Pennsylvania.
Over the years it saw over 100 orphans pass through its doors, several of which still live in the Sherman area today.
A fire gutted the building in 1990. In fact, all of the structures in the estate were victims of an
arsonist during the 1990’s, which is in part, why the estate is so dangerous today.
The State Of Texas ordered the facility to be upgraded or closed. The building was too out
of compliance with modern codes to be an infirmary and what amounted to a defacto nursing home.
One whole wing of the building on the second floor housed patients that were bedridden.
With no means of escape a fire would have proved deadly for them. So the building was closed in the early 1970’s.
Soon after this time the building was leased by the Rev. Sherman and his church. The Rev. Sherman
who had a cult like following according to locals was reportedly forced to leave due to the large debts his
organization had racked up with the city of Sherman. According to local legend the only incident that
occurred during his stay was the death of a 4-year old boy who fell down an open elevator or dumb waiter shaft.
However, with all the media focus on the Charles Manson commune that hit the papers at about the same
time it is not hard to imagine how bits of each tale became mixed up and intertwined. A local tale about
David Koresh having ties to the Rev. Sherman is often told but can not be verified.
According to Mrs. Robertson, the estate does have a number of rumors about it which are just not true.
There is no underground tunnel between the buildings. Perhaps the grand basements under the main building
started this rumor. There was never a mental hospital or insane asylum there, nor any padded rooms,
or electroshock therapy sessions. No one was sacrificed by a cult within its walls, and no Devil Worshipers
ever resided there.
In the early 1980’s the estate was bought by a group of five local businessmen for an
estimated cost of $3.1 million dollars. This was when the estate was in fairly good repair. It changed hands
several times going from one savings and loan to another until it wound up in the hands of a local
Sherman attorney who still owns it today and has long term plans for the estate.
Today the buildings are completely gutted. No fixtures or items of any kind remain.
All the windows and doors have been destroyed by vandalism or fire. Large sections of the roof and floors
have collapsed and a complete restoration of the home would take an enormous amount of funds.
The view from passing by on the highway is deceptive. The building may not be salvageable.
It is good to know however, that this building which watches the countless cars go by did such
good for so many people. Orphans and widows were cared for here and even buried here. They found a place to
call home and a place to get a fighting chance to live a normal life. Many resided here, and were taken care
of until their lives faded to memory. Perhaps this house was calling me. It was asking me to tell its’ story one last time.