Not many people are aware that Napoleon disappeared without a trace around 1858-1859,only three ir four years after the sudden death of his father, John Holmes Sherard I. I have for over thirty years attempted to piece together some explanation for the disappearence of Napoleon which led to desperate times and events for his family. His wife, Henrietta Dinkins Sherard, was pregnant at the time of his disappearance. When the child, named Napoleon B Sherard Jr, was born, he did not live long. It took me twenty years and many leads to discover this from the descendent of Napoleon's sister, Emily Sherard Johnston, who was not familiar with the disappearance of Napoleon.
Here are my conclusions based on two separate lines of thought created when speaking with other descendents and from my own analysis.
1. The sudden death of John Holmes Sherard I was never fully explained. He died in June 1855 in Livingston. His very young wife, Malvina M. M. Arrington Sherard, was pregnant with Mr. Sherard's child. The fact that Malvina was pregnant led me to conclude that John H. Sherard I was a very healthy man, still industrious for his age, and very vigorous for his years. Some researchers believe his death was due to a sudden stroke or massive heart attack. My analysis leads me to another explanation. He received some very distressing news which led to his sudden death. That is what is in question. What news could distres a man to death?
2. Ironically, John Holmes Sherard II, was born three months later, August 31, 1855. A second irony occurred: the male child was christened after his 57 year old deceased father and Joseph Arrington Jr, brother to Malvina Arrington Sherard, took measures in his own hands to take guardianship of the new born. There does not appear to be any effort to allow Malvina any means to raise the child.
3. Malvina Arrington Sherard, J. H. Sherard's widow, barely escaped with her dowry after all was said and done. The other Sherard brothers and sisters saw to that...that is to say, except Napoleon. I have found no record of his objection to assisting his step mother who was only twelve years senior to Napoleon and helped in his raising. Malvina remarried just a few years after the death of the John Holmes Sherard I married Richard Wooten and had a son by the same name approximately one year later. I believe complications of childbirth led to her death, leaving Richard Jr to be raised by his father. Ironically, in her will, Melvina left provision for care at her plantation to the "heirs of Napoleon Sherard" which included Henrietta Sherard, his wife, and their two surviving children, John Holmes Sherard ("Jack") and Julia Arabella Sherard. This action showed great compassion for the missing Napoleon and his wife and heirs. Another irony is the grave of Malvina Arrington Sherard Wooten was left unattended, smudged by tragedy, controversy, and eventual omission from the affections of others even after death.
4. What is difficult to ascertain is the mindset of Napoleon Bonaparte Sherard, the eldest son, after the death of his father, John Holmes Sherard I. It may be concluded that the responsibilities of the father fell to that of the oldest son. It may be construed that the immediate events following the sudden death of his father, left him dumbfounded at the impact of anger, conspiracy, and viciousness of his own brothers and sisters against his step-mother. Added to this was his increased responsibility of his father's estate and rumors of Civil Unrest beginning between North and South. Yet, Napoleon was still a vigorous man, albeit a depressed man. He voted in the general elections in 1855, 1857, and 1858, and suddenly we hear of him no more.
5. Another irony occurs. Napoleon disappears and no one seems to care, no search parties are called for, no cause for alarm radiated in the community. It seems the power of Joseph Arrington Jr was on the rise because of his quick assertion of guardianship over Napoleon's brother, John Holmes Sherard II. But why didn't Napoleon prevent this ursurpation of his stepmother's brother? Whey didn't Napoleon seek "guardianship" over his brother? Was he warned not to attempt legal action? At this point, the only ones suffering became Napoleon's family, Henrietta, John Holmes Sherard, Julia Arabella Sherard, and his own unborn child. What really and truly happened to Napoleon?
6. At the disappearance of Napoleon, one would surmise that offers of assistance for shelter and assistance would pour out from family members and neighbors. But that did not happen immediately. Somewhere in the thick of things, Napoleon's inheritance disappeared, and with it the loss of his family's ability to subsist. From what I have seen in the Sumter County newspapers, no articles came forward about the missing Sherard son; No cries for help for his forlorn family came forward throughout the community. And, what's worse, is the apparent lack of apathy from in-laws of Henrietta Dinkins Sherard. Why?
7. Conazine and Martha Sherard Parker allowed the family to stay with them for a short time. The time, however, was shorter than planned, I believe. Martha died of "consumption" or the flu, and Conazine Parker did not embrace keeping his in-laws on his property. Second, after March 30, 1862, the date of death of Malvina Sherard Wooten, was the tiny family, hearts heavy at the death of Henrietta's newborn son, Napoleon Jr, taken in by Joseph Arrington Jr. It is my belief that "obligation by law" was the only reason Joseph Arrington Jr took this almost forgotten family onto Mavlina's plantation. Joseph Arrington Jr saw that Napoleon's family never saw the inside of the mansion on the plantation. Census records reflect that Henrietta and son, John Holmes Sherard, lived near the Overseer's home and Julia Arabella Sherard resided at the Overseer's home. Disgrace upon disgrace with little more than faith to oversee them. Henrietta's son and daughter attended school with John Holmes Sherard II. But John Holmes Sherard II lived in the mansion, not in the slave quarters.
8. In February 1867, that the Sumter County News announce the death of Napoleon Bonaparte Sherard. A simple legal notice occurred in the newspaper, followed by the name of the Executor, Socrates Parker. I have yet to find the will of Napoleon Bonaparte Sherard. What it amounted to was a legal notice only; seven years since his disappearance was complete and now the Law said he was "legally dead".
9. Not long after, Julia Arabella Sherard married Alfonso Kornegay and brought her mother to live with her in their home. John Holmes Sherard aka "Jack" seems to have vanished from the scene. Psychologically, "Jack" was marred from not having a father, was probably rebellious, and subject to mood changes. Whatever happened during this period prior to his marriage to Emma Narcissus Beebe has never surfaced.
10. One last bit of irony and I will conclude this text. Emily Holmes Sherard Johnston did not appear at any time to lend aid and assistance to her brother (Napoleon) and his family. And this was, despite the fact she was the wife of a prominent local judge and jurist from New York, Alexander Johnston. She did, however, take guardianship of Beulah Parker, the only child and daughter of Conizene and Sarah Sherard Parker. Emily had more than ten of her own children to work with. She added Beulah without flicking an eyelash. Why wasn't she more forthcoming with Henrietta, John Holmes Sherard "Jack", and Julia Arabella Sherard? Donna Serwin of Dallas, TX, is a direct descendent of Emily Holmes Sherard Johnston. She and I have exchanged information on his situation. She has no explanation for her ancestor's actions in this matter.
11. In conclusion, it can be surmised the two most punished people in this sad story which has affected their descendents to this day were Napoleon Holmes Sherard and Malvina Arrington Sherard. What was the connection between the community of Livingston, Alabama, consternation, apathy, and rejection of these two wonderful people. How did the politics of the city, the state, the nation, and the times allow this terrible event to even occur? I cannot answer this question. However, I can say that Christopher Columbus Sherard, Napoleon's younger brother, left Livingston, AL and never looked back. He became a physician in Mobile, Alabama. His two sons became physicians, and as of this writing, it is my belief these two sons left family members who became physicians also.