Michigan Legal Milestones
18. Rose of Aberlone
The classic contracts case involving Hiram Walker & Sons, Rose the cow, and the principle of rescission based on mutual mistake. The original plaque, which was dedicated and placed outside in Kellogg Park in Plymouth in September 1993, was stolen. A replacement was unveiled at Kellogg Park on May 13, 2008.
Michigan Bar Journal
The Verdict of History: Michigan Jurisprudence Through its Significant Supreme Court Cases
Complete Text on Milestone Marker
Rose of Aberlone
T.C. Sherwood, president of Plymouth National Bank, contracted in 1886 with Hiram Walker of Walkerville, Ontario for the purchase of a cow, Rose 2d of Aberlone. Both parties believed that Rose was barren and would not breed, and that mistake led to one of the most famous contract cases in U.S. history.
Mr. Sherwood tried to pay Hiram Walker the agreed-upon price, $80, but Mr. Walker refused it after discovering that Rose was pregnant. Her value was now about 10 times greater than that agreed to by the parties. Mr. Sherwood sued to take possession of Rose at the original price.
The Michigan Supreme Court in 1887 declared in Sherwood v. Walker that, because a mutual mistake affecting the substance of the transaction had been made, Hiram Walker had a right to rescind the contract and keep the cow. Law students ever since have studied the case as a classic example of the contracts law doctrine of rescission based on mutual mistake.
Mr. Sherwood went on to distinction as Michigan's first banking commissioner; Hiram Walker & Sons is a worldwide leader in the production of alcohol beverages; and Rose achieved immortality in a poem by UCLA Professor Brainerd Currie, who concludes, "For students of law must still atone/For the shame of Rose of Aberlone."
Placed by the State Bar of Michigan and the Suburban Bar Association of Western Wayne County, 1993.