A Bit About Nellie

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Welcome to the official web-page for the Nellie Sheridan Wilson Statue Committee.   In 2014,  members of the Perry County Historical and Cultural Arts Society formed a special committee in order to oversee the creation of a statue dedicated to the memory of Mrs. Nellie Sheridan Wilson.

It is the sole purpose of this website to offer insight into the life of Nellie Sheridan Wilson, a woman  who exhibited self-determination as a woman working in Appalachian Ohio at the turn of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century.  It is the intention of this site to  promote an understanding of Nellie Sheridan Wilson, a most fascinating historical figure, and to illustrate her significant contributions to Somerset, Ohio and how regional identity,  family values,  community involvement, and  the societal norms of the day, aided in shaping her charming yet resilient character.

Nellie's mother,  Kate Gallin

Nellie’s mother, Kate Gallin Sheridan

Nelie Sheridan Wilson, daughter of John Sheridan and Kate Gallin, was born in Somerset, Perry County, Ohio 14 December 1870.  She  was the youngest of two daughters.  Her sister, Mary was born 11 March 1868, resided within the village of Somerset her entire life, until her death in 1944. Mary taught musical lessons and was also theatrical.  The two sisters in the family home that  still stands on Columbus Street.

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Nellie’s father, John L. Sheridan, brother of Phil Sheridan

Nellie’s grandmother,  an Irish immigrant who  was a well-known collector of teapots, was said to be one of the kindest women in the area.  Per her obituary,” a poor person never left her home hungry” and “a ragged soldier always had a place to stay.”   She was as equally proud of all of her sons as she was of the general.  Nellie, like her grandmother, was a constant participant in GAR events and rejoiced in telling stories about her father, Uncle Mike, and dear Uncle Phil.

Nellie , the younger sister by three years, was born three years after Mary and flouted convention at a time when women were not considered much more than mere chattel, but the self-proclaimed favorite niece of Philip H. Sheridan had other ideas.

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Nellie’s older sister, Mary Sheridan

Like her valiant uncle, Nellie was indeed a fighter who personified courage and enjoyed pushing the envelope ( a little postmistress humor..).  In 1889, when Nellie was just nineteen years old, she declared that she wanted to be postmistress.  During that time, women were not encouraged to hold the office.  In fact, the powers that be did everything to discourage women from entering the field because it lessened opportunities for men, who were the traditional breadwinners, to hold the position.  Consequently, women who were appointed earned less than their male counterparts.  Nellie earned a handsome $1,700.00 per year.

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Postmaster General Payne composed an order which essentially stated that any woman serving as postmistress, must remain unmarried or resign. Postmaster Payne’s policy followed his , and the general philosophy then, toward working women  and  their degree of commitment and self-reliance.  It was his philosophy that women working in the field were less likely to marry and depend on their spouses for income.   He also felt that men were better suited for the position.

Be that as it may, Nellie, with true Sheridan spirit and determination, filled the position at Somerset and served the area  well for twenty-five years.  When one examines her life story, one wonders why she wanted to remain postmistress if not purely as a matter of principle.  Nellie was an  exception  and an example in her day  – a ‘suffragette ‘ making her way before Suffrage  was established in law : she did it, she held office.

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In addition,  Nellie had a flair for the dramatic arts and performed in local theater productions. Once during one of the quirky days of her youth, she scratched the window of her grandmother’s home to see if a diamond ring, which had been given to her by an unknown suitor, was real.  However silly and charming young Nellie was, she also had a serious side.  Like their grandmother, Nellie and her sister Mary often attended GAR events, spoke, placed wreaths, sang songs, and remained active in the cause their entire lives.

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Nellie and Mary, in a theatrical production in Somerset

In 1905,  Nellie oversaw the erecting of a statue of her “Uncle Phil” in Somerset.  The statue, then Ohio’s only Civil War equestrian monument, was erected at the roundabout in the center of Somerset.  Nellie orchestrated a penny fund for area school children to pay for the enormous granite base. (see unveiling photo on donation page)

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When Nellie married, she was a bride only for one night as her beloved, Thomas Wilson, a wealthy merchant who had selflessly been her significant other for fifteen years and sacrificed their marriage and chances of family for Nellie to continue her career, had ultimately succumbed to Bright’s Disease, a condition that he suffered with for over one year, on the very night of their wedding.  Nellie, who was forced to resign her position the previous day, was forced to fight to retain her position.  It wasn’t easy.  After his death, she never remarried and retained the name of Wilson.  However, she did serve as postmistress as Nellie Wilson.

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Jim Young

Somerset resident, Jim Young stated that when he was child,  he visited the old post office (located in the building that is now Underwood Hardware), recalled Nellie as “flamboyant.”  She dressed to the nines in her large hats and was a well-known person within the village of Somerset.  Jim recalled, that she liked him because she always smiled at him.  Jim attended Holy Trinity School as a youngster and to avoid the long walk from Young’s Farm,  he used to stay in Somerset with his grandparents.  It was his task to obtain the mail each day.  Jim is the only person that we know of who knew Nellie personally.  If you know of anyone else, please have them email the historical society.

Nellie was an extraordinarily interesting person who was anything but boring.  She possessed a vivacious Irish spirit and was the embodiment of self-determination.  She was..a survivor.  When she died in 1947, the old Somerset Courthouse rang its bell in her honor and people stopped on the square to pause and pay homage to the former civil servant and friend, Mrs. Nellie Sheridan Wilson, Somerset Postmistress extraordinaire.

* The Nellie Sheridan Statue Fund operates under the aegis of the Perry County Historical and Cultural Arts Society and is a 501c3 organization.

Auction For Nellie

During the Nellie Sheridan Wilson Auction, which benefits the erection of a statue in Somerset, Nellie, who was a “woman of letters” has an opportunity to be a woman of numbers.  If you love residing within Perry County and wish to make it a better place, please come and bid on some pieces at our auction.  A statue of a woman gracing the square is long over due.  Nellie, who was ahead of time, should definitely be the first as she was truly the embodiment of equality.  nellie auction

Nellie Sheridan At the Perry County Fair

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When you attend the Perry County Fair this week, please stop by the Perry County Historical and Cultural Arts Antique Building!  The PCHCAS will have many interesting items on display and for sale.

In addition, Nellie Sheridan will be making her debut at the fair after sixty plus years!  The Nellie Sheridan Statue Committee will be on hand to offer some of Nellie’s favorite things for sale :  a beautiful postage stamp dispenser/paper clip holder, pen and pencil holder, and Nellie’s own official logo tea trivet/pan trivet.  Of course, all of the items feature Nellie’s  own feminine silhouette and official logo.  These items are hand crafted by local artist, Dale Hague, and are made with Perry County clay!  You can literally take a piece of Perry County home with you🙂  They make excellent gift items.  Gwen Young will also be on hand to sell and sign her book, Nellie Sheridan: A Woman Ahead of Her Time.  Purchase a signed copy and give one as a gift.  They are a treat for anyone who loves Perry County History.  Although Nellie was Postmistress of Somerset and the self-proclaimed niece of P.H. Sheridan, she was indeed a popular Perry County citizen and was well-known by everyone!  She was wonderful, quirky, and definitely had a mind of her own!  All proceeds from the Nellie Sheridan booth will benefit the Nellie Sheridan Statue Fund.  It is your chance to not only read history and take home a piece of Perry County, but it is your chance to help make history!  Please donate to this worthy cause.  How often do you really get to make a difference on a local level?

Happy 223rd Birthday to the Postal Service Act

Nellie is in good company…

From Behind the Pen

US Post Office Department, Post Office, Postal Service Act Image credit: http://www.constitutionfacts.com

On February 20, 1792, George Washington signed into law the Postal Service Act, which established the department. Postmaster General John McLean was the first to call it the Post Office Department rather than just the “Post Office.” The organization received a boost in prestige when President Andrew Jackson invited his Postmaster General, William T. Barry, to sit as a member of the Cabinet in 1829. On July 26, 1775 however, Congress established the U.S. Post Office and named Benjamin Franklin as the first U.S. Postmaster General.

According to history.com, William Goddard, a Patriot printer, frustrated that the royal postal service was unable to reliably deliver his Pennsylvania Chronicle to its readers or deliver critical news for the paper to Goddard, laid out a plan for a Constitutional Post before the Continental Congress on October 5, 1774. Congress waited to act on the plan until after the Battle…

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