Thomas C. Wilson, sometimes T.C. Wilson, was the man who loved Nellie Sheridan enough to wait fifteen years before marrying her so that she could keep her position as postmistress. Although clearly deeply in love, the couple didn’t always share the same points of view, religion, or culture, but theirs was truly a relationship based on mutual admiration and respect.
Thomas was the grandson of Judge James W. Wilson (1781-1852) and Martha Ann Ashby(1786-1880). It was his grandfather, James, who had come to Perry County and settled in Clayton Twp., Perry County, Ohio. Graham’s 1883 History of Perry and Fairfield County stated the following information on Thomas’s grandmother, Martha Wilson:
Martha Wilson, wife of Judge James Wilson, one of the earliest settlers, was born in Alleghany county, Maryland, Feb. 1786, and died March, 1880, in the ninety-fifth year of her age, and was the last of the pioneer women in Clayton township to pass from time to eternity. She came to the neighborhood where she lived and died, in 1811, when neighbors were few and far between. Bears, wolves and panthers, were frequently seen. Once, during the war of 1812, when her husband was absent at Zanesville, there was an alarm that the Indians were coming across the country and murdering the white people. Many families loaded up and fled. Mrs.Wilson having no way to go and take her three children, converted her cabin into a fortress and prepared for battle. She barricaded the door with timbers, prepared her gun and ammunition, and with the great dog at her side, stood with gun in hand all through the night and until dawn of day ; but no Indians came. On another occasion when her husband was away from home, the wolves attacked her only sheep, before she had put it in the pen for the night. She heard her faithful dog fighting and striving to drive the wolves away ; but they were ravenous and would not be driven off by the dog. Mrs. Wilson lighted a torch, rushed out, frightened away the wolves, and rescued the sheep. The savage animals remained so near that she could distinctly hear their teeth gnash and grind together as they thus gave vent to their unavailing rage. For many years previous to her death she had been blind, but she was cheerful, resigned and happy. Most of the time during her later years, she fancied and believed that she was living with her husband and children who had long been dead. Again she would recognize and converse intelligently with her living sons and daughters at her bedside. Mrs. Wilson was a religious woman ; she united with the Methodist Episcopal church in 1809, at her old home in the State of Maryland. The Methodists held camp meeting for a number of years in a grove upon her husband's farm, and a church (Wesley Chapel) was subsequently erected near the old camp ground.
His great-grandfather, and namesake, was Thomas Wilson II, who had fought in the American Revolution. Thomas was enlisted with the 4th Company, Frederick Detachment, 4th Battalion,Maryland Troops, 5/2/1782, under Capt. George Richard Byrd. He is interned at Wilson Cemetery at Altamont, Maryland.
The Wilson genealogy includes this letter and following information composed by James Wilson to Thomas Wilson II:
In the year 1811, James and Martha moved to Clayton Township, Perry County, OH. and purchased a farm now known as "Wesley Chapel", which is still in posession of their descendants (1931)James Wilson, son of Thomas II, was born March 6, 1781. He married Martha Ashby and migrated at an early date to Washington Court House,Ohio.The following letter was written by him in Ohio and sent to hisparents by his double brother-in-law, Capt. Jesse Ashby, who was returning East from service during the war of 1812; Aprile the 25 A. D. 1813 Dear father and mother, brothers and sisters. Opportunity offers once more of writing to you which I gladly imbrace. My dear friend I can inform you that we are all in reasonable helth thanks be to the hand thatgave it hoping that you all enjoy the same blessing I have nothing strange to inform you of your friend in this cuntary are all reasonablewell we have had a hard winter but a good spring. I must give you account of my work. I have built a barn 22 feet by fifty-four I have sewed 1 bushed and a peck of flax seed it is up very nice and some oats sowed by small grain looks well I have been clearing six acres of ground that I expect to plant in corn. My friends I want to hear from you write to me the first opportunity this is the second letter and received no answer we wish to be remembered to all inquiring friends I have left my fathers house and friends and come to a strange land but theLord has blest me with kind friends and neighbors but I am bound by the titles of nature to have a peticular regard for you my friends My dear friends I am still striving to serve in weak way and manner My dear friends remember me when it is well with thee my friend I must bid you a long far well and so remains your affectionate son and daughter James Wilson and Martha (Folded and addressed on back:) To Mr. Thomas Wilson Green Glades
Like Nellie, Thomas also would have also known the stories of his brave ancestor. It is without a doubt that the two would have shared a common interest in perpetuating such rich and meaningful history.
Thomas Charles Wilson, son of James Riley Wilson and Jane S. Johnson Wilson, was born 24 Nov. 1862 in Perry County, Ohio. He was one of eight children born to the couple. His siblings were as follows: James William Wilson, born December 18, 1859; died November 11, 1930.Mary Aurilla Wilson, born September 12, 1843; died March 27, 1885, Harriet E. Wilson, born October 19, 1845; died August 24, 1854, Edith Jane Wilson, born April 20, 1848, Sarah Katherine Wilson, born January 20, 1851; died July 06, 1926, Aaron Johnson Wilson, born July 23, 1854, Martha Rachel Wilson, born March 22, 1857; died October 31, 1931, and James William Wilson, born December 18, 1859; died November 11, 1930.
James Wilson’s usual form of work was that of a farmer. He had a large farm in Clayton, Twp., Perry County, Ohio. In order to provide a bit of historic insight as to what the Wilson nineteenth century farm was like, please note the following information. In 1880, James Wilson’s farm included six milk cows, seven “other” cows (possibly oxen), five calves born on the property, fifty hens, eighty-one sheep, and twelve swine. His farm produced eighteen acres of Indian corn, four acres of oats, fifteen acres of wheat, an acre of potatoes, and 3 acres of apples. In the year previous, he had produced seventy pounds of honey and three hundred pounds of butter.
After the death of his father, James, T.C. resided in Somerset with his sister, Edith, who never married, and his aging mother, who had returned from residing in Iowa circa 1910. Per the 1910 census, his mother was 88 years old and his sister was 61. The Wilsons employed a servant girl by the name of Mary Souslin, who also lived in with them. She was 31 years old. Thomas was a merchant in a business called Johnson and Wilson. It specialized in clothing.
Thomas Wilson died on his wedding night in 1913. Nellie purchased a burial plot in the Somerset Methodist Cemetery for him. His mother outlived him by four years and died in 1917.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.