In the year 1811, Ohio saw many significant events: the New Madrid earthquake, the first steamboat, to sail down the Ohio from Pittsburgh to Mississippi(approximately three thousand such boats traversed the murky waters of the Ohio per month between eighteen ten and eighteen twenty),and Somerset’s first post office!
The original office was located along Zane’s Trace, the first federally funded highway to pass through the Ohio frontier. As a side note, the trace, named for Ebenezer Zane, ran from Wheeling, WV to Maysville KY ( called Limestone. It was approximately twenty feet wide, which is really an incredible feat considering how many miles of the former trail had to have been cleared by hand, to allow wagon access. Logs were placed at marshy sections of the trace as to allow horses and wagons to navigate through muddy terrain.
Jacob Miller, co-founder of the village, was the first postmaster. He was also official fence viewer, overseer of the poor, and a devout Catholic. It was within his tavern, constructed in 1807 and also situated along the trace, which he kept the first postoffice. Jacob had sold lots in Somerset in 1810 and wasted no time in establishing a post office. Interestingly enough, by the time the Sheridan family first came to Ohio, they stayed within the tavern and later owned this tavern for a brief time. Of course, this was decades before the time of Nellie, but one wonders if there is not some sort of genetic imprint because there is such a strong family connection with the building and her chosen career. In 1889, Nellie took the following oath to become postmistress:
“I, Nellie Frances Sheridan, do swear/affirm that I will faithfully perform all the duties required of me, and abstain from everything forbidden by the laws in relation to the establishment of the Post Office and post roads within the United States. I do solemnly swear/affirm that I will support the Constitution of the United States.”
As Somerset Postmistress, Nellie was required to post a bond and reside within the village of Somerset for the duration of her duties. This was not an issue for the Somerset native, who resided all but the last two years of her life within her beloved community. Postmasters were traditionally exempt from military duty, but could be called upon to work on the roads. There are no such reports of Nellie working on the road, but honestly, I certainly wouldn’t put it past her abilities to do so!
The post office, during Nellie’s time, was more than just a place to pick up mail. It was a commons. It was the place in which one visited with townspeople, shared recipes, gossip, and friendships. Nellie was a link for many to the world of Somerset.