OOS Sculpture

Nellie Sheridan Wilson

2018 / Alan Cottrill / Somerset

20210227_173703 (2).jpg

This is a bronze life-size sculpture of Nellie Sheridan Wilson (1870-1947), the first female postmistress of Perry County and the second in the state of Ohio. It stands outside the former post office where she worked from the late 1800s to the 1930s, which is in a building she owned until her death in 1947. The statue depicts Wilson at 19, when she was appointed postmistress, holding a letter in both hands, dressed modestly in a high-collared, floor-length dress, with her hair pulled back in a bun.

Wilson was the niece of Civil War hero, General Phillip Sheridan, whose own statue sits in the middle of the Somerset public square, catty-corner from Wilson's. (Sheridan's statue: OOS item #1658). She and her sister had spearheaded the campaign for his statue, with Wilson orchestrating a penny fund for local children to pay for the granite base. While her connection to her uncle is noted on her statue's marker, there is no mention of her on his, where it only notes that "Somerset citizens" paid for the base through the fund. However, Wilson was a notable figure in her own right.

At the age of 19, Nellie Sheridan Wilson was appointed the postmistress of Somerset, the first female to fill the position in Perry County and only the second in the entire state. She served in the role until the 1930s. However, her gender did not make such longevity easy. In the early 1900s, U.S. Postmaster General Henry Payne did not approve of married women serving as postal employees, let alone as postmaster. He composed an order that said any female postal employee must remain unmarried or resign. Nellie Sheridan had been seeing a gentleman named Thomas Wilson for years, and in 1913, after 15 years of courtship, they finally married. He died the morning after their wedding from a condition known as nephritis (then-called Bright's Disease). Wilson had resigned the day of her wedding, but following her husband's passing, she withdrew her resignation. She had to fight to be reappointed, declaring that, when she closed the post office on September 3, 1913, she was unmarried, and when she reopened them the next morning, she was a widow, and there was no rule banning widows from working in the postal service. The battle between Wilson and federal and state officials made national news, but she eventually prevailed. She would serve as Somerset's postmistress, having been reappointed under the name Nellie Sheridan Wilson, until 1935.

Wilson was incredibly active in all things political, and she was also a suffragette, chairperson of the Perry County chapter of the American Red Cross during World War I, head of the local Chamber of Congress, and president of the Daughters of Union Veterans. Due to her leadership roles, she also earned a seat on Perry County's Republican Executive Committee and the Ohio Committee for the Improving of Rural Government, and it was rumored she might run for election to Congress. She also co-owned a local mercantile, having taken over her late husband's half of the partnership and becoming owner of the building following his passing. The building also housed the postal office where she worked.

Gwen Young, former mayor of Somerset, worked for years to erect a statue of Wilson. Young passed away in 2016, two years before her dream was realized, and family asked any donations in her honor go to the fundraising for the statue. Young had formed a committee in 2014, the Nellie Sheridan Wilson Heritage Foundation, whose mission was to raise $40,000 to commission famed Zanesville sculptor, Alan Cottrill, to create the statue. Over the course of four years and dozens of fundraising events, they surpassed their goal, and the slightly-over-five-foot statue was unveiled and dedicated on September 29, 2018.

Location: Somerset Square, Intersection of US-22 and OH-13

County

: Perry

Citation

: Alan Cottrill, “Nellie Sheridan Wilson,” Ohio Outdoor Sculpture , accessed September 28, 2021, https://oos.sculpturecenter.org/index.php/items/show/1903.

Title

Nellie Sheridan Wilson

Description

This is a bronze life-size sculpture of Nellie Sheridan Wilson (1870-1947), the first female postmistress of Perry County and the second in the state of Ohio. It stands outside the former post office where she worked from the late 1800s to the 1930s, which is in a building she owned until her death in 1947. The statue depicts Wilson at 19, when she was appointed postmistress, holding a letter in both hands, dressed modestly in a high-collared, floor-length dress, with her hair pulled back in a bun.

Wilson was the niece of Civil War hero, General Phillip Sheridan, whose own statue sits in the middle of the Somerset public square, catty-corner from Wilson's. (Sheridan's statue: OOS item #1658). She and her sister had spearheaded the campaign for his statue, with Wilson orchestrating a penny fund for local children to pay for the granite base. While her connection to her uncle is noted on her statue's marker, there is no mention of her on his, where it only notes that "Somerset citizens" paid for the base through the fund. However, Wilson was a notable figure in her own right.

At the age of 19, Nellie Sheridan Wilson was appointed the postmistress of Somerset, the first female to fill the position in Perry County and only the second in the entire state. She served in the role until the 1930s. However, her gender did not make such longevity easy. In the early 1900s, U.S. Postmaster General Henry Payne did not approve of married women serving as postal employees, let alone as postmaster. He composed an order that said any female postal employee must remain unmarried or resign. Nellie Sheridan had been seeing a gentleman named Thomas Wilson for years, and in 1913, after 15 years of courtship, they finally married. He died the morning after their wedding from a condition known as nephritis (then-called Bright's Disease). Wilson had resigned the day of her wedding, but following her husband's passing, she withdrew her resignation. She had to fight to be reappointed, declaring that, when she closed the post office on September 3, 1913, she was unmarried, and when she reopened them the next morning, she was a widow, and there was no rule banning widows from working in the postal service. The battle between Wilson and federal and state officials made national news, but she eventually prevailed. She would serve as Somerset's postmistress, having been reappointed under the name Nellie Sheridan Wilson, until 1935.

Wilson was incredibly active in all things political, and she was also a suffragette, chairperson of the Perry County chapter of the American Red Cross during World War I, head of the local Chamber of Congress, and president of the Daughters of Union Veterans. Due to her leadership roles, she also earned a seat on Perry County's Republican Executive Committee and the Ohio Committee for the Improving of Rural Government, and it was rumored she might run for election to Congress. She also co-owned a local mercantile, having taken over her late husband's half of the partnership and becoming owner of the building following his passing. The building also housed the postal office where she worked.

Gwen Young, former mayor of Somerset, worked for years to erect a statue of Wilson. Young passed away in 2016, two years before her dream was realized, and family asked any donations in her honor go to the fundraising for the statue. Young had formed a committee in 2014, the Nellie Sheridan Wilson Heritage Foundation, whose mission was to raise $40,000 to commission famed Zanesville sculptor, Alan Cottrill, to create the statue. Over the course of four years and dozens of fundraising events, they surpassed their goal, and the slightly-over-five-foot statue was unveiled and dedicated on September 29, 2018.

Creator

Date

2018

Source

https://nelliesheridanstatue.wordpress.com/
https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=133508
https://www.perrytribune.com/news/article_5a388495-73c5-5330-b01a-52824c07e7df.html
https://www.dispatch.com/entertainmentlife/20180930/joe-blundo-statue-pays-tribute-to-postmaster-who-wouldnt-let-men-take-her-job

Identifier

1903

Location City

Location County

Location Notes

Outside of Underwood's Hardware Store, which sits in the building Nellie Sheridan Wilson owned until her death and that also housed the local post office.

Provider Entity

Gwen Young
The Nellie Sheridan Wilson Heritage Foundation
Citizens of Somerset
North Valley Bank
Suburban Landfill, subsidiary of Waste Management

Location Site

Location Street

Intersection of US-22 and OH-13

Location Type

Artist Notes

https://www.alancottrill.com/

Media Sculpture Height

5'

Installation Date

2018

Creation Date

2016-2018

Materials

Inscription

Nellie Sheridan was born into a traditional Irish family but was not content to fill the usual role of a 19th century woman working only inside the home. Somerset's first female postmaster and one of the youngest one in U.S. history, Nellie at 19 sought the office and was first appointed by President Harrison in 1889 to serve until her retirement in 1930. Since postal regulations forbade married women from holding office, Nellie remained single despite having a long-time suitor Thomas C. Wilson. In 1913 Nellie finally married her ailing fiancé who died within hours of the wedding. Though heartbroken, she resumed her postmaster duties the following morning (many were vying for the job) since there was no postal ruling against widows holding the position. She and her sister were chiefly responsible for the creation and placement of her uncle Phil Sheridan's equestrian bronze in Somerset Square. She ran her own mercantile business (1914-1926) and benefitted the citizens of Perry County, women in particular as a role model, working in every “civic political enterprise” imaginable. Because she was chairman of the local American Red Cross during WWI, president of Daughters of Union Veterans, secretary of Sheridan Monument Association and more, she earned a seat on the county Republican Executive Committee as well as the Ohio Committee for Improvement of Rural Government - truly a woman ahead of her time. Gwen Young (1922-2016) a Somerset mayor, recognized these accomplishments and started the statue project made possible by the generosity of the citizens of Somerset, Perry County, surrounding counties, and these major sponsors: North Valley Bank and Suburban Landfill, a subsidiary of Waste Management

Additional Resources

https://nelliesheridanstatue.wordpress.com