Middletown, Ohio (Perry County)
Somerset, which was once known as Middletown, was formerly the county seat of Perry County, Ohio.
In 1807, John Finck erected the first log cabin in what would become Somerset. Several years later, Jacob Miller arrived, becoming the second settler in this community. The men named the town Middletown, since it was approximately equal distant to Lancaster to the west and Zanesville to the east. Soon residents changed the town's name to Somerset, as most early residents were from Somerset, Pennsylvania.
In the 1810s, Somerset grew quickly and, in 1817, became the Perry County seat of government. In 1846, Somerset boasted a population of nearly 1,400 residents. That same year, the community included four churches, three newspapers, sixteen stores, an iron foundry, and a tobacco warehouse. The town also claimed a Catholic nunnery and St. Mary's Seminary, a school for young women. Two miles south of Somerset was also located St. Joseph's Church, the first documented Catholic Church in Ohio.
By 1850, Perry County's population had reached nearly twenty thousand people. Many residents desired to relocate the county seat from Somerset, which is located in the northern part of the county, to New Lexington, a more centralized spot. The county seat moved to New Lexington by the start of the American Civil War.
During the remainder of the nineteenth and the first portion of the twentieth centuries, Somerset's population remained stable at approximately 1,200 residents. Many residents earned their livings in the surrounding iron and coalmines. As iron and coal deposits began to decline, residents began to find employment in other industries principally in the nearby cities of Lancaster and Zanesville. In 2000, Somerset's population had reached 1,500 people.
Civil War General Philip Sheridan spent much of his youth in Somerset. Although not open to the public, his home remains standing today.
- Howe, Henry. Historical Collections of Ohio in Two Volumes. Vol. II. Cincinnati, OH: C.J. Krehbiel & Co., Printers and Binders, 1902.
- "Somerset, Ohio Welcomes You!" http://www.somersetohio.us%22>http://www.somersetohio.us.