Somerset(population 1,550) is located in central Ohio. The village was founded in 1807 along the Zane’s Trace, America’s first federally funded highway, which opened the new state of Ohio to settlers after the vanquished Native Americans ceded the land. Jacob Miller and John Finck, Pennsylvanians of German descent, each purchased a quarter township section of land in Chillicothe, then the state capital. Miller and Finck each built a two-story log tavern, so there was one on either side of the village providing food and lodging to the stream of immigrants purchasing land in the new territory. In 1810 they began to sell lots in the village and by 1840 the town had grown to its present population of 1,550.
Originally the county seat of Perry County, the area’s agricultural and small-business based economy has continued to this day. A weekly Somerset Farmer’s Market attracts residents and tourists to purchase produce and Amish baked goods.
The Somerset Historic District was placed on the National Register in 1975. The village’s Economic Revitalization and Heritage Tourism Project acquired 28 acres of green space for a public nature preserve linked to the 50-acre historic district by handicapped-accessible sidewalks. The project also sponsors a self-guided walking tour, an art walk, and an Oktoberfest celebration each year.
The all-volunteer Perry County Historical Society owns and operates the Perry County Historical Museum, housed in a restored 1830s-era brick building within the Somerset Historic District. Most items on display were donated by members of the community, including Civil War memorabilia commemorating Union Gen. Philip Sheridan, who spent his boyhood in Somerset.
The society recently discovered that Jacob Miller’s 1906 two-story hewn log tavern building still exists beneath clapboard siding. The society purchased the Jacob Miller Tavern and has begun research and restoration. The group has also sponsored lectures on aspects of the Civil War, such as the Underground Railroad and medical advancements.
In 2007, the village celebrated its 200th anniversary with a number of community events, including rededication of the equestrian statue of Gen. Sheridan, and a Civil War Ball hosted by the historical society in the recently restored 1829 federal courthouse, the oldest public building in continued service in the Northwest Territory.
Designated a Preserve America Community in January 2011.