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Our Meandering Post Office
Like the town, court, village and city offices, the post office in the early days never had a permanent home. It was moved from the west side to the east, then continued its meandering until finally in 1879 it found a permanent home on the present site---where once was a small pond and swamp. Mail has been brought to Grand Rapids by Indian scouts, by whites on horseback and in wagons, by boat, by stage, and by the railroads. There was no regular postoffice here until 1832, when one was established at the Baptisit mission station on the west side, near Bridge street and Front avenue. December 22 of that year the Reverend Leonard Slater, in charge of the mission, was appointed the first postmaster of Grand Rapids.
There were then no bridges across the river, and as most of the pioneers built their homes on the east side, they began to complain of the delays incidental to bringing mail across the river in canoes or on the ice. Accordingly Joel Guild in 1834 acted as a deputy or clerk for the postmaster and received and delivered mail at his frame house on the east side of Campau square. Besides the letters received here in that year, thirteen eastern newspapers arrived, to be read by the residents of the valley.
The postoffice address of the settlement was "Grand Rapids" until September 1, 1836, when Daruis Winsor was appointed postmaster and the name was changed to "Kent." Alfred D. Rathbone succeeded Darius Winsor July 11, 1838, and served until September 4, 1841, when James M. Nelson was given the appointment. February 6, 1844, during Mr. Nelson's term, the postoffice address was changed back to "Grand Rapids." Truman H. Lyon was the next postmaster, appointed April 9, 1845, and his successors and the dates of their appointments were:
Ralph W. Cole, March 26, 1849
Truman H. Lyon, March 25, 1853
Harvey P. Yale, September 29, 1857
Noyes L. Avery, March 27, 1861
Charles H. Taylor, August 24, 1866
Solomon O. Kingsbury, March 11, 1867
Aaron B. Turner, April 9, 1869
Peter R. L. Peirce, March 19, 1877 (Mr. Peirce died November 12, 1878 and Martin L. Sweet, one of his sureties, took charge of the office until his successor was named.)
James Gallup, December 18, 1878
Heman N. Moore, December 20, 1882
James Blair, September 29, 1885
George G. Briggs, April 2, 1890
Thomas F. Carroll, April 3, 1894
Loomis K. Bishop, June 1, 1898
W. Millard Palmer, February 20, 1912
Charles Holden (acting), June 11, 1914
Charles E. Hogadone, November 19, 1914
Robert G. Hill, July 29, 1923
The selections of the postmasters here were made by the postmaster general until February 21, 1856, when the office became what is known as "presidential," the appointment being made by the president subject to the approval of the United States senate. The salary in 1856 was $1,000 a year.
When Daruis Winsor became postmaster he established the office in his house, at Ottawa avenue and Fountain street, where the Aldrich block now stands. Historian Baxter says the contents of the mail bag at that time were not very heavy, "scarely more than could be accommodated in Mr. Winsor's capacious waistcoat pocket, which the people sometimes facetiouly called his postoffice." Mr. Winsor soon removed the office to Monroe avenue, opposite Market avenue. The next move was to a small building on the west side of Prospect hill, at Lyon street. When a resident wanted his mail or desired to post a letter he could drive up the hill from the west or go up by a footpath from the east, which went over the top of the hill.
In 1841 the postoffice meandered to Canal (Monroe) street, just south of Lyon; in 1844 to the south side of Monroe avenue above Market; in 1846 to Monroe and Pearl; in 1849 to the east side of Monroe, north of Pearl; in 1853 two doors further north; in 1857 to Exchange place, or the Arcade, midway between Pearl and Lyon; in 1861 to the McReynolds block, Lyon and the Arcade; in 1868 to the Eagle building, north side of Lyon, between Monroe and Bond avenue.
November 15, 1879, the government completed a postoffice building on the present site, and the office ended its wanderings, which were interrupted only one more, during the time the first federal building was torn down and the present structure was being erected, when the office temporarily found a home on the east side of Division avenue, directly across from the government property. The present government building was begun in 1908 and completed in 1911.
The mail from the east was most important in the earliest days. It was brought here from that direction less than one a week up to about 1837. A little later it came once a week by way of Gull Prairie or Kalamazoo, being carried on horseback. In 1837 the mail was brought twice a week from Battle Creek, under a contract, the stipulated time for transporting it by stage being twelve hours, which frequently grew to thirty-six when the weather or the road was bad. Eleven years later, in August, 1846, a daily mail was established from the east by way of Battle Creek.
In 1841 mail was supposed to arrive here once a week from Kalamazoo, Howell, Grand Haven, and Austerlitz, in Plainfield township, and once in two weeks from Jackson. In the fall of that year twice a week service from Kalamazoo was established.
In 1846 mail service once a week became effective to Grand Haven, Lyons, Ionia, Kalamazoo, Paw Paw, Muskegon, Mills in Newaygo county, and Lincoln's mills in Montcalm county. Postal roads were established to Muskegon and Mackinaw in 1850. As roads were improved and the state grew in population, new mail routes were established every year until the railroads came, when revolutionary changes were made.
Transcriber: Ronnie Aungst
Created: 10 December 1999