THE GRAND RAPIDS POSTOFFICE

Page 961 & 962

Up to November, 1879, the Grand Rapids Postoffice was an itinerant institution. In the beginning the fur traders and missionaries at the Rapids depended upon Indian scouts for their communication by correspondence with the civilized world. The first Postoffice was at the mission station on the west bank of the river, established in 1832. It stood a few rods south of Bridge Street, and a postmaster was appointed in December of that year. After settlers began to come and the inconvenience of bringing letters across the river in canoes began to be felt. Joel Guild acted as deputy or clerk and in 1834 the reception and delivery of mail matter was conducted at his house where now is the National City Bank. In his books of that year appear numerous accounts with settlers here and up and down the river; such as charges of postage on letters at rates from 12 Ĺ to 25 cents, and quarterly postage on newspaper, from 12 Ĺ to 18 ĺ cents. The quarter beginning July 1, 1834, shows a list of thirteen newspapers taken by residents of the valley. Of course these were all eastern papers as none were then published in this part of Michigan. In 1836 the office was removed to the east side of the river, and was kept at the house of the postmaster, Darius Winsor, at the corner of Ottawa and Fountain streets, where now is the New Aldrich Block. The contents of the mail bag could be accommodated in Mr. Winsorís capacious waistcoat pocket, which the people sometimes facetiously called his Postoffice. He soon removed the office to a point on Monroe street nearly opposite Market. The next move was in 1838, to a little building on the west side of Prospect Hill at Lyon street. A rough wagon road wound its way nearly up to the office from the west, while the approach from the east was by foot path over the top of the hill. Its subsequent moves were: In 1841 to Canal street, just south of Lyon; in 1844, to the south side of Monroe street above Market; in 1846, to the east corner of Canal and Pearl streets, where now the Lovett block; in 1849, from the corner a little north on the east side of Canal street; in 1853, two doors down further north; in 1857, to Exchange Place or alley (Arcade), midway between Pearl and Lyon streets; in 1861, to the McReynolds Block, corner of Lyon and the Arcade; in 1868, to the Eagle Building, north side of Lyon, between Canal and Kent; and thence, November 15, 1879, to the new Government Building. From the small sack carried by the Indian scout on his pony in 1833 to the car loads of pouches and bags now coming and going almost hourly, the growth of the postal business here has kept pace with that of the community and its social and business interests.

The Postmasters

Page 962 & 963 & 964

The names of Postmasters here and the dates of their appointment, as shown by the Bond Division of the Postoffice Department are as follows: Grand Rapids, Leonard Slater, appointed December 22, 1836. Name of the office changed to Kent, September 1, 1836, and Darius Winsor appointed. Alfred D. Rathbone (at Kent), July 11, 1838. James M. Nelson (at Kent), September 4, 1841. February 6, 1844, name of the office changed back to Grand Rapids, and James M. Nelson continued as Postmaster. Truman H. Lyon, April 9, 1845. Ralph W. Cole, March 26, 1849. Truman H. Lyon, March 25, 1853 and reappointed February 21, 1856. Harvey P. Yale, September 29, 1857. Noyes L. Avery, March 27, 1861. Charles H. Taylor, August 24, 1866. Soloman O. Kingsbury, March 11, 15867. Aaron B. Turner, April 9, 1869. Peter R. L. Pierce, March 19, 1877. (Mr. Pierce died November 12, 1878, and Martin L. Sweet, one of the trustees, had charge of the office until a successor was appointed.)

James Gallup, December 18, 1878. Herman N. Moore, December 20, 1882, James Blair, September 29, 1886. George G. Briggs, April 2, 1890. Thoms F. Carroll, April 3, 1894. Loomis K. Bishop June 1, 1898. The office became a "Presidential" Postoffice February 21, 1856, with a salary at $1,000 a year. The salary of the postmaster now (1905) $3,800.

For several years prior to 1837, the only regular mail into Grand Rapids came from the direction of Detroit, and was rather irregular in the route traveled and time required for its passage. It was first brought by scouts or runners, sometimes on foot, sometimes with horse or pony, but very seldom in a carriage of any kind. The average frequency of mail arrivals was less than one a week. A little later mails were brought on horseback by way of Gull Prairie or Kalamazoo as often as once a week. There was little occasion at that time for mails from any other direction than south and east. In 1837 contracts were made for bringing the mail from Battle Creek by stage twice a week; the stipulated time being twelve hours, with a provision allowing for delays by stress of weather under which it not infrequently amounted to thirty-six hours. The stage of that period was generally an old fashioned, cumberous, lumber wagon, often carrying passengers as well as mail. It was not until August 1846 that a daily mail from the east by way of Battle Creek was established and this for two or three years was sometimes nearly two days in getting through. In 1841, mail arrivals were once a week from Kalamazoo, Howell, Grand Haven and Austerlitz (the latter place being in Plainfield Township, this county), and once in two weeks from Jackson. In the fall of that year mail service from Kalamazoo twice a week was established. In 1842 routes were established from Grand Rapids via Lake Alone (Green Lake) to Middleville and by Allenís Corners, Lake Alone and Barnes Mill to Kalamazoo, and also from Grandville to Pot Sheldon. In 1843 there were three stages a week from Battle Creek but the local newspaper complained that there were only two mails a week. In 1844, the route between Grand Rapids and Grand Haven was changed from the south to the north side of the river. In 1846, there were lettings for mail service once a week to Lyons, to Ionia, to Grand Haven (two routes, one on each side of the river), to Kalamazoo, to Paw Paw, to Muskegon Mills in Newaygo county, to Lincolnís Mills in Montcalm county, and three times a week to Battle Creek. New Postal routes were established in September 1850, to Lyons, to Ionia, to Muskegon and to Mackinac. From this time mail service was established on new routes nearly every year in various directions from the city, until the advent of railroads. There were daily mails during the summer season both up and down the river, and throughout the year several from southward. The railroads as fast as they came furnished new and increased facilities, each of them bringing mails at least twice a day.

From the pocket office of Postmaster Winsor to the present Postoffice in this city, the growth of our postal accommodations is worthy of study. It was said that his vest pocket generally held the entire letter contents of any incoming mail and it is not recorded that there was a single lock-box or drawer, or even a case of pigeon holes in the Postoffice of the early days. Now, these appliances fill the largest apartment in the Government Building, at one door of which comes an goes a steady file of mail bags, and at the other an equally constant procession of citizen customers, while the business gives employment to a small army of clerks and carriers. In the first quarter of 1868 the delivery of letters averaged about 1200 daily, and in the office, which was then in the Eagle Building, were 2,134 boxes and 530 drawers, of which about two thirds were in use. At the end of 1872 the proportions were changed. There were then 1,896 pigeon holes and 2,880 drawers. The introduction of the carrier system greatly decreased the demand for office boxes.

The City Delivery

Page 964

The free delivery system by carriers was established September 1, 1873, with the following force: ohn Sonke, Raymond McGowan, C.W. Bignell, C.L. Shattuck and J.F. Lamoreaux. The salary of the letter carriers at that time was $600, to be increased $100 at the end of the fiscal year and $150 more at the end of the second year.

 

1905 List of Mail Carriers
from
1906 Goss History of Grand Rapids, Michigan

NAME NAME
Frank H. Barber Robert Milne
Palmer S. Barker Michael M. Minogue
Herbert L. Barrett Gaius L. Mitchell
Wm. H. Bement Wm. Mitchell
Louis L. Beneker Alpha E. Mosley
Dennis T. Berry Cornelius Nienwenhuise
Willard S. Berry Clfford R. Olewine
John Bogert Hewitt M. Patterson
Bernard Bronwer Peter Rastaussen
Daniel F. Clark Edward R. Rasch
Horace B. Clark Peter Rasmussen
George E. Cook Edmund J. Riordan
Jas. A. Cronin John A. Risendorph
John C. DeOude Samuel J. Roach
James DeYoung Benjamin A. Schoonbeck
John A. DeYoung Wm. R. Seybold
Charles W. Dolan Ernest J. Sigler
Andrew E. Eckhoff Willis E. Signor
Clare M. Findlay Charles G. Singer
Frank J. Fisher Elmer F. Slocum
Martin Gilbertson John Sonke
Edward Glowczynski Jacob Stander
Thomas P. Gordon Hans C. Svevad
John C. Hansen Eugene M. Townsend
Samuel Harting Fred M. Utley
Henry Heering Harry Van der Veen
Mel S. Heering Ernest G. Van Leeuwen
Louis F. Heiden Herman Warrell
John M. Hendricks Frank P. Whitman
Stephen F. Hilton Albert J. Williams
Wm. A. Hollister Clarence O. Wing
John F. Holmes Rocke R. Wood
John W. Jones Royal P. Woodworth
Frank L. Kampschulte Asa B. Youngblood
Edwin L. Keef
Alexander McDonald
Christopher McNally
Fletcher H. Mason
Wm. L. Messer
Wm. W. Meyers
Frank N. Miller

Transcriber: Maureen Slade
Created: 29 July 2004
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/goss/postoffice.html