THROUGH RAIN, SLEET, SNOW & HAIL

 

The weekly meeting with my coffee club members always brings something new and interesting to discuss as we sip our many cups of coffee during the morning.

        Take for instance back in June, Mason brought several pieces of antiquity; letters written to his grandfather by his great-grandfather. The handwriting was almost Spencerian in script and had a light, “spidery” effect as if the pen merely floated over the paper, leaving just the faintest impression of ink on the pages. And of course back then, letters took on a more personal, almost Elizabethan tone and stance, making the reading of these letters even more enjoyable.

        These letters brought up scattered memories of the post offices of yore and how, back in the day the appreciation, dependence and authority we had in the United States Postal Service. I mentioned the fact that within recent week’s two new histories of the post office had been published, giving impressive accounts of how the post office came to be and prospered until the advent of the computer and email.

        Remembering back to my childhood, one of my favorite comic strips was “Blondie” and I always loved the collisions Dagwood would have with their mail carrier, Mr. Beasley. While the others bantered on about their various memories of the post office’s they had used during their lives, I sipped my coffee remembering the post office in Monroe; the beautiful building which now is home to the Monroe Art Guild. The memories came flooding to mind.

        On the days I retrieved the mail from our small brass cubicle, Box 123, it was always exciting to find the box almost full which meant a variety of choices;  Letters, bills, advertisements and those always anticipated stock cards put in your box to let you know a package, parcel or larger envelope was awaiting you at the main window. Another treat of going to the post office was in December when you would open your box and the number of Christmas cards had completely filled the box with a note saying to come to the window to collect the cards which could not fit in your box.  Another December treat was finding many of the cards postmarked from the tiny post office in Bethlehem, Georgia. Many Monroe folk drove to Bethlehem just to have their holiday cards mailed from that location. The post office was always a great place to visit with friends and catch up on the news as you collected your mail.

               

        The advent of Monroe’s post office goes almost back to the early beginnings of the town. Looking back in my notebooks I found an article on the history of the post office from the Tribune dated December 1952 and along with Anita Sams’ “Wayfarers in Walton”, I have a fairly accurate story of when the mail service came to town, the postmasters and the buildings used as post offices up to 1968.

        The county seat’s first post office was established on May 20, 1820 on a Broad Street site between today’s courthouse and the present postal building. With this addition the nucleus of a village was completed.

        The first postmaster was Edward Williams, who received $87.57 as compensation for his year’s work.  This sum seems much larger when compared to the post office’s total annual receipts of $159.72.

        Following Mr. Williams’ appointment as postmaster, his successors and the dates of their appointments, shown by official records at the Post Office Department in Washington are: Elisha Betts, Feb. 23, 1821; James Ferguson, July 18, 1832; Rueben Weaver, Jr., November 22, 1834; Leroy Pattilo, Dec. 4, 1835; James S. Bullock, July 18, 1859; James W. Baker, Jan. 4, 1886; Miss Martha A. Rooks, March 21, 1867; Mrs. Martha A. Schaeffer, May 15, 1886; Mrs. Willie Sheats, January 26, 1897; Mrs. Irene W. Field, (acting) Dec. 11, 1926; Mrs. Irene W. Field, January 10, 1928; M. P. Green, (acting) July 1, 1955; Emory Camp, (acting) November 1, 1956 and Emory Camp, May 28, 1957.(At the time of this history, Mr. Camp was still postmaster.)

        For many years Monroe was an insignificant village with only three or four small stores with only three mail deliveries coming in each week.  Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays were mail days; the parcels, letters and newspapers being brought in by horse & buggy or maybe by pack mules.

        Mentioned earlier, the first post office was located on Broad Street, slightly north of the current postal building.  When Miss Rooks became postmaster in 1867, she had a small wooden building erected in the back yard of her home.  The residence faced Midland Avenue and was accessible from East Spring Street. During the late 1890’s when Mrs. Sheats took over the title, the office moved to a nearby business house fronting on the latter street which was known for many years as Post Office Street. This house was in close proximity to the side door of the courthouse.

        The next move established the post office on the east side of North Broad adjacent to and north of the quarters of the old Walton Tribune offices.  On July 18, 1932, it moved into the beautiful, new $46,000 building at the corner of South Broad Street and East Washington (formerly known as Pearl) streets.  The Monroe post office attained second-class status in 1914 and became first-class on July 1, 1952.  The 1965-1966 fiscal year receipts of $148,050.13 was an interesting comparison to that of the first year’s income of $159.72.

        Two of the estimable ladies who oversaw the daily operations of the Monroe Post Office, Miss. Martha Rooks who later married and became Mrs. Martha Schaeffer and Mrs. Irene Walker Field, both were well known in the community and had long terms of serving Monroe. Mrs.Schaeffer, 30 years and Mrs. Field, 29 years.

        In the days prior to the advent of rural free delivery, numerous settlements in Walton requested and received post offices. The names of the settlements and the postmasters can be found in “Wayfarers in Walton”.

        Delivery of mail was no easy job in the pioneer days.  Deep mud, ice, frequent road obstacles and violent storms washed out bridges and added little to the attractiveness of the government’s January 5, 1847 request via the Athens Southern Banner for bids for transportation over specified routes from July 11, 1847 to June 30, 1851.

        By 1891, the usual delivery days of Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays were still being kept but the post office was now beginning to receive mail daily except on Sunday. Changes were implemented to change these delivery days where mail could be collected daily.

        The manner in which the mail was handled back then compared to the advances leading up to 1968 and beyond was a big leap from a story related by the Walton County Vidette on September 13, 1881 and attributed to the Loganville postmaster.  A letter was received addressed to a former resident with the instructions to “Please Forward”.  After several weeks stay at Loganville, the communication went to the dead letter office with the notation: “Can’t forward! The durn kuss is dead and all attempts abandoned.”

        The advent of technology and computers have taken a hard toll on today’s post office and has all but made letter writing extinct with “email” taking its place. Each time I receive a handwritten letter I remember the quote a former letter-writing friend had imprinted on his stationery: “A Letter is a Gift Denied the Gods.”  Emails are faster but the beauty and charm of a handwritten or typed letter still beats reading one’s thoughts from a computer screen.  Old letters are to be savored and treasured as this particular art is rapidly dying thanks to age of technology.

        A further history from 1968 to the present will follow.