Growing through the years
(Editor's note: this is the second in a series of articles examining the history of the Post Office in Wadena and surrounding towns.) In 1906, it was reported that the people of Leaf River Station (present day Whitetail Run and the bike trail) we...
(Editor's note: this is the second in a series of articles examining the history of the Post Office in Wadena and surrounding towns.)
In 1906, it was reported that the people of Leaf River Station (present day Whitetail Run and the bike trail) were worried because Postmaster Albert Nelson, who had a store at Leaf River Station, was selling out and moving. The post office job alone was not practical and the people were seeking someone to put in a store and assume the post office.
Also at this time rural carrier Harry Lowell advised patrons that they must keep the roads open so the carriers could get through or the routes might be discontinued. People were advised that rural carriers had the right of way and that other carriages or conveyances must surrender it to them.
In 1907, there was an uproar in the village when Samuel Dower was appointed postmaster to succeed Charles C. Eastman, who still had three years to serve under his appointment. The post office in Wadena is in the presidential class and the congressman makes the appointment but the Senate is obliged to confirm it. Due to citizen outrage, Eastman was reinstated and the matter was closed.
The biggest news of 1907 was that S.J. White, carrier on Route 1, was purchasing an automobile within a short time with other carriers sure to follow. White purchased a Federal, 12 horsepower machine, purchasing only the running gear and engine and was to furnish his own top. The cost of the machine was $900. During the 1920s and 30s, rural carriers developed machines with caterpillar treads on the rear to get through the winter snow drifts.
Also that year the Wadena County Rural Carriers Association was organized. In 1916, J. C. Spangler of Menahga was president. With post office receipts reaching $7,000 mark, the postmaster's salary was increased by $100 per year.
In 1908, it was announced that the Wadena Post Office was a second class office. Then, as it is today, the rating is based upon counter receipts, number of employees and number of rural and city routes. Today's post office, under a different style rating system, is on 18, with the top rating 26, based on the same criteria.
In 1910, the towns north and south of Wadena on the Great Northern Line petitioned the government to originate a stage line for delivery of Sunday mail to those towns to supplement the service given by the Great Northern during part of the week. Thus mail coming in on the Northern Pacific would be delivered on Sunday. It was deemed quite likely this would happen unless the Great Northern would put on a Sunday train. However, in 1911, the Pioneer Journal reported that it was probable that the practice of delivering Sunday mail would be discontinued.
Also in 1911, the Wadena Post Office was designated as a postal savings depository. Deposits were required to be in even dollars with a $1 minimum and had to be made for a period of one year. In order to attain the $1 amount, patrons could buy postal savings cords with stamps of 10 cents each to reach the even dollar figure. Later that year, Postmaster William Dower reported that postal savings had not proven very popular because between July and December only three accounts had been opened.
In 1912, it was reported that the post office would move into the building occupied by Orr's Mercantile store, signing a 10-year lease at a monthly rental of $65. (This was E.E. Orr at 113 South Jefferson St. and owned by Samuel Dower). It remained at this location until the present post office was built in 1934.
On Jan. 1, 1913, a new post office department ruling on packages went into effect. Packages more than 11 pounds were mailable only on the postmaster's approval. The country was divided into eight zones and rates applied according to weight and distance. Prior to that a flat rate was charged based only on weight. It was noted that parcel post would make a lot of extra work for postmasters, clerks, city and rural carriers.
Later that year Route 3 was amended to 30 3/8 miles long and a new Route 5 originated at a total mileage of 29 miles serving primarily Leaf River and Rockwood Townships. The exact routes for the above are shown in articles at the historical society.
Results from a survey taken later that year indicated the collections and deliveries for the months of May were: Route 1, 6,623 pieces; Route 2, 5,732 pieces; Route 3, 674 pieces; Route 4, 5,298; Route 5, 4,458, according to Postmaster William Dower.
In 1914, the Wadena Postmaster Chris Huntsinger talked of free city mail delivery, but it did not become a reality until 1923 with Jim Gleason and Roy Lamson as city carriers.
Also that year the post office department authorized the issue of a "peace stamp" commemorating 100 years of peace between the two great English speaking nations.
In 1916, the post office department designed two sizes of mail boxes for rural and Star routes.
In 1917, the Wadena post office become a supply and reporting center for the post offices at Sebeka, Menahga, Huntersville, Verndale and Aldrich. Also that year the price of first class moil rose from 2 cents per ounce to 3 cents with a post card going to 2 cents.
In 1918, rural carriers received a pay boost of 20 percent raising them to $1,440 annually, with the assistant postmaster raised to the some figure and Mabel Boyd, postal clerk raised to $1,265.
In 1920, there was a substantial salary raise for clerks amounting to $400 annually with rural carriers receiving only a minimal raise and according to the PJ not even worth mentioning. There were now five grades of clerks with the salary range from $1,000 to $1,800 annually.
Later that year it was announced that there would be a civil service examination to fill the postmaster job with the PJ listing several candidates with innumerable other applicants. George N. Breher, a World War I veteran, was eventually named. Also an order issued by the Postmaster General advised all postmasters and postal employees to refrain from engaging in pernicious political activity.
Next week: Armed and delivered