The first postal service came to be in America by a grant from the British King William and Queen Mary in February 1692!
This grant empowered Thomas Neal “to erect, settle and establish within the chief parts of their majesties’ colonies and plantations in America, an office or offices for receiving and dispatching letters and pacquets, and to receive, send and deliver the same under such rated and sums of money as the planters shall agree to give, and to hold and copy the same for the term of twenty years.”
Wolcott’s postal system began when Wolcott was formed in the early 1800s. There were no home deliveries and the postmaster usually kept the mail at his home. Mail then could be picked up by the addressee.
The first postmaster in Wolcott was Dr. David Arne. He lived in the black house on West Main Street. This house was later moved to Smith and is now the home of Mr. & Mrs. Douglass. At our Carriage House Museum we have a desk that was used for the mail. Former historian William A. Armstrong rescued the desk and stripped it of paint to the natural wood it is today. For a period of time the desk was used in Dr. Charles Single’s office.
Mail service began in 1902 here in Wolcott. One of the earliest photos of R.F.D. carriers and a postmaster was printed in the 1905 “Grip’s Historical Souvenir of Wolcott.”
Lee Dowd, original mail carrier in Wolcott, retired from service on Jan. 1, 1934. He was married to June Tague of Huron and had three children. Eugene “Gene” Seymour — another carrier — married Phebe Sillman. His father was Dr. Lester Draper Seymour. Gene Seymour was born in 1875 and died in 1940.
After the train tracks were laid to Wolcott, the mail was delivered, picked up, sorted and the rural deliverymen would deliver it by horse and buggy. In the picture of the first mail carriers note the uniforms and hats the men wore. Throughout the years the uniforms have changed with the times. The mail carriers in Wolcott wear the postal blue pants or Bermuda shorts, white shirt with postal insignia, jacket to match pants and a pith helmet in inclement weather. Often you see a cape worn to keep the mail bag dry and the carrier too!
Today those who deliver by car wear their regular clothes. Each rural carrier had a substitute as well as those that walked the route in the village. Others that delivered our mail and worked at the post office were: Russell Doolittle, Walt Hall, Alfred Stewart, Peter Demass, Jim Mundy, Harvey Johnson, Ruth Fisher and Sara Wells.
When automobiles were introduced in the market, the federal government purchased a certain number for each postal district. These were used in the village and to deliver parcels.
Louise Knapp was appointed postmaster in 1944 by Franklin D. Roosevelt. She never wanted to be called postmistress. She remained in the position for 28 years and when she retired Hugh Henry became postmaster. Being a postal worker requires that you take and pass a civil service exam.
The routine of mail being delivered to the post office has changed as it is now brought to the loading dock at the Lake Avenue post office in large trucks. Most mail that leaves our post office is routed to a larger central post office and from there sent in all directions. You can still have your mail hand stamped “Wolcott.”
Mail is delivered six days a week regardless of the weather. Keep your mail coming by keeping your mailboxes clear of snow or other debris!
Stewart is the Wolcott historian.