Genealogy and History
Part of the Genealogy Trails History Group
Freeport Post Office
The Freeport Postoffice has kept pace with the growth and development of the county. The spring of 1836 the mail was delivered by Thomas Grain, founder of Grain's Grove. There was no established office till 1837 when B. R. Wilmot became postmaster in a small room on Galena street. In 1842 L. W. Guiteau was postmaster with an office at the corner of South Galena ave. and Galena streets. The mail was received daily by the stage. Hon. Thomas J. Turner was next in position and kept the office in his residence in Galena street between Van Buren and Chicago streets. From 1843 to 49 Attorney A. T. Green was the town postmaster. The office was at the corner of Van Buren and Galena streets and later at the corner of Chicago and Stephenson. George Reitzell conducted the office at the corner of Van Buren and Stephenson streets from May, 1849, to 1853, when F. W. S. Brawley took charge at the corner of North Galena ave. and Exchange streets. From 1858 to 1861 Mr. Charles S. Bagg conducted the office at the corner of Chicago and Exchange streets and was succeeded by Mr. C. K. Judson who served till 1865 when General Smith D. Atkins was appointed by President Lincoln. An attempt to have Mr. Atkins removed because he was not a follower of the Andrew Johnson faction failed.
The General continued to hold the office under General Grant's Presidency, and it was said that he was the only postmaster who remained under Grant that had served during Johnson's term. General Atkins continued to hold the office un- der Hayes, Garfield and Arthur. The election of Qeveland in 1884 and again in 1892, caused the appointment of Democrat and Mr. John F. Smith served from 1885 to 1889, and F. Charles Donohue from 1893 to 1897. From 1889 to 1893, during Harrison's term, General Atkins was again postmaster and in 1897, after the election of McKinkley he was again appointed and has since held the position by appointment under President Roosevelt and President Taft. During these 45 years of service as postmaster, under Presidents Lincoln, Johnson, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Harrison, McKinley, Roosevelt and Taft, the business of the office has had a remarkable growth, the rural delivery and city delivery systems have been established and the present government building erected. Today Freeport has a more efficient service and a better building than most cities of her population. [Source: History of Stephenson County, pub. 1910]
Newspaper Clippings about Freeport Post Office
At the close of business at the Freeport postoffice at midnight tonight Postmaster Charles W. Meier, who has served in that capacity since 1921, will retire from office and will be succeeded by Ferd H. Gibler, supervisor for the town of Freeport, who was recently appointed acting postmaster. Mr. Gibler received notice from postmaster General Farley several days ago of his appointment and will assume charge of the local office tomorrow morning. Mr. Gibler said today that acting on legal advice, he had decided not to resign his office of supervisor until he receives an actual commission, approved by the senate of the United States and signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He will continue to hold the office of supervisor, but said today he would not accept any pay for his services in that capacity, being merely an advisory head of the organization. Immediately upon his taking charge at the postoffice all supplies, moneys, equipment and other government property will be turned over to Mr. Gibler and it will be necessary for him to make an immediate checkup as he is required to report to the postoffice department just what has been turned over by the retiring postmaster. When Mr. Gibler resigns as supervisor it will be the duty of the city council to name a successor, under the state statutes. His statement today indicated that the present council will not have the opportunity of making the appointment, but this will fall to the new council after the next regular meeting of May 7 when four new aldermen will be inducted into office and a fifth will return to office as a result of having been reelected at the April election. Mr. Gibler said he was not informed as to whether or not it would later be necessary to take a civil service examination to qualify for the office of postmaster. However, in the past it has been customary to require examination. In this event there will be several other applicants for the position and according to civil service rules one of the applicants having a rating of first second or third may be named but any candidate rating below third place would not be eligible. At least these .................................. if such is required. Mr. Meier was first named a postal clerk in the Freeport office Jan. 1, 1897. He served in various capacities and on Aug. 1, 1907, was named assistant postmaster. On Jan. 1, 1921, he was appointed by the late President Woodrow Wilson in the position of postmaster and has held the office since that time having made a fine record during his 43 years of service. Mr. Meier will receive a pension from the government as a result of his long years of service. Mr. Gibler is a native of Freeport and has spent his entire life here. He attended local schools and for many years was engaged in the blacksmithing business, with his .................................. at the time served as alderman in Freeport and for the past six years has been supervisor for the town of Freeport. He more recently has been county chairman of the Illinois emergency relief commission and will retain that post. He is married and resides at 1016 West Douglas street. [Unknown newspaper, April 30, 1934; Contributed by Karen Fyock]
Post Office Remembrances
Mr. Lester T. Fargher (in 1967) relates his memories of the Freeport Post Office --
I remember that one day, in the lobby of the present Post Office I met Mr. George Ladd Munn, who was very much older than me, but who like me, had been born and raised in Freeport. I asked him if he remembered the "old" post office. "Oh Yes," said he, "it was up at the next corner in the Wilcoxon Building." "No, I said the 'old' post office! - the one back of the Fry Block on Chicago Street." ANd he had no recollect whatever o fit. WHy then should I remember it, and remember being in it when I was just four years old?
The building in which this earlier Post office was located was back of the Fry Block and I think it was also a part of the Fry property for its second floor was reached from the stairway on the Chicago Street side of the Fry Block. Its first floor was perhaps four feet above the sidewalk level, and broad wooden steps out on the sidewalk space led up to it. I do not know if the Post Office occupied all or half of it, for I recall that later this floor was divided into two small stores and that much later the floor was lowered but was still divided.
History says that Mr. Thomas Wilcoxon got a contract from the Postmaster General and signed a four-year lease for a suitable space in a building which he proposed to erect at the southeast corner of Van Buren adn Bridge (now Exchange) Street. From this contract made in 1879 we must presume that the Post oFfice was moved to that location in 1880.
No doubt this was a very convenient and commodious place for it, and having a side door, opening from Bridge Street into the work room, it was convenient to pass out, or take in, the mail bags. And since this was many years before large magazines, mail order catalogs and parcel post, all of the mail came in the locked bags. It all arrived and departed on railroad trains and the regular conveyance between the depots and the Post Office was the baggage wagon from the Bus Barn which was on the opposite side of Bridge street, and juat a little way down the same block.
I can remember the layout of the public room, with the numbered box cases, or pigeon holes, projecting into it so that there was one call window in front and one on each side. ALongside of the south call window there was quite a section of metal doored lockboxes. In the years when I attended First Ward School, I culd stop her on my way home to see if there was any mail in Box 981,which was the number assigned to my father. I think that there was a small fee to be paid for a box, and a larger fee for a lockbox. After some years there was a change made, part of the lobby was partitioned off, and two call windows installed for money order and registered letter service. I well remember Mr. Wm. S. Best and Mr. Thomas Gemmill working at these two windows.
There was always a change of postmasters with every political change in the Administration in Washington. There were no civil service laws or regulations, so the incoming postmaster could hire and fire employees at will. And when the free mail delivery came to Freeport even the carriers were not sure of keeping their jobs when there was a political change. However, some of them did stay in service for a long time, and on of these was Mr. John Hogan, who for all of his years on the force wore Badge No. One. There were then only a few men employed on inside work and I doubt that there was any of them on night duty. Carriers sorted and arranged the mail for their own routes and made two deliveries each day. I think that they also took the mail from the street drop boxes, which were then more numerous than they are now.
Postage on a letter had been three cents but I think that it was in my boy-days that it was reduced to two cents, where it remained for many years. Postcards were only one cent and for soem years there was a second and larger size card which sold for one cent. It was one of these larger cards which I mailed on January 2, 1894 and which came back to me on May 15 of the same year after going aroudn the world, being remailed in three other countries, with new postage affixed, and never getting out of the name of Fargher. The Post Office remained in the Wilcoxon Building until the COntress appropriated funds for the erection of the present building (1967) which was erected in 1902 and has since been greatly changed. This building also housed the Western Division of the United States Circuit Court for Northern Illinois.
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