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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"


Chapter  30

Postoffice

(-as transcribed from pages 445 - 447)


When the territory of Wisconsin became a state, in 1848, the whole Chippewa Valley was without roads, mails or any regular communication with the outside world.  It was not long, however, before the legislature made an appropriation to lay out and open a road from Prairie du Chien, via Viroqua, Black River Falls and Eau Claire to Hudson.  During the fall and winter of 1849-50 Judge Knowlton, who had the contract for performing the work, had so far succeeded in making the road passable that Congress early in the fifties established a mail route over it, with a postoffice at Eau Claire.  George W. Randall was the first postmaster and his office was called the Clear Water postoffice.  His successor was J. J. Gage, who kept the office in a store on a thoroughfare later known as Eau Claire street, just east of where the city clerk's office stood in 1892.  He was succeeded by Henry Huntington when the office was removed to the location later occupied by Hart's Hotel.  The ground was then occupied by the store of Shaw & Huntington.  The latter held the office from 1857 to 1859, when he was followed by Peter Wychoff, who removed the office to the corner of Barstow and Gibson streets.  His term of office was for two years, from 1859 to 1861, when owing to a change of administration John T. Tinker was appointed his successor.  Under his administration the postoffice was located on Barstow street, near where Tabor Thompson's drug store was later situated.  In 1863 Mr. Tinker assisted in organizing a company for the Sixteenth Wisconsin regiment, for which he received a commission as first lieutenant.  He went south in the fall of that year and appointed as his substitute in the postmastership Robert Cobban.

The question arose as to whether a man could hold two government commissions at the same time.  In the end Stephen Marston became the postmaster of Eau Claire in the place of Mr. Tinker, and held that office from 1863 to 1871.  During the absence of the latter from the village and before Mr. Marston's appointment the postoffice was destroyed by fire.  It was afterward removed to the latter's store on the corner of Barstow and Main streets, and ultimately to the Music Hall block on the former street.  It was finally taken to the corner of River and Kelsey streets January 6, 1875, where, in 1877, a substantial brick block was built.  Mr.Marston's successors were:  E. S. Chase, four years to 1875; James M. Brackett, 1875 to 1886; Charles R. Gleason, 1886 to 1888; H. P. Graham, 1888 to 1890, when W. W. Winterbotham was appointed his successor.  Mr. Winterbotham held the office for one term of four years and was succeeded by E. Horan, who removed the office to the Drummond building, after which he served one term of four years, being succeeded by G. W. Smith, who removed the postoffice tot he corner of River and Gibson streets.  Mr. Smith held office until March 31, 1907.  On February 12, 1907, Earle S. Welch was appointed postmaster, but did not assume the duties of the office until April 1, 1907.  On the 27th of April, 1911, Mr. Welch was reappointed without opposition.  On the 29th of June, 1909, under the administration of Postmaster Earle S. Welch the postoffice at Eau Claire was removed from its rented quarters at the corner of River and Gibson streets to its present palatial home, which occupies one entire block of ground bounded on the north by Gray street, on the east by Barstow street, on the south by Jones street and one the west by River street, a total of 857 1/2 feet frontage.  Under the direction of Postmaster Welch, who in the year of 1909 had been by the treasury department appointed custodian of the public property in Eau Claire, the grounds surrounding the United States court house and postoffice building have been beautifully decorated with shrubs and trees, so that it may be said a handsomer federal site is not to be found in the nation.  The cost, in round figures, of this building, including the grounds, fixtures, etc., amounted to $180,000.  Each year, usually in the month of June, the department of justice for the Western District of Wisconsin, holds its annual court session at Eau Claire in this building, and it is declared by federal officials competent to judge that a more attractive, complete or up-to-date structure of its kind is not in existence.

The Eau Claire postoffice was made a money order office July 1, 1865, and the first order was issued to Alexander Kempt.  The money order business for 1890 amounted to $20,682.63.  It was made a free delivery office in 1884, and in 1892 had eight carriers and sixty-three street letter boxes.  The letters mailed in 1890 numbered 802,580, with 114,232 postal cards and 356,522 pieces of second, third and fourth class matter; registered letters mailed, 2,436.  The letters received for delivery during the same period numbered 398,818; postal cards, 110,278; and second, third and fourth class matter, 695,197.

The growth of the postal business in its various channels has been marked in Eau Claire through the fact that the money order business has increased from about $20,000 in 1890 to an annual figure representing in all its detail $1,199,221.60, which is the result shown in this connection from figures compiled by Postmaster Welch at the close of business, December 31, 1912.  The postal sales at this office in 1907 were a trifle over $40,000, while at the close of business in 1912 the sales for that year reached over $66,000.  the total number of registered pieces in 1892 was 2,436, while in 1912 this increased to 7,502.  In 1892 there were eight city carriers and this number was increased from time to time until 1912, when fifteen city carriers were required.  In 1900 a rural free delivery service was established at Eau Claire, and from time to time this was extended and now six routes emanate from this postoffice.  In September, 1911, the postal savings system became operative at Eau Claire and has proven a success.  In January, 1913, the parcel post system was established throughout the United States and this necessitated the employment of one extra city carrier in the Eau Claire office, who works exclusively in delivery of this class of mail matter.  The business at this postoffice increased to such an extent that it became necessary to employ a superintendent of mails, and this position was created in Eau Claire on July 1, 1913.  There are at this writing employed in this postoffice, all told, forty-five men, three of whom are employed in the custodian force, forty-two of this number being employed exclusively in postal work.  The administrative work in connection with the United States court house and postoffice at this city is conducted at this writing by Earle S. Welch, postmaster-custodian; Peter J. Smith, assistant postmaster; Arthur A. Jost, superintendent of mails, and G. A. Weizenegger, superintendent of postal savings system.

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