First Postmasters & Post Offices

by Neal Danielson, Editor

The first American Postmaster General, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), was appointed by the Second Continental Congress in 1775, becoming the first great name in American postal service. He served as co-deputy postmaster general of the colonies from 1753 to 1774. Benjamin Franklin would go on to become an American icon in his day. Franklin has appeared on numerous U. S. Stamps, beginning with the first stamp, July 1, 1847.

The Air Mail Event Cover shown in Figure 1 is from the 38th Annual Convention, Society of Philatelic Americans, held at the Mayflower Hotel, Washington DC, July 25-27, 1932 to celebrate National Post Office Day and the opening of the first post office July 26th, 1775 with Franklin as Postmaster. The cover is franked with a pair of Scott #720b booklet stamps issued July 25, 1932 and canceled on July 25, 1932 with an Air Mail cancel. However, the air mail rate went from 5 to 8 on July 6, 1932, so the cover is 2 short!

Figure 1-National Post Office Day Event Cover 1932

As we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Kansas Territory (1854-2004) it is interesting to note that the first official Post Office in Wichita, Kansas did not come about until 1869.eight years after Kansas Statehood in 1861. Figure 2 is an Event Cover sponsored by the Kansas Precancel Society depicting the First Post Office in Wichita. As noted on the Event Cover the First Postmaster in Wichita was Milo B. Kellogg (does that name sound familiar?) on February 17, 1869, one year after the first white man settled in Wichita area in 1868. The insert in the Event Cover provided additional historical data on the Wichita Post Office and those individuals that served as Postmasters (Figure 3). Wichita was incorporated as a town in 1870, with the railroad coming to Wichita in 1872 and by 1886 was chartered as a city.

Figure 2-Wichita Post Office Centennial 1869-1969 Event Cover

Figure 3-Insert From Event Cover-100 Years of Postmasters
WICHITA, KANSAS POST OFFICE CENTENNIAL
The first post office was established in Wichita with the appointment of Milo B. Kellogg as postmaster, Feb. 17, 1869. The first post office was established in the home built by Darius S. Munger which is believed to be the first frame house constructed on the new settlement.
Milo B. Kellogg, Feb. 17,1869William C. Edwards, Jan. 21, 1908
Darius S. Munger, March 28, 1870John H. Shields, June 26, 1913
Wm. B. Hutchinson, Sept. 28 1870James F. McCoy, Nov. 10, 1916
Josiah T. Holmes, March 6, 1871J. B. Riddle, Dec. 20, 1916
Robert L. West, May 17, 1873Stewart M. Young, Nov. 8, 1921
Marshall M. Murdock, Dec. 22, 1874Bruce Griffith, March 18, 1930
Frank B. Smith, July 26, 1886Joseph B. Riddle, March 17, 1934
Edward B. Jewett, June 23, 1890Clarence M. Fitzwilliam, Dec. 31, 1943
Marshall M. Murdock, July 7, 1898Ernest C. Balay, Nov. 30, 1957
(Cacheted envelope sponsored by the Kansas Precancel Society)

Some of the other Postmasters that called Wichita, Kansas home since 1969 were:

E. Balay remained Postmaster until 1970 Wilbur L. Baird became Officer-In-Charge July 31, 1970 and Postmaster June 26, 1971 Gene W. Hoge was appointed Postmaster March 29, 1986 Dennis Nott would become Officer-In-Charge Mary A. Brown was appointed Postmaster October 21, 1988 William R. Wotczak became Officer-In-Charge November 30, 1990 Hector A. Barraza was appointed Postmaster Janurary 26, 1991 Shirley Crane became Officer-In-Charge Roy E. Martin was appointed Postmaster December 26, 1992 Richard A. Moore became Officer-In-Charge April 12, 2000 Mark A. Kerschen became Officer-In-Charge June 16, 2000 Richard A. Moore was appointed Postmaster January 13, 2001 Currently Jeffrey Day is Officer-In-Charge.

To clarify a little bit of the information from the Event Cover and the insert, it should be noted that the first informal postal service started up in 1868, the same year Wichita settlement was founded. The service was operated from the first permanent business establishment, Durfee's Trading Post. Housed in a sod-roofed, log structure near 9th and Waco, the post office was managed by Milo Kellogg. The mail route ended at Towanda and mail was brought to Wichita by stagecoach and by individual travelers on horse back or buggy. The post office remained in the Trading Post, but when Darius S. Munger was named postmaster he set up the office in his home. This structure, as seen on the Event Cover, is now preserved and restored in the Old Cowtown Museum.

As one of the early settlers in Wichita, Munger started work on a log cabin, retrieving cottonwood logs from an island in the Arkansas River. This island was known as Ackerman Island and would later include a ballpark and amusement park. Munger mixed his own mortar and plaster from river sand and made lime by burning clam shells found along the river. He then mixed the concoction with the hair of buffalo and used it in constructing his house. It was the only structure in early Wichita that had a shingle roof. The house was located at what if now the southwest corner of Ninth and Waco, which Munger later named. It soon became a hotel for new arrivals in the community.

Figure 4-Wichita's Post Office in 1873

Munger would often carry the mail in his pockets or in his hat and give to his patrons when he saw them. As the town grew, the post office was moved to a store kept by Ben Aldrich and J. B. Dickey in the 500 block of North Main, sometime in the year 1870. Aldrich later recalled how a man once pushed a shotgun through the general delivery window to demand letters that neither he nor Dickey could deliver. The post office depicted in Figure 4 is said to be in 1873, but was not a very imposing site, but it had a screen door, even though the windows were not screened. It is apparent from the sign on the front that the postmaster had a commercial venture on the side. However, Robert L. West was appointed postmaster May 17, 1873, as can be seen by the listing in Figure 3. The sign is apparently that of the other occupants of the building, Aldrich and Dickey.

Meanwhile in Delano, Wichita's sister city on the west side of the Big Arkansas River, its first post office opened in 1871 with John Edwin Martin serving as postmaster. Delano eventually became part of Wichita and was served by the city's mail service. By the late 1880's Wichita's population required another permanent home for the Post Office. A Wichita resident by the name of George Blackwelder bought the northwest corner of Market and William in 1883 with the intention of building a roller skating rink on the site, but the popularity of skating died down before he could put his plan in effect, and he sold the land to the Federal Government in 1886.

So in 1890 the Federal Government completed a Romanesque structure on the northwest corner of Market and William at a cost of half a million dollars. It was the tallest building in Wichita and the first to have an elevator (Figure 5). Photo from a newspaper clipping, so may be blurry. The massive Bedford, Indiana limestone building served until the early 1930s when a new structure (Figure 6) was completed, even though it was still structurally sound. For a time, the old Federal Building housed the local Works Progress Administration offices, developed by the Roosevelt administration. Later, its first floor was converted to a parking lot. It was razed in 1937.

Figure 5-Federal Building and Post Office

In 1931 the U. S. Post Office Department was housed in the new $1.2 million Federal Court House located on Third Street, between Market and Main, and is still the home of the Federal Court House in 2004. Please note the cars and no parking meters. In 1977 the Wichita Main Post Office relocated on 21 acre plot adjacent to Mid-Continent Airport in a $5.5 million structure at 7117 W. Harry. This facility is now under the Central Plains District. The downtown branch post office moved to their current location at Second and Waco, March 1, 1982, where we currently have a Philatelic Window staffed by Leroy Webb, to meet the needs of Stamp Collectors and the public at large.

Figure 6-1931 U. S. Post Office and Court House, Wichita, Kansas

References:
Wichita Eagle newspaper clippings, courtesy of Gilbert Pittman
Personal interviews with: Gilbert Pittman, Dilmond Postlewait, Leroy Webb, and Carolyn Dotson
Material from book on "Postal Service" (publication unknown)

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Posted July 25, 2004 RR