Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Postal History of Jamaica Plain

I've already posted two entries on the Jamaica Plain post office - here's a history that adds much to the story.

Jamaica Plain News April 29, 1899


The Local Historian Traces Its Existence from 1829 to 1899 With Relative Facts that Bear on the Progress of Jamaica Plain.

The history of our local post office is a coincidence in the growth of Jamaica Plain. It bears weight in evidence of what our own district has been and assumes a position in indicating what Jamaica Plain is.

A search into the records of the Boston postal department show that in the beginning of the second quarter of the century Jamaica Plain formed a community too modest in point of numbers to justify a post-office. However, four years later this order of things was changed.

Whether by this time the place had received an impulse towards growth or the voice of these few inhabitants had been heard at headquarters, true it is, that in January, 1829, Mr Joshua Seaver was appointed post-master with the full authority of the office. Mr. Seaver was a merchant of the village, and the distinction that fell to him would imply an enterprise on his part and an esteem on the part of his fellow townsmen, two qualifications that his grandsons, of the firm of R. Seaver & Sons on Centre street, bear today.

On the site occupied by the present store of this latter firm, Mr.Joshua Seaver conducted the duties of his office with the honorarium, for propriety permits no other name, of twelve dollars per annum. In 1833, Mr.Seaver was succeeded by his son, Robert Seaver, himself later accepting the office in Roxbury which he held from 1845-49.

The records read at this time, not without uncertainty in the matter of date, that Andrew Jackson, on a visit to Boston during his presidency, called at the Jamaica Plain post-office. One is left in doubt as a result of this absence of specification on the chronicler's part whether Joshua the father or his son Robert had the honor of receiving the nation's chief executive.

The present store, of the firm that we have alluded to, being built at this time, Mr. Robert Seaver set apart a corner in the building for the purposes of the government. Evidently Mr. Robert Seaver and his office agreed, for we find him holding it 16 years, with an interval of six years, from '49 to '55, when Mr. Jacob P. George assumed the duties and temporarily removed the department to a building on the site now occupied by W.F. Fallon's fish market.

During this time the emoluments of office were keeping pace with the growth in sales of stamps. In 1839 the amount was $151.68 and in 1849 the incumbent drew, during his first year's term, the salary of $215.68.

The share of receipts received by the government for the year 1849 was $320.94.

Not until 1870 did Jamaica Plain rise in dignity from a fourth class postal division to a third class, with receipts of over $1000 per annum. Ten years later it assumed its present status of second class which demands an annual income exceeding $8000.

Upon the reappointment of Mr.Robert Seaver in 1855, the salary had risen to $452.79, and in 1859 to $495.44, with a net reserve to the government of $474.29. Here observe that the postmaster was more fortunate than the government and this became frequently the case in fourth-class postoffices now that the salary was based on the cancellation of stamps and not on their sale. Yet, in face of the advantage to the postmaster that this new order of things there have frequently been found unscrupulous enough to avail of the opportunity to increase their income by surreptitiously passing city mail through their own particular department.

With no evidence to indicate that Mr. Robert Seaver had a successor during the period covered from 1855 to 1863, we are safe in assuming that he enjoyed another eight years of postmastership in spite of his democratic principles in opposing the Lincoln administration of the last three years of this period. But by this time a change of functionary, evidently anticipated by the friends of the government, was incumbent if the principle be maintained, to the victor belong the spoils, for we find the office in 1863 passing into the hands of Dr.Marcus T.Robinson.

Coupled with his professional duties the doctor for a short time only, however, handled the mail constructing for the purpose a primitive building on Centre street, now occupied by the Dillingham Express Company. With the death of Mr. Robinson, his widow took charge, and in 1873, when Mr. Silas Poole was appointed to the postmastership, was still discharging the duties.

During the three latter years of Mrs.Robinson's term the receipts of the office exceeded $1900 annually. This now made the department a third-class office and a gift at the disposal of the President. The salary attached thereto was $1000, a comfortable income for the good widow.

As we look back it seems, as far as permanency of location is concerned, that our post office of those days fared no better than the tent of the Arab.

With the installation of Mrs. Poole came another change of locality, the government this time taking up its quarters at 725 Centre street, in the store now rented by the Messers. Libbey Bros. Two years later this growing factor in the industrial life of the community was about to assert its importance and secure a recognition it had for some time been entitled to. In 1875 the Jamaica Plain post office became a branch of the Boston general office and the advantages connected with the step were soon felt in the district. Mr. Silas Poole became Superintendent Silas Poole and a more central locality for the postoffice was a question that was started.

The following year when Superintendent Poole handed his office over to Superintendent Wilson H. Fuller, Woolsey Block became the favored location. From here, occupying one half of a store of which Mr. A Haxton occupied the other half, the office was transferred to the stores 7 and 9 Call street. Though out of the way as far as the public was concerned, and inconvenient to the officials themselves, the location on Call street served for a few years.

In April, 1887, Mr. John Lewis, who now holds the office, was appointed superintendent, and in March, 1897, Mr. M.C. Coin was appointed acting superintendent, having been transferred from Cambridge. Mr. Coin called the attention of the general office to the defects of the locality, and as a result, in October, 1897, the office was replaced to Woolsey Block, where it now stands.

On the same date the demand of the district for better service was met in the establishment of sub-station 25 at 672 Centre street, in the store of what was until recently, the New York Dry Goods store. Forest Hills was the next to be acknowledged in this respect, and in November of the same year a sub-station 28 was opened at W.H. Blake's drug store. In September 1898, Boylston station had to be considered, and as a result sub-station 38 was located at J.L. Locke's drug store, 158 Paul Gore street. The last to be established was sub-station 3(?) in the drug store of L.O. Wallace, 380 Centre street, being placed there January of this year.

The Jamaica Plain post office has kept pace with the advance of Jamaica Plain. From one officer drawing a salary of one dollar a month has it grown to a staff of twenty-five officials with a pay roll of over $1800 for the same period, ranking today as one of the best equipped suburban branches of the Boston General Office.

The staff comprises six clerks (including superintendent) eighteen carriers and a messenger boy.

From consolidation with the Boston office came the box delivery and the first carriers appointed were Mr.J.R. Dickson of 12 Harris Avenue and Mr.J.E. Page of 2 Alveston Street, who are still active in their offices.

The district covered by the delivery includes an area of some five miles, extending from Hoggs Bridge, Roxbury to Walk Hill Street, Forest Hills, and from Franklin Park to Brookline. By uniting her postal interests with those of Boston, Jamaiaca Plain gained ten years of the advantages of the free delivery. So indispensable is the system to the comfort of the community that the extension in this department should not escape notice. At the present time we find that sixteen of the routes have four deliveries daily and two each have but one less.


A final paragraph discusses contemporary revenue numbers - not particularly interesting to us.

1 comment:

  1. I remember in the '50s that we had 2 deliveries a day only in December, because of the volume of Christmas Cards. If my mother got one from someone whom she had decided to cross off the list, she would quickly write a card and I would be sent to run to the box on Hyde Park Ave to catch the last pickup....