Adirondack Daily Enterprise
This ‘n’ That
While spending some time in the Saranac Lake Free Library, looking through some old papers and scrapbooks, I came upon an article entitled. "In Early Adirondack Days." Of course I paused to read it, and am going to give the gist of it here. It was clipped from The Adirondack Enterprise of Nov 26th, 1908 and was written by Walter C. Rice, who as near as I can figure out was a brother-in-law of Seaver A. Miller.
The story opens: Aren’t we going to have any more mail?" remarked a city guest of one of our boarding houses recently. As the words were addressed to me in a very petulant manner I felt some what nettled, and replied: "I do not care to assume any responsibility for the lateness of the mail tonight. This is a matter in which the railroad is to blame, not me. Besides, you already have read three mails today and it seems to me that you have had about all that's coming to you." So, with this rather brusque retort I left the fault-finder to her own reflections.
Mr. Rice goes on with his article: “Soon I began to think of the great contrast between our mail service today and in the early sixties. Now in the summer we have seven incoming and six outgoing New York mails; then we had mails only twice a week and and a clothes basket for a post office." And he wonders what Mrs. Lady-Want-the-Earth”, as he calls her, would have said to that. I might also add that mail deliveries here are somewhat different now from the days in which Mr. Rice was living.
But to go on with Mr. Rice's story: "My memory wafts me back to the year of 1860. It is needless to dwell upon the beauties of the unbroken wilderness that encompassed us at that time...So I will pass all these and look backward through the long long vista of years to my early childhood.
"The first mail carrier that I remember was "Uncle” Peter Carr, who was carrying the mail in 1860, although Hugh Martin was the first man to carry the mail at the time the Plank Road was built from AuSable Forks to Franklin Falls. This was about 1852, so... Mr. A. F. O'Brian tells me. Mr. Carr's contract called for mail service twice a week from AuSable Forks to Saranac Lake. It was supposed to go regardless of weather and the contract price was about $400. In summer, the conveyance for passengers, etc. was a lumber wagon without springs and seats without cushions; in the winter, bobsleds with the box filled with straw that you could "cuddle" into and shiver yourself warm. The most strenuous season was the winter. At times, roads would be utterly impossible for days at a time from a great depth of snow. We seemed to have a greater depth of snow then than we do now. The country was sparsely settled, consequently the roads were allowed to become blockaded....So it often happened that we got mail only once a week and it would sometimes take ten days to get a letter to New York City and get an answer. It was dreary and lonely work for the mail carrier, too, for with a lack of passengers and freight he would be about as hungry for company as a Vermont boot-jack peddler in the city of New York.
"The first postmaster was VanBuren Miller and the first postoffice was the clothes basket I referred to…the mail was not as voluminous as it is now, perhaps consisting of a half-dozen letters, and a few copies of the Essex County Republican, Plattsburgh Sentinel, Albany Journal and Albany Argus, all weekly papers. These and perhaps one or two copies of Harper’s Weekly, Harper magazine and the New York Ledger were dumped into the clothes basket and as each neighbor came for his mail he proceeded to “sort” over the contents and take what was coming to him. As his salary was only $46[?] per year, or a little over ten cents a day, the postmaster could not be expected to remain on duty all of the time... Nowadays a dog would feel insulted if he was asked to lick stamps for that amount. But in those days everyone was content and satisfied with the mail service and if it should happen to be a day or two late, nobody kicked like our friend Mrs. Want-the-Earth. If you desired to write a letter after the mail had closed the carrier was willing to wait…
"The next mail carrier that I remember was "Uncle Jim" Kelly who came on the route about 1862..till about 1864; then Uncle Jay Miller took the route till 1868, when A. F. O'Brian came on..till 1872; then the Adirondack Stage Company was organized with Paul Smith, William Harper and Mr. Storrs as the company. We now had a daily mail and new Concord coaches for five months of the year and with the advent of Warren Dow with the Montreal Telegraph Co. which came into this section via Plattsburgh and Dannemora, with offices at Paul Smiths village, we thought we had "the world by the gills". Our service was very good, considering: messages were taken on a paper ribbon. Few operators could receive messages by sound, so I would take a little longer to read a message. You could send a message of ten words to Montreal, Albany or New York for twenty-five cents, while now...we have to pay fifty cents for ten words and four cents for each additional word.
I wish to recall another bit of history concerning the old mail route from Malone to AuSable Forks via the old Hopkinton Turnpike. This intersected the Saranac Lake and AuSable Forks route at the old toll gate about eight miles this side of AuSable Forks, and was about fifty miles in length. This was more sparsely settled country than the Saranac Lake route as it extended through the famous sixteen mile woods...and the six mile woods from Union Falls to the Old Ford Place. It was . . a most desolate route especially in winter. Of course there could not be any regularity in the mail in the winter season after the deep snow had fallen, but I wish to pay tribute to one of the early mail carriers of this route, the genial "Charlie" Lyman. How well I remember him-- Enveloped in his, great storm coat,struggling through the deep snowdrifts, a face beaming with benevolence and honesty, a man who took pleasure in giving a poor fellow creature a lift on the road. How well I remember that April morning in '61 when he halted at our house and told us Fort Sumter had been fired upon. Though he did not get the news till ten days after it occurred, like Paul Revere of old he drove rapidly on telling me news to all within reach of his voice. Well do I remember the first shock of war and the noble response of Harrietstown, Franklin and Brighton, who sent one hundred seventy-five men to the front out of a population of a little over a thousand. They were nearly all volunteers, too.
"The next post master, or postmistress, after V. B. Miller was Miss L. Morgan who also used the clothes basket for the post office. Then came William F. Martin, then Ensine Miller, then Orlando Blood, then M. B. Miller, who built a real postoffice in part of the store that Goldsmith now occupies" (This spot, 44 Main Street is now occupied by Clinton J. Ayres Insurance Co. “Miller held the office continuously for fifteen years. This brings time down to 1864.[?] After that time J. H. Miller, then W. F. Roberts, then John Harding,then Charles Gay, who was succeeded by the present Incumbent, R. H. Mclntyre.
"The mail carriers after 1872 were: William Harper, Ensine Miller, B. F. Lamson, V. C. Bartlett, J. B. Miller, and Plato O’Brian. This brings time down to about 1892. Then the railroads took possession of the mails and the old mail coach went into history. A few of us were sorry to part with the old friend for like the "Old Oaken Bucket" there was a sentiment in connection that touched our hearts, --for did not this stagecoach for years bring us many good things and dear friends..Dear old coach! I can hear now with memory's ear the rumble of your wheels as you gaily sped down the Old Plank Road and the rhythmic clatter of the horses' feet as the pistol crack of the "black snake” smote the air wielded by the skillful hand of the genial driver."
Then Mr. Rice looked to the future and said: "It now looks as if a new condition of things may confront us in the not too distant future. With wireless telegraphy and wireless telephoning and the inventions that are being discovered nearly every day...postal routes and postmasters will be hardly needed. If one wishes to go on a vacation, he can provide himself with combination phone and Kodak, take pictures and keep in touch with business at the same time..."
Mr. Rice closed his article by saying: "Now all these things may come to our posterity, with additions more startling.
"Who will deny it?"
The Village of Saranac Lake and its nearby territory have a complicated history in regard to United States Post Offices. According to the clipping (photo attached), the first Postmaster here was Van Buren Miller, the second Miss L. Morgan. After her came William F. Martin; Ensine Miller; Orlando Blood; and M. B. Miller, who built the first real post office in his 44 Main Street store and held the office for 15 years. This brings the list up to 1884 or 1894 (illegible). Following M. B. Miller were J. H. Miller; W. F. Roberts; John Harding; Charles Gay; and R. H. McIntyre. Until the mention of M. B. Miller's store, it is not clear where in the village the post office was located, but likely it moved from the home or business establishment of one postmaster to that of the next, as most of these were prominent businessmen. The writer also lists the drivers of mail wagons and stagecoaches and laments their passing with the advent of delivery by railroad in 1892.
Several large institutions had their own post offices, such as "Ampersand, New York" at the Ampersand Hotel and "Trudeau, New York" at the Trudeau Sanatorium, with the owner or head of the institution as the nominal postmaster; their employees or patient volunteers actually sorted and distributed the mail. These usually closed when the institution did (seasonally, for some hotels), and eventually mail service was all centralized in the village at a post office called "Saranac Lake, New York." At one time it was housed in a building on Main Street that later became Meyer's Drugs; it is not clear whether the Postal Service owned or rented their space there, and whether or not they occupied the whole building.
In 1925 a new building was built by the postal service at the southwest corner of Broadway and Olive Street, where it is still located. See US Post Office.
Until a few years ago, mail was delivered by boat to the docks of camps on Upper Saranac Lake. Many historic camps had their own leather mailbags. The seasonal St. Regis Post Office near the Upper St. Regis boat launch still handles mail for the campers there, perhaps subsidized by them for their own convenience.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, June 12, 2004
Merrillsville Post Office
By Howard Riley
Franklin Falls may have been the earliest settlement in the town of Franklin, founded in about 1827, but Merrillsville was settled a couple of years later and boasted the earliest United States Post Office in Franklin Township, which was established on July 29, 1837.
In 1831, a 24 year-old man by the name of John Robertson Merrill came over from Vermont with a group of friends and built the Merrill Inn, which still stands today in pretty much its original condition. The inn was the site of that early post office, and of course, Merrill was named postmaster.
The first post office in Harrietstown was established on Aug. 11, 1849, with Alanson B. Neal named postmaster, and on Jan. 21, 1851, Franklin Falls got its first post office, with John Stearns serving as postmaster. This and other interesting historical data are contained in a large volume titled "A History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, from the earliest period to the present time."
[For the complete story, see Merrill Inn.]
Post Offices in the Town of Brighton (in order of establishment)
Post Offices in the Town of Franklin
- Alder Brook
- Franklin Falls
- Loon Lake
- Onchiota Post Office
- Sugar Bush
- Vermontville Post Office