The Anoka County Historical Society added a circa 1905 state postal map to its collection June 21 as a donation from the Anoka Post Office.
Acting Postmaster of the Anoka Post Office Dan Stark presented the map to Anoka County Historical Society Executive Director Todd Mahon at a ceremony.
An Anoka resident who wishes to remain anonymous found the map and alerted Anoka resident Barb Thurston, a retired postal worker from the Anoka Post Office. Thurston said her friend is a history buff and wanted to make sure the map was saved in good condition.
Although a press release from June 15 stated that the map was discovered at the Anoka Post Office, Mahon said this is not true. It was discovered in Anoka but its exact location is unknown, he said.
The state map marks all the railroad lines and each postal office in the state at that time. The map has proved to be insightful for the historical society, as it has two postal offices shown in Anoka County that it had not known about before: Republic and Clough.
By comparing what counties were and were not on the map, the historical society estimated the map to have been made after 1902 but before 1906.
The map is not in good enough condition to be in a long-term exhibit, but will be kept in the society’s map collection, according to Mahon.
Mahon said post offices in 1905 were much different than they are now.
“Rural post offices weren’t what we think of today, just as often it was in somebody’s home… we don’t know much about them, it could have been in a house or general store or in a commercial space,” he said.
Stark said there were around 77,000 post offices in 1905 and today there are around 33,000. Those that closed were typically post offices located in an individual’s home, most frequently the home of a political appointee.
The village of Constance, which was located in present day Andover, had a small post office on the corner near where Constance Free Church is located now.
Retired postmaster and Andover resident Robert Nelson grew up in Constance and said his father worked in the Constance Post Office.
Nelson worked with the Anoka Post Office from 1957 to 1990, first as a clerk and then as a rural carrier for Ham Lake. He said the holidays were an especially busy time before families could also use UPS .
“At Christmas we’d have our cars so full of parcels we’d have to make two trips,” Nelson said.
Rural free mail delivery started in 1896 in Charleston, W.Va., under President Grover Cleveland. Before rural free mail delivery, the only option rural residents had was to hire someone to drive into town and retrieve their mail.
Anoka’s first rural route started in May 1901 when most routes delivered mail only three times a week. Thurston said there are still several rural routes in Tennessee and Montana that deliver mail only three times a week on horseback.
Thurston described how the mail system and rail system operated together. When a small town or community wanted its mail picked up, it would hang the mail bag on a hook over the train tracks. An individual on the train would grab the bag and another individual would toss a bag of incoming mail off the train, without the train stopping or reducing its speed.
On some trains a box or a device on the outside of the train would snag the mail bag off the hook, according to Thurston.
With these methods of catching the mail on the fly, the train would not have to stop at each location, Thurston said.
Mail would then be sorted en route to the next location, she said.
Bethany Kemming is at [email protected]