Anoka County history: Post office history in the county

by Tom Ward

There has been much news recently about closing some post offices across the nation.

This made me dig into the post office history of Anoka County.

You could write a book with all the information about the first post office in the county, the first building, or those that followed.

Or you could write about who the first postmaster was, or the first rural routes, or the politics involved in all of it.

The first post office in what is today Anoka County was in Manomin (now Fridley). It opened March 4, 1852.

At that time Manomin was a part of Ramsey County.

Twenty days later the Itasca Post Office opened in what is today Ramsey.

Four months later the Decorri post office opened in Anoka in a very small wood building near the Rum River on First Avenue, near Bridge Square.

It burned down in the big fire of 1884 that destroyed much of the downtown.

Later came post offices in Cedar and Bethel. They were both on the railway, which is how the mail was carried at the time.

The first postmaster at the Manomin post office, George W. Branch, was appointed in 1852.

Since then there have over 40 postmasters, some of which were re-appointments.

Postmaster appointments, as well as rural route carriers, were often been regarded as political plums.

When a new president was elected there would often come a new postmaster general.

When the current postmaster retired, or was forced to do so, a new person would be appointed to the position, usually from the same political party as the new president.

I know this because I was involved in 1968 when Charles Ward was appointed. Prior to that, one of my dad’s best friends, Walter Jacob, was the local postmaster.

Walt was very active in Anoka High School football. He served as the official timekeeper at all the games.

He also holds the record for signing the most returning servicemen for the Anoka American Legion after World War II. (He signed me two days after I returned.)

Prior to Jacob, W. L. Ward served as the postmaster in the 1930s and ‘40s. He was Charles’ father.

There have been 22 women postmasters in the county. Fylla Peterson from Circle Pines has the distinction of being one of the few of these women to be appointed by the president, rather than the postmaster general.

When the rural routes were established out of Anoka, the pioneer carriers used horses and buggies, which they changed to sleighs in the winter.

The routes were about 25 miles and the roads were poor.

In the winter and spring the roads could be impassable. The farmers were supposed to keep them open, but didn’t, or couldn’t, always do so.

Those early carriers suffered may hardships while serving their customers well.”

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night” is the well known motto from those early days.

In July 2002, the Anoka Post Office was named a Sesquicentennial Station in recognition for 150 years of service.

This information, and so much more, can be found in the files at the Anoka County History Center.

Editor’s note: Tom Ward a member of the Anoka County Historical Society Board of Directors.

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