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Westfield mail was once carried in a handkerchief

Dibble’s Dabbles

August 16, 2011
By (the late) Billie Dibble, Former Westfield Historian (1975-2006)
First published Aug. 9, 1984:

As we watch the mailman with his heavy bag trudge up the street with his load of mostly junk mail it is difficult to believe that once the mail was carried from Buffalo to Erie only once in two weeks in a pocket handkerchief. Such was the case.

I read it in The Westfield Republican of Jan. 9, 1924 in an article written by Elizabeth Webster Stone under the title “Ancient Westfield.” Miss Stone wrote that the first Post Office in Westfield was also the first within Chautauqua County and was located at the cross roads on the west side of Chautauqua Creek with James McMahon as postmaster. It was called Chautauqua office and was established in 1806. At that time the name of the office was spelled Chautaughque and mail was carried by a footman. A pocket handkerchief contained the whole mail matter for the four offices on the route and it was carried in a hat.

Col. Bird commenced carrying the mail in 1813 on horseback once a week. In 1820 the same service was performed in two horse wagons having white canvas covers.

Four years later the ponderous post coaches were drawn by four horses on the weekly round from Buffalo to Erie. They rattled through our streets while loud and long the driver blew his horn. To increase the excitement the small boys shouted and tossed their hats as they ran along beside the coaches to take a look at the passengers within.

According to C. Malcolm Nichols, in his book “Early Post Offices of Chautauqua County, New York,” little is known about this first post office except that it was discontinued on March 17, 1818 and according to the records, the crossroads then had no post office for about three months until the Westfield office opened on June 15, 1818, on the east side of Chautauqua Creek. Dr. Fenn Deming was postmaster.

A notice in the Mayville Sentinel announced, “Westfield Post Office – is moved to the Yellow Bldg. two doors east of the Westfield Hotel and opposite the old location. P.O. boxes will be charged 25 cents per year.”

A number of post offices were established in small rural areas in the vicinity of Westfield. Rogerville Post Office was kept in the tavern of the postmaster Ezra Rogers, on the northeast corner where the road from Lake Erie meets the Buffalo-Erie Road. This office was established in 1830 and discontinued Dec. 23, 1839.

Another rural settlement office, called Volusia, was established Dec. 20, 1832. The first postmaster was Hiram A. Haight. Volusia was named after his daughter, Volusia Ann Haight.

A post office named Fairbanks was opened in 1898. Herman Kent, owner of a farm in that location, was a brother of Vernon Kent, postmaster at Westfield. The farm being quite a distance from Volusia, the postmaster was required to go to Volusia three times a week to get the Fairbanks mail.

It is said that in return for naming the office Fairbanks, the Kents received a set of Fairbanks farm scales for use by themselves and neighbors, for weighing farm loads. The office did not long survive, being discontinued in 1900 when the mail was ordered to Westfield.

Rural Free Delivery came to Westfield in 1902.

A picture in the 1867 Chautauqua County Atlas shows the Westfield Post Office located in the Brewer Block which stood where the Chautauqua and Erie Telephone Building now stands. A later picture shows it at the corner of Main and Elm streets. Then it was located on North Portage Street until the fire of 1924 when it was moved to the main floor of the Welch Block at the corner of Main and South Portage, then back to North Portage where it was located until the new post office was completed at number 7 Academy Street.

Yes, the mail gets through – much of it through the house from the front door to the back door and thence to the curb in a plastic bag to be picked up on the early Monday morning trash collection. Some of it can be pretty important though and we continue to watch for the postman with anticipation.

Marybelle Beigh is the current Public Historian for the Town and Village of Westfield. Her office is located at 3 East Main Street in Westfield, N.Y, 14787 — inside Parkview Ice Cream Parlor. Her scheduled office hours are Monday through Friday 9 to 11 a.m.; other hours by appointment.

Beigh can be reached at westfieldhistorian or by calling 326-2457 (office), 326-6171 (home) or 397-9254 (cell).

Article Photos

Photo courtesy of the Patterson Library
The early location of the Westfield Post Office was the Brewer Block. This picture appeared in the 1867 Atlas of Chautauqua County.



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