Modern post office erected in 1940

By : 
Mary Jo Dathe
Glimpses of Yesteryear

The accompanying photo was taken in April 1940 when the post office building was being constructed on North Broadway.  Structures were being taken down — the two buildings across the street from the post office are being demolished.   At extreme left we see the brick dwelling, removed in 1957 when Dr. E.L. Morse built his new dental office.  The large white house at left center was the August Schultz home, demolished to make room for a new supermarket, now occupied by Stender Enterprises.  Early stories of post office and mail delivery have appeared a number of times, accompanied by writings by historian Sharon Jahn and mail delivery person Harry Johnson.

In 1854 settlers began to stake claims here in the Valley.  Among them was a T.B. Johnson who came from Ohio with his family of five children.  He built a hewn log house, which was a luxury in those days.  It wasn't until 1855 that the village began to develop when the Pennsylvania Party of five men organized the Spring Valley Association and purchased the 180 acres from Warner & Huntley, paying $200 in gold.  Later that year, J.B. Thayer pre-empted a quarter section where part of the original village was platted.  Soon the site assumed the aspects of a pioneer community as many others began to stake claims, take up residences, and establish businesses.  Two territory roads converged here, contributing to its growth.

In the early days the mail was brought by horseback every two weeks from Decorah.  The first carrier was T.B. Johnson, traveling by way of Carimona.  Later the mail came by stage through Forestville, then from Chatfield on the "star route," and finally daily delivery on a stage route between La Crosse and Austin.  The Southern Minnesota railroad came through in 1870, and carried mail for many years.  The first post office was located on the Kellogg farm (now Ken Heidlebaugh) on the northeast corner of town in 1855.

By 1857 the post office was located in the village, first in a small slab building on the southwest corner of Jefferson and Broadway.  Until 1939 the post office was found in various buildings, both east and west sides of Broadway, usually in the business of the postmaster.  While Roy Viall was postmaster in 1940, the post office finally found its permanent home when the federal government erected the building at 209 North Broadway.

The first "horseless carriage" mail delivery began in 1908 when Harry R. Johnson's mother, Alma Haugen Johnson, was working at the post office in 1916.  First class postage was 2 cents and didn't raise to 3 cents until 1933.  Spring Valley was the first in Fillmore County to offer home delivery in 1928 when Millard Bender and Everett Warren were appointed carriers.  This was on two routes, roughly north and south of the post office.  Check the 2005 Tales of Our Town for names of carriers, clerks and employees in the city government chapters.  In 1933 this item appeared in the Tribune:  Spring Valley will have only five postal routes after June 1, according to the recommendation by a postal inspector who was here recently.  Increasing the length and decreasing the number of routes has been done a number of times as the various changes in personnel have occurred.

It was in 1960s when zip codes were mandated to speed delivery.  In 1967 the last mail train was delivered; now it is all carried by truck.  History records the following who have served as postmasters:  John H. Smith, Willard Allen, Asa Burleson, B.F. Farmer, Daniel Sullivan, W.L. Kellogg, E.W. Thayer, W.W. Washburn, Sidney Huntley, Steve Wilder, Frank Wilder, John Bowden, Harry H. Johnson, Roy Viall, Don Cummings, Gary Price and lately Bill Bires. 

We continue to enjoy our fine post office with all its modern conveniences, even handicapped accessibility, plus a virtual “supermarket” of items along with postage stamps.  And we miss those residences across the street, even though they mark business places nowadays.