United States Post Office

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United States Post Office

Grapeland's First Post Office

This old building has a very colorful history. It was, at one time, located behind the J.E. Hollingsworth General Store. When the store burned, the Post Office and the Messenger Office were saved. These two buildings were moved to the lots where the old Darsey warehouse is now located. When the town burned in 1913, the building survived again due to the valiant efforts of the men who stayed on the roof for long hours with buckets of water. After this fire these buildings were again moved. They were relocated on lots behind the First State Bank. The old Messenger office building was torn down in the 1960s and the Post Office building was sold to Floyd Salmon when the First State Bank constructed the parking lot behind the bank. 

Mr. Lee Clewis was operating a tailor shop on Front Street before the 1913 fire and was ‘burned out’. The post office was moved to Sam Howard’s brick building on Front Street next door to the Farmers & Merchants State Bank and Lee Clewis moved his tailor shop into the old post office building. Later the post office moved into a new brick build on block 3 next to the drug store (next to present day Walling’s Drug Store). Mr. Ike Whitaker occupied a building known as the Burson building behind the tailor shop. Mr. Whitaker was in the photography business and also had a jewelry store and watch repair shop. 

Bill Howard work for Mr. Lee Clewis. He fired the boiler with stove wood each morning for steam cleaning the clothes which were mostly made from wool cloth. He washed the clothes in gasoline in a tub and used a rub board to clean them. He worked on an open back porch because of the gasoline fumes. This was a very cold job in the winter. Mr. Clewis moved his cleaning business back to Front Street in the 1930s. 

In 1945 Dillon’s Cleaning and Pressing Shop moved out of the Woodman Hall building into the old post office building. The business was sold to Will Ike Kennedy in the summer of 1946. Will Ike remained in the cleaning and pressing business in this location for the next twenty-nine years. He closed and sold the equipment but retained a few pieces of the old furniture from the Jones store selling the rest to antique collectors. 

The next occupants of the post office building were Mrs. Luna Frank Darsey and Mrs. Jake Taylor Lyles. They put in a small museum and secondhand shop when Kennedy’s Cleaners closed. The shop was filled with glass counters, a cash register, and other relics from George E. Darsey’s store. This new business was called ‘The Alley Cats’. These two ladies made a lot of lovely things to sell for charity and gave lots of clothes to the needy.

Most old buildings are destroyed and forgotten, but this one survived two fires and the ravages of time and still lived on when the lot where it was located was sold to the First State Bank for a parking lot. The building was moved by Floyd Salmon to his beautiful lake. It was another addition to his frontier town where thousands of people meet each year for family reunions, picnics, and the ‘Bluegrass Festival’.

Grapeland Post Office

The earliest postal records show only three official post offices for this area: Crockett, San Pedro, and Fort Houston (Palestine). ‘Old Timers’ will state that they picked their mail up at a store or home in the are close to their homes. Before the coming of the railroad and the designation of Grapeland as a townsite, mail in this area was picked up at the Yarborough home (the Yarborough family lived nearest to the crossing of the two roads in this area). Many places that served as post offices were not officially listed in the postal records. People sometimes had to travel many miles to get their mail. 

According to postal records T.T. Beazley was made postmaster of Grapeland don May 26, 1873. He was followed by Napoleon G. Bontaparte Frazier on February 21, 1881, and then R.M. Garrett in November 1885. For some reason, R.M. Garrett petitioned the U.S. Post Office Department for his postal position in the name of Grapevine. He was told that there was already a post office in the state by that name and was awarded the postmaster position as the Grapeland postmaster. The dedication deed filed on February 18, 1873, by the Houston and Great Northern Railroad names the area set aside for the townsite as Grapeland. 

The postmasters who have served Grapeland From this time are B.F. Hill, April 1888; S.E. Howard Jr., October, 1913; Frank Leaverton, March, 1914; W.T. Pridgen, March, 1924; T.S. Kent Jr., December 1932; G.A. Walton, February, 1941; A.S. Clewis, January, 1942; W.M. Watson, December, 1964; Ralph Walton, October 1968; and James Stockwell, March, 1985. Mrs. Louise Thomas served as an interim postmistress for about six months before W.M. Watson was appointed postmaster and James Crowford served until James Sockwell was appointed postmaster. 

The early day post office was located in the business building of whoever was postmaster. In the early 1900s, a small frame building was built to house the post office. It was originally located behind the J.E. Hollingsworth General Store in block 2. It survived when the Hollingsworth building burned and was moved to a lot behind Darsey’s store. In the big fire of 1913, which destroyed fifteen business concerns in the immediate area, it again did not burn. Because of this, the Grapeland Messenger called it a ‘fireproof’ structure. Actually, it survived because of its tin roof and the efforts of many men who formed a bucket brigade and poured water over the roof.

It was moved again when George E. Darsey built his warehouse to store his goods in until his store could be rebuilt. It was located across the street behind the Farmers and Merchants State Bank. This building stood on this lot until 1986 when the First State Bank sold it to Floyd Salmon so that a bank parking lot could be built there. It is now in the Salmon Lake Park and can be identified by the mail-drop slot in the front door. 

Sometime after the 1913 fire the post office was relocated in a brick building on Front Street, lot 3, block 3. It remained there until the early 1950s when a new building was built and leased to the post office department by the Kennedy family on lot 11 and 12, block 2. 

The present location of the post office is on lots 1, 2, and 3 of block 7 at the corner of Oak and Chestnut. The new building was built in August of 1983. 

The early day postmaster made his income by renting post office boxes and from commissions on stamps canceled at his post office. The importance of the box number is a recent day thing. Originally the box numbers were assigned according to when they were rented. Old postal records show the box numbers of the postal patrons changing from year to year. 1901 records show only twenty-four boxes rented in the Grapeland Post Office. 1900-1901 boxes were rented to the following patrons: F.D. Slagel, J.E. Hollingsworth, J.B. Luker, J. Owens & Co., H.S. Robertson, Dr. L. Merriwether, Jas. O’Keefe, S.T. Anthony, Boykin & Murchison, B.H. Logan and Co., J.F. Brill, Dr. F.C. Woodard, E.E. Hollingsworth, G.L. Tyer, L.C.H. Maxey, John Dotson, J.A. Shaw, F.W. Caldwell, G.E. Darsey, Faris & Spence, B.E. Blount, B.R. & A.B. Guice, J.M. Selkirk, H.C. Leaverton, A.A. Kidd, Parker & Owens, M.P. Herod, Mrs. B. Totty. The present-day post office now has 836 post office boxes rented, 450 Rural Route 1 boxes, 396 Rural Route 2 Boxes and 432 Rural Route 3 boxes.

Just as the coming of the railroad was welcomed as a new fast means of travel and transportation of goods, the establishment of the rural free delivery was far ahead of the post office system in the way of convenience. Getting daily mail was something that the people had not enjoyed before. It brought the farmer in touch with the outside world and helped him in many ways. The first rural route out of Grapeland was started in 1905. On June 15, 1905, Claude C. Leaverton was appointed carrier for Rural Route 1 and Hugh Richards was carrier for Rural Route 2. On June 1, 1908 Algie L. Brown was appointed carrier for Rural Route 3 (he served until 1937) and on December 1, 1907. Artie B. Spence was appointed carrier for Rural Route 4. Down through the years the number of routes serving the Grapeland area have varied from four to two. 

Some carriers have served first one route then another. At the present time, we have three rural routes. Other carriers who have served the rural routes are Dr. C.C. Officer, S.E. Howard Jr. (1915-1935, Route 3), J.A. Bean (1910-1936) Neal Sheridan (1941-1963 – postmaster of Augusta and Route 1 carrier from 1963-1974), I.I. Bradshaw (1920-1960 – served in Augusta and on Route 2), C.D. Cheatham (1935-1963), Clyde Bedford (1963-1975), Harry Pridgen (1974-1983), and Jack E Spence (1910-1918, 1938-1955)

Our present carriers are Loyd Dickey (1963-1987, Route 2), Tommy Chapman (1983-1985, Route 3), and Dan Huff (1985-1987, Route 1). 

As times changed, populations shifted, roads improved, rail lines built, etc., the small post offices that had been established in the late 1800s were discontinued, moved or absorbed by the larger and more centrally located ones. The following post offices were absorbed by Grapeland: Kent, 1890; Edmonds, 1896; Reynard, 1901; Sheridan, 1905; Dalys, 1907; Waneta, 1909; Weches, 1939; Augusta, 1963; and Percilla, 1963. Whether delivery by horse, wagon, train, airplane or truck, the mail service has always worked toward better and more efficient service. 

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