This article traces the evolution of the postal system in Richland Township, highlighting its significance in the lives of early settlers. From the initial lack of communication channels, the establishment of a post office in Hemlock City in 1869 marked a pivotal development, facilitating the exchange of letters and news with distant friends and relatives. The narrative details the progression from stagecoach mail delivery to the integration of mail service with local businesses, and eventually, the introduction of Rural Free Delivery and Parcel Post services. Through the appointment of various postmasters, including the first, Jacob King, and notable figures like William McBratnie, the article underscores the postal service’s role in connecting the community to broader national and international networks, thereby contributing to the township’s growth and integration into the material progress of the nation.
Stage Coach Mail
by Lorenz H. Loesel
It would be needless at this point to restate the entire history of Richland Township and its community center, Hemlock City, or more commonly known today as Hemlock. Nevertheless, we will follow some of the history as it relates to the development of the postal system in our community. Now that we have acquainted ourselves with many of the early settlers and their activities, we will have little difficulty identifying these individuals and their respective roles in the 1860s and later.
Since there were settlers as early as 1856, we may assume that there was very little communication during this period. However, as soon as the plank road had been built, these pioneers had an opportunity to send messages via stagecoach and other means of transportation. The arrival of the stagecoach at Hemlock City in the year of 1865 meant a great deal to these pioneers. Many of them had friends and relatives in their native countries. Others had friends in neighboring cities and towns. Obviously, there must have been an exchange of letters and communications during these years. Since Saginaw had been an established community at this period, we may assume that this city served as a focal center for the new immigrants and their families.
In addition, the printing of newspapers had been well established. The following list of papers indicates the various papers available to the settlers of Richland Township. Undoubtedly, some of these papers were of short duration. Even though most of these early papers were only weekly editions, yet they helped to inform the reader of the happenings of the day. They were:
|The Saginaw Journal
|The North Star
|The Spirit of the Times
|The Saginaw Enterprise
|The Saginaw Republican
|The Saginaw Zeitung
On May 24, 1869, Hemlock City received its permit to establish a post office. Jacob King had been appointed as Postmaster. Frequently, the postal service would be conducted in conjunction with a local business in the smaller towns. Our first Postmaster, Jacob King, owned and operated a store at Hemlock City. Mr. King served for eight years.
Next, this position was granted to William McBratnie in 1877. Again, the post office was housed in a store. Mr. McBratnie owned and operated a general store which stood on the corner where Jack Hohman’s Garage presently stands.
As soon as the railroad had been completed in 1873, we may assume that the railroad served as the carrier of the mail. Hemlock City was now linked to a line that extended from Saginaw to Saint Louis. In itself, this may seem insignificant, but then we must bear in mind that this accelerated form of communication and transportation opened many new areas for our small community. It seems fascinating how our community was woven into the material progress of the nation and carried to its present destiny.
After Mr. McBratnie had served as Postmaster for four years, the position was given to a certain Beverly Hall in 1881. For some unknown reason, another appointment was made the same year, and the postmastership was granted to Philo Thomas, the son of Dighton Thomas. Here we are faced with the problem of names and chronology. I am inclined to believe that this Philo Thomas was the early settler of Richland Township and owned a blacksmith shop which stood opposite the Strobel Hotel.
Four years later, the appointment went to Thomas Newrick, who had bought William McBratnie’s store. Even though the position of postmaster was an important office, Mr. Newrick and the previous men received very little remuneration for handling the mail. In spite of the low salary and added responsibilities, men were always ready to serve their community in this respect.
The following list will give the successive postmasters and the date of appointment: Laverge Thomas, April 13, 1889; Daniel McMullan, August 19, 1893; and William G. Martin, March 27, 1895.
The name of this office was changed to Hemlock effective March 27, 1897:
|Adam P. Minto
|June 5, 1897
|August 6, 1901
|Frank A. Schulte
|December 22, 1924
|Edwin S. Winchell
|March 3, 1925
|April 22, 1929
|Frank J. Nothelfer
|March 6, 1934
|Charles R. LaClare
The year of 1896 heralded a new era in the postal service of our nation. Rural Free Delivery was added to the postal service. Almost within the same decade, the Parcel Post became an added service of the United States Post Office.
Without a doubt, Richland Township and its people derived great benefits from these additional postal services. These were the days when the mail order catalogs with their bright-colored illustrations became the prized possession of many a youngster. Many of us will recall the evenings when the family sat about the kitchen table, studying the content of this cherished book. Pleasant memories indeed for those of us who had these nostalgic experiences.