The Lincoln, Nebraska Post Office
From: Lincoln the Capitol City and
Lancaster County, Nebraska
BY: Andrew J. Sawyer
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago, Illinois 1916

THE LINCOLN POSTOFFICE

Mr. C. N. Baird, the third postmaster of the City of Lincoln, wrote the following in regard to his postal experiences here:

"I arrived in Lincoln March 22, 1868, when the postoffice was in a small building made of brown sandstone, located on the corner of Tenth and O streets. Jacob Dawson was then serving his term as first postmaster of Lincoln, but resigned in the summer of that same year. W. J. Abbott was appointed the second postmaster and was removed a short time afterwards for rifling the mail. About November, 1868, the office was removed to a small frame building, 14 by i6 feet in size, north of the Humphrey Hardware Store. My first appointment was January 8, 1869, signed by A. C. Randall, postmaster general, on recommendation of John M. Thayer.

"On coming into office I found a great amount of mail that had been forwarded from both houses of the Legislature which was to be stamped and mailed. There was not a stamp or an envelope in the office, so I marked the bunch of mail paid and shipped it out. I did not know what would be done with me for doing this, but I was not going to be caught with all of that mail upon my hands. I wrote to the officials at Washington explaining the situation and kept an account of the mail sent until I could receive a supply of stamps from Omaha. At that time all of the office supplies were brought from Omaha on the stage, mail being delivered three times a week.

"One morning as I was cleaning out a box of old papers I found a long envelope addressed to officials at Washington, D. C. It was quite evident that the postage stamp had been pulled off and the letter thrown away, so I opened it to see what it might be. It was an application for the postmastership which had been mailed at the time of Dawson's administration. Abbott, who was appointed his successor, was working in the office at that time and had thrown away this application without mailing it, after taking off the revenue stamp, which at that time was worth one dollar, and placing it on his own application. As no one else had applied for the office this young fellow thought it would only be a matter of hearing from Washington until he would be postmaster. Meanwhile he built a nice set of cases for the letters and rented a room for the office. As time rolled by no word was received from Washington until Abbott was appointed postmaster. The boy had told me his story and when I found his application thrown among the rubbish in the office, it explained all. I had recommended the boy and was very sorry he did not get the office as he was a good, honest fellow. The postmaster's salary was then $300.00.

"In 1870 I removed the office to a room on Eleventh Street, south of the Harley Drug Store. The next move was to the west side of Eleventh Street, into a frame building owned by Walsh & Putnam, which stood next to the alley. Afterwards I moved to the north side of the square just east of the Atwood Hotel, which was located on the present site of the State Journal Building. The last move I made was to the Hallo Opera House, at Twelfth and O streets. All the moves made were for more room and better facilities for handling the mails. Mr. Hallo tendered the free use of the corner room and as others had made the same offer I asked the postoffice department to send a special agent to make the selection. They ordered Maj. John B. Furay of Omaha to come, he being at that time a special agent. He came down and visited the various places that had been offered me and gave a hearing to all interested parties, after which he asked me confidentially where I wanted to go. I told him and in a few days I received a lease from the department and I was instructed to pay $11 a month as stated in the lease.

"I was succeeded by Gen. Otto Funke. While he was there the building burned down, but the mail was saved. When I took charge of the office we had no railroad. Our mail was carried by stage coaches, spring wagons, buckboards and upon horseback. I received the first mail brought into Lincoln by railroad."

At the time of the laying of the cornerstone of the present magnificent postoffice building, Mr. E. R. Sizer, then postmaster, read a paper in which was an account of the building of the first postoflice building, now the city hall of Lincoln. This excerpt follows:

"Governor Robert W. Burns conveyed the market space to the City of Lincoln on March 31, 1873, and Acting Mayor John J. Gosper, with City Clerk Cantlon, attesting, on the ist day of April, 1873, conveyed the present Government Square to the United States of America, in accordance with an ordinance of the city council, dated March 31, 1873.

"Senator P. W. Hitchcock, of Omaha, was mainly influential in securing the original appropriation for the old Government building. He had succeeded Gen. John M. Thayer as senator in 187i and General Thayer was also influential in urging upon the Government the actual instituting of the work of excavation and erection of the building, and in getting other necessary preliminaries arranged and thereby preventing the appropriation fro lapsing. As the remaining time was very short during which the appropriation would be available, and as Senator Hitchcock was at that time in Europe, General Thayer made a trip to Washington and saw Hon. A. B. Mullett, the supervising architect of the treasury, who was a personal friend of the general and who took immediate steps toward the adjustment of the title of the site and the erection of the building. W. H. B. Stout is also said to have been influential locally in urging the original appropriation for the Government building.

"Senator Hitchcock had Col. O. H. Wilson appointed a superintendent of the Government building. Mr. Wilson served in that capacity for about one year and was succeeded by a Mr. Beals, who served a shorter period. Mr. Beals was in turn succeeded by Mr. Tyler, who continued as superintendent of construction until the building was finished.

"The survey for the excavation of the old building was made May 25, 1874, and ground was broken on Tuesday, May 26, 1874. One of the newspapers of that date mentioned that it was very difficult to plow the ground, due to its being packed by reason of its being a market. The. State Journal of May 28, 1874, notes that Colonel Wilson had given the preference to married men over single men in employment on the postoffice building. On June 30, 1874, the announcement was made in the local press that the excavation was completed. The contract for stone work on the Government building was let three different times, the last being to W. H. E. Stout. The Beatrice Cement Company was awarded the contract for furnishing cement. C. H. Gould and a Mr. Sawyer furnished the sand and brick. The building was finally built of gray limestone, said to have been taken from the Dwyer Quarries on the Platte River. No exercises appear to have been had in connection with the laying of the cornerstone of the old building and it was completed in 1879."

Immediately after the abandonment of the old postoffice building in 1906, the new one being completed, the city took steps to utilize the building as a city hall. Plans were made and the interior rearranged and refinished for the accommodation of the city offices and council rooms. The building now serves the purpose of a city hall.

The new $350,000 postofilce building was erected just north of the old structure, upon Government Square, and was secured largely through the efforts of Congressman A. J. Burkett. On September 2, 1904, the cornerstone was laid and in the fall of 1906 the building was formally opened to the public. The cornerstone was laid in the forenoon by the Masonic Grand Lodge of Nebraska, with Grand Master Charles A. Burnham, of Norfolk, in charge of the ceremonies. An escort of Knights Templar in uniform and Blue Lodges Nos. 19 and 54, gave the ceremonies a picturesque appearance. The program included a prayer by Rev. J. Lewis Marsh, chaplain of the Grand Lodge; addresses by Governor J. H. Mickey, Mayor George A. Adams, Congressman Burkett and Postmaster E. R. Sizer. The brass band of the Bittner Stock Company, which was then filling an engagement in Lincoln. furnished the music, the Hagenow Band being obliged to play at the State Fair then in progress.

In 1915 an appropriation of $100,000 was secured for an addition to the postoffice building, in order to give more room for the work of the office. This appropriation has since been raised to $225,000. Work upon the addition to the west is now in progress, during which time the postoffice occupies temporary quarters in the improvised building at the corner of Tenth and N streets, southeast.

The postmasters who have served in the City of Lincoln have been: Jacob Dawson, appointed when the capital was located here and served until the fall of 1868. when he resigned: W. J. Abbott, served a few months only: C. N. Baird, January, 1869-April. 1875: Otto Funke. April, 1875-June, 1881 J. C. McBride, June, 1881-November. 1885: Albert Watkins, November. 1885-January. 1890; C. H. Gere, January. 1890-March, 1894; J. H. Harley, March, 1894-February, 1898; H. M. Bushnell, March, 1898-February. 1902: E. R. Sizer, March, 1902-November. 1914; F. W. Brown. November, 1914-died July 7, 1915: J. G. Ludlan, July 8th-September 18; A. S. Tibbetts, September 18th-died September 25th; Frederick Shepherd. September 27th-November 15th: Samuel G. Hudson, November 15th-. Ludlan, Tibbetts and Shepherd were acting postmasters only. Mr. Hudson is the first regular postmaster since F. W. Brown.

To give one some idea of the amount of business done in the Lincoln postoffice the figures for 1915 are used. The total postal receipts for the year amounted to $465,328.75.; stamp sales amounted to $384,851.54; there were 20,929 parcel post packages delivered; there were 24,891 insured parcels dispatched; there were 2,866 insured parcels delivered; there were 19,941 C. O. D. parcels dispatched; the outgoing mail of the first class by machine count totaled 15,296,000 parcels; the money order department handled the sum of $3485,633.23; in the postal savings department there was on deposit $22,617.00. The postal business of Lincoln has been increasing every year. There are 169 employes of the Lincoln office.

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