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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"100 Year Historical Album of Independence, Wisconsin, 1976":

Donated by Bill Russell


Independence - The Mail Must Go Through...       

Although there was apparently some sort of postal delivery service for Independence and its area prior to 1876, there seem to be no authentic records to verify this.  Mail was probably brought from railroad points such as La Crosse, Winona or Trempealeau by any individuals who might be going or coming from those places.  It is recorded that Henry Gibson was the first postmaster in Burnside and later moved the post office to New City.  David Garlick succeeded him as postmaster and in 1876 moved the post office from New City to Independence, where he had built a dwelling on Adams Street.  It house the Garlick store and the first post office.  This building, since enlarged at 205 Adams Street still stands, and is presently occupied by Mrs. Mary Susa.

David Garlick held this office until 1891, to the time of his death, and his wife Lydia Garlick became acting postmaster and a short time later was appointed regular postmaster.  She held this position until her death in 1906 at which time her son, Joseph Garlick succeeded her.  Joseph remained as postmaster until 1914 when he was succeeded by Simon Skroch.  Joseph Garlick was a casualty of the "Spoils System" as the Democratic Party had elected Woodrow Wilson to the presidency and it ended many years of Republican appointments to government offices.  Simon Skroch remained as postmaster longer than any previous person, receiving reappointment through both Republican and Democratic administration, which vouches for the fact that he was well-liked and operated the office in excellent manner.  He retired in 1955 because of a law requiring federal employees to retire at the age 70.  He was succeeded by Addison Hotchkiss in 1955, who retired in 1975, and was succeeded by Peter B. Bisek.

In the early days there seem to be no records authenticating the fact that postmasters were compensated for their services.  In the very early days it is probably that being postmaster was an asset to whoever held the office as in most all cases the postoffice was located in a store or commercial establishment of some kind.  It is known, however, that at the time of Joseph Garlick's tenancy as postmaster the salary was $100.00 per month.  His assistant was Miss Emma Lecher and she was rewarded with the stupendous sum of nine dollars per month.  This salary schedule remained when Simon Skroch took over the office in 1914 and it was not until 1915 that his salary was raised to $108.34, and in 1917 it was again increased to $116.66.  The assistant's salary remained at $9.00 per month until 1917 when it was increased to $18.00 per month.

It might be interesting to note here that the first postage stamps were issued in 1847.  The pony express began in 1860 but existed for only two years.  It was about that time that the railroads began carrying the mail, authorized by congress to do so in 1862.  City delivery of mail was instituted in 1863 in such cities that could qualify for that type of services.  In 1896, by act of Congress, the Rural Free Delivery service (then known as R. F. D.) was instituted and it is not certain if this service began immediately in the most rural areas of the country.  From personal knowledge the writer knows that Elmer S. Coy was delivering mail on a rural route out of Independence as early as 1902.  Prior to that time records indicate that there were separate postoffices at Lookout, Russell, Elk Creek, Chimney Rock & Williamsburg, which were no doubt serviced from Independence by what may have been known as Star Routes.  Mail service to these points were usually semi-weekly.  Clarence Gamroth tells that he remembers Tom Kwosek, a farmer then living in Borst Valley who came to Independence thrice weekly to pick up the mailbag for the Russell Store Post Office.  He usually parked his horse and buggy under a big maple tree, present site of Philip Roskos Service Station.  The annual salary was $125.  It is likely that Lookout and Elk Creek were supplied in the same way.

There had been an unusual amount of snow and strong winds and travel by car or team was just about impossible.  Mort Dusenbery, carrier on Route 2, after bucking the drifts and tiring his team, packed up 30 pounds of mail and strode off for a couple of miles hike to Elk Creek.  When the news of the expedition reached the village, he was questioned as to the great importance of the adventure, and Mort explained that some of the box-holders were out of "snoose", and he'd hiked over the snow drifts to make a very important delivery.

From post office records available in the 1870s and early 1880s, it appears that about the only way of sending money to pay bills was by way of post office money orders.  The records show that during this period as many as 10 to 20 money orders were issued some days.  Beginning in the late 1880s, however, these amounts were substantially reduced to two or three per day.  This was no doubt due to the fact that chartered banks began taking over these transactions.

According to old post office records dating back to 1879, it appears that Elk Creek was the first of these outlying points to be so serviced dating from 1867 to 1890.  Russell Store Post Office existed from 1899 to 1905 and Lookout from 1883 to 1906.  It is not known who the postmaster was at Elk Creek in these early days as his name does not appear on any of the documents now on file.  The Russell Store post office was serviced by Adolph Melsness and was only in existance for about six years.  The Lookout post office in existance for 23 years, from 1883 to 1906 had four postmasters:  Charles Britten, D. D. Loomis, J. N. Lee, and Edward Jackson and served in that order.

Judging from the termination dates when these post offices were closed, it can be assumed that the first rural routes out of Independence began in the 1902 period.  It is very possible that only one route was first established into the Traverse Valley area with Elmer S. Coy as the first carrier.  In a year or two as the outlying post offices were discontinued three additional routes were established.  Number one route ran up through Borst Valley over to the Lookout Store and back by way of what is now County Trunk Q.  Number two route was established through Maule Coulee, Elk Creek, Chimney Rock and back into Borst Valley and retraced over part of Route 1.  Number three route served the Traverse Valley area and up onto the Montana Ridge, and number four route delivered into the Lewis and Wickham Valley areas.  All the routes averaged approximately 30 miles in length with the exception of route number four which had a shorter mileage of about 25.  The carriers had to use horse drawn vehicles and 30 miles was about the limit number of miles that one could expect to cover in good or bad roads.  It was not until about 1915 did some of the rural carriers began using automobiles and then only in the summer months when the roads were dependable and passable.  Nevertheless, each carrier had to maintain and keep his horse drawn equipment ready for use when unable to service his route by car.  Some of the first carriers that this writer can recall, were:  Elmer S. Coy, George Coy, Albert Torgerson, Frank Gierok, Albert Tomaserski.  In the early 1920s these men were succeeded by Mort Dusenbery, Milo Lamberson and D. A. Marsolek.  Frank Jelen started about 1915, and resumed after WWI service.  He was carrier for about 42 years.

Before the advent of black-top and macadam roads the rural carrier experienced many more difficulties than the carriers of today.  The old cliche, that "the mail must go through", was taken to heart regardless of weather and road conditions.  This raconteur, back in the 1910-1915 era, was a substitute carrier and many times was called upon to walk part of the route on foot as the roads were too muddy and impassable for vehicle travel.  One man, of course, was unable to walk the entire 30 some miles so the regular carrier would service those portions of his route where vehicle traffic was permissable and the balance of the route could then be walked by one of two helpers.  These intrepid carriers often arrived back at the post office after its regular closing hours in the evening.

D. A. Marsolek who had succeeded Paul Filla, serviced four routes at various times, the shortest being 20 miles and the longest was 73 miles.  At times all were virtually impassable because of deep mud, deep snow or washouts.  This necessitated foot delivery.  Sometimes D. A. enlisted the aid of his brother Clarence.  Each then walked to make delivery in separate valleys.  The most difficult roads were found in Wickham Valley.  Altogether, D. A. carried mail for 37 years.

A quote taken from the Independence News-Wave dated October 22, 1953, under the heading of excerpts from "Reminising by Eva John Kuhn," had this to say about Independence mail service.

"In January, 1935, Milo Lamberson started out on his mail route at 11 o'clock on Saturday and returned the following Tuesday afternoon.  He got as far as the Henry Dorn place when the snow drifts were piles so high the engine of his car became covered with snow.  They heated brick and tried to thaw out the engine, but in vain.  Then Peter E. Marsolek, Milo's substitute on Route 3 went on duty, Roman Giemza furnished the transportation with his "trusty" car.  On Tuesday when they had covered about half way, the car went on the blink, too.  But, along came Milo, who had finally managed to get his car started and the three mail carriers arrived back at the post office in a body on Tuesday.
 


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