Aug 19

Early days of the San Luis Obispo post office

June 27, 1890 Morning Tribune

Civilization arrives with the post office. When you can send and receive mail your town is no longer howling wilderness, it is on the map. The 1890 Tribune took a moment to review the American history of the San Luis Obispo Post Office as it moved to a new building on Higuera Street. The town was still so small they don’t bother to give a specific address but you’ll find it next to Crocker’s Department store.
Included here are a few images of stamps from the era. Letters cost two cents, to deliver, cards one cent.
Follow the link and you will see the range of men worthy to be on postage stamps presidents, admirals, generals and senators. The exception is Benjamin Franklin, newspaper editor, best selling author, inventor, founding father and successful early postmaster.
Reminds me of a lyric from at Timbuk3 song

“Everyone want to be on a postage stamp. But nobody wants to die.”

Tribune founding editor Walter Murray was postmaster after the death of his brother but he gave up the office about the time he founded the newspaper in his effort to become a judge. In 1869 he was District Attorney, newspaper editor, notary public and postmaster. It was hard to provide for a wife and six children and he had ambitions to become a judge.

June 27, 1890 Morning Tribune

The Boxes, Books, and Mail To Be Removed This Morning

This morning at 8 o’clock sharp Postmaster Cannon will pack his official duds into a wagon, and remove the postoffice belongings to the new brick building on Higuera street, next door to Crocker’s. Thee finishing touches were given to the new house last night, and everything is now in complete readiness for the transfer.
The mail that is in the boxes will be taken out, the contents of each box separately tied up, the racks, pigeon-holes, mail bags, everything bundled into the truck and hauled to new quarters. Mr. Canon has so arranged matters that practically no delay will be felt by the public, and by 9 o’clock mail will be delivered from the Higuera street office with as little friction as if no removal had taken place.
San Luis Obispo during all the years since 1849 has had but five postmasters, including the present incumbent, but the business has occupied many different stands.
The first mail which came to San Luis Obispo was brought by a sergeant and two soldiers in 1849, thee American government, with headquarters at Monterey having established a monthly service in that year. The route was from Monterey to San Diego, and every station for a relay of horses was considered a postoffice, and on arriving at the sable or corral the sergeant would unlock the mail bag if so requested. It was not an unusual thing to keep the mail here overnight by liberal doses of spiritus frumenti [Latin for alcohol] to the couriers in order that the two or three white persons hearabouts could read the newspapers.
In 1850 the government let a contract for carrying the mail along the coast country, and the soldiers were succeeded by private carriers. Maj. S.A. Pollard was appointed postmaster of this place. He prepared for business by knocking out the side of a shoe box and putting in two or three pigeon holes. When mail was wanted the applicant went to the shoe box, and looked over the letters each for himself. Thee building in which this primitive postoffice was conducted is still standing, being the adobe at the corner of Monterey and Chorro streets. Maj. Pollard acted as the postal representative of Uncle Sam for some two years, when he turned the business over to a blacksmith, whose name cannot now be recalled, who continued in the same capacity until 1856 when Alexander Murray, under President Buchannan’s adminstration was regularly appointed. Mr. Murray conducted the affairs of the office in an adobe building where the Quintana block now stands. In the same year the business was remove to a log house next to the Swiss Hotel. About the year 1860 it was again taken to the Quintana building, and in 1862 Murray bought an unfinished house — now known as the Dallidet house — on Monterey street, finished it and removed the keys of the mail bags to it. There the postoffice remained until after the death of Alex. Murray, which occurred in 1869. His brother, the late Walter S. Murray, succeed to the keys, which up to this time were the principal piece of furniture connected with the San Luis postoffice. Up to the time of the removal of the Dallidet building a soap or candlebox was  usually used in which to put all the mail each inquirer helping himself.
By this time, a few white-shirts had found their way into the county, and a general desire to put on a little style pervaded the community, so regulation boxes and a peephole were introduced—an innovation, by the why, which was not entirely satisfactory to the independent patrons.
Walter S. Murray appointed Judge Simmler as deputy and he practically had full charge of the office. In 1870 Simmler was made postmaster and shortly thereafter removed the business to the old Swiss Hotel building. It was kept there about ten months, and then moved into a little frame house between the Swiss hotel and the French, where the public library was also kept from thence the business was taken to the building now occupied by Dennis Harrington, corner of Morro and Monterey streets. The next move was into a building erected by the Bank of San Luis Obispo, on Court street. Increasing business in a few years more again drove the the office into larger quarters, and this time it went to the Quintana Block, in the room now occupied by Sheehy. Thence it was removed to a building on the site of the present Wells-Fargo office, and it was there when the Andrews burned down, the postoffice building sharing the same fate as the big hotel All the records and mail matter, however were saved although Postmaster Simmler lost all thee personal effects he had there. The government then, as far as this town was concerned, had no home, and for two days the mail was distributed under a tree on Osos street, near the Chinese laundry. Temporary quarters were quickly secured in the Rogers building where the people assembled for their mail for about a month when the postoffice was located in the house back of the Quintana Block, where it remained until this morning.
In all these various removals the office has been on Monterey street and each removal was in order to get larger and better quarters and meet the growing demands of the business.

Other news on the page:
Ten dollars reward will be paid for the arrest and conviction of any persons purloining the Morning Tribune from the doorways of subscribers.

On the 17th, a blue iron crank, about 18 inches in length. The crank belongs to the extension ladder of the hook and ladder co No.1 of the Fire Department. The finder will please return it to the city hall.

Related posts:

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  2. San Luis Obispo High openhouse
  3. 1963 Hydrant Break, Ford dealership – San Luis Obispo
  4. 1976 Telegram-Tribune office
  5. Teddy Roosevelt in San Luis Obispo County