On January 19, 1818 a post office was established in New Windsor. In the early days of our country, the local post office and the appointed postmaster played a significant role in the day-to-day operation of a community.
The post office was often the center of a community economically, geographically, politically, and philosophically. As a community grew, the local post office moved from the postmaster’s personal residence to a local tavern or dry goods store – a combination hardware store and grocery store.
Many historians simplistically associate Benjamin Franklin with the beginnings of the postal service in colonial America. However, according to the U.S. Postal Service, “in 1633, the first official notice of a postal service in the colonies appeared. The General Court of Massachusetts designated Richard Fairbanks' tavern in Boston as the official repository of mail …”
Benjamin Franklin was appointed by the British government – ‘the Crown,’ as the postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737. He was only 31 years old at the time. “By 1774, however, the colonists viewed the royal post office with suspicion. Franklin was dismissed by the Crown for actions sympathetic to the cause of the colonies.”
History.com reports that on July 26, 1775, “the U.S. postal system is established by the Second Continental Congress, with Benjamin Franklin as its first postmaster general…”
On February 8, 2013, Richard R. John, a professor of journalism at Columbia, and the author of “Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse,” wrote an article in the New York Times, titled, “How the Post Office Made America.”
With suspicions of the government reading the mail in the back of their minds, John reports “the Post Office Act of 1792 … vastly expanded the postal network while admitting newspapers into the mail at an extremely low rate. No less impressively, it guaranteed the sanctity of personal correspondence by protecting letters from the prying eyes of government. In a stroke, the founders provided the entire population with low-cost access to information on public affairs, while establishing a right to personal privacy …”
For many years this was the founding-basis for determining that access to public information was a right, and subsequently, phone conversations — and later email correspondence — should be considered private and privileged.
New Windsor councilwoman Kimberlee Schultz reminded us of the 200th anniversary of the New Windsor Post Office on the Town of New Windsor Facebook page on Jan. 19.
“New Windsor didn’t have a post office in the early years. People had to ride the four, rough miles to Uniontown to pick up and drop off their letters,” said historian Frank Batavick in an interview at the Historical Society of Carroll County celebration of the 181st birthday of the county at Grace Hall in Grace Lutheran Church, on Jan. 20.
Later, in a subsequent email interview, Batavick, the author of a definitive history of New Windsor, “Time’s Crossroads: The History of New Windsor, Md.,” reported, “With town founder Isaac Atlee’s leadership, residents decided to petition the government for a post office of their own, and in 1816 they got their wish, though William Brawner wasn’t appointed first postmaster until 1818. The mail was transported by horse-back and stage coach to and from Westminster.
“The first post offices must have been in the postmasters’ residences, since there is no evidence of a postal space until 1875 when it occupied a section of Elhanan Stouffer’s store at 219 Main Street…” Later, the post office was located at the back of a drug store leased by Charles E. Norris at 209 Bath Street - or 209 Main Street today, according to Batavick.
“Thieves broke into the post office in May 1919, blew the safe open, and absconded with more than $200 in stamps and about $35 in cash. They were never caught.
In 1965, a new post office on Maple Avenue was dedicated, with William Strine as postmaster. … In 1976, New Windsor with its 21776 zip code, was designated as the bicentennial post office…”
In a discussion with New Windsor Town Manager Frank Schaeffer earlier in the week, he mentioned an article in the New Windsor town newsletter, the Sulphur Springs News, which reported, “In all there have been 24 Postmaster appointments during its 200 year history. Current Postmaster Ed Dean and Sales & Service Associate Cyrena Bingaman are very proud to carry on the great tradition of serving this community. In addition, it should also be noted that Rural Free Delivery was expanded to all of Carroll County in 1899…”
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The history of New Windsor written by Batavick may be found in the gift shops of the Historical Society of Carroll County and the New Windsor Heritage museum.