Marion Post Office History (MDR 1960 Article)

The following appeared in a June 1960 Marion Daily Republican article and is as published.

Marion Post Office Was Closed during Civil War

Postmaster Closed Office and Moved to Bainbridge for Protection

(by John Wayne Allison)

Marion and Williamson County were a long way from the active battlefields of the Civil War 99 years ago. Still, the war had its unique effects on the community and its citizens.

Research in the annals of time have brought forth the relationship of Marion and Bainbridge now an extinct community living only in the pages of history, came to the rescue of Marion during a crisis in postal service in the year 1861. In fact, Bainbridge can be regarded as the parent stock for all of Williamson County as well as being the first community in the county to have postal service established.

The records show that Bainbridge was situated in Section 16 of West Marion Township. It is difficult to visualize buffalo trails as the main route of transportation in the area and that Indian camps dotted the landscape. This picture was presented of the territory here prior to the pushing of the nation westward. Bainbridge became the natural spot for settlers to pick out in 1813. The location was near the edge of Phelps Prairie, where one of the trails from the Fort Massac to Kaskaskia was situated. Even George Rogers Clark passed this way in July of 1783 on his way to Fort Kaskaskia.

It was only natural that a trading post should spring up at a place where such important trails carried the commerce of the day. This was the main route from Jonesboro to West Frankfort. A post road was established by 1839. In later years, Bainbridge was only 15 miles by stage line from Frankfort.

The year 1818 found the first merchant business being established by a man named Kipps. Next came Thompson who left about 1821. In those days a person could buy a pound of coffee for 75 cents and calico at 50 cents a yard. With this start, other traders and merchants soon were established in the community.

When Franklin Count was divided in 1837 and Williamson County was created, Bainbridge was chosen as the temporary county seat. It served as such until October 1839. Then the county seat held its first meeting in the newly created village of Marion.

The first officers of the county were Sterling Hill, F.D. Duncan and Cyrus Campbell, commissioners; John Bainbridge, clerk; John D. Sanders, sheriff; and John Davis, treasurer.

Bainbridge had its first post office established on February 18, 1837, because it was too much trouble to go to West Frankfort for mail. Allen Bainbridge was appointed postmaster. It was for him or his brother that the town was named. The second postmaster was Dr. George L. Owen, who served until the Bainbridge post office was discontinued. Allen was elected to the state legislature. Perhaps the most prominent citizen of the town was Dr. Owen, who began practice in the community as early as 1840. He also ran a store and held the postmaster’s job for 39 years. In addition to these activities, Dr. Owen served as internal revenue collector for a while, land agent for the sale of government lands, giving the Illinois Central a grant by the state and was a member of the commission that located and built the state hospital in Anna.

At first, the post office was a grocery store combination which was kept in the east wing of an old residence before the main portion was built.

Various craftsmen came to Bainbridge to ply their trades. Among them was a youngster named Samuel Dunaway. Dunaway had been an apprentice to a man in North Carolina in learning the hatter’s trade. He ran away from his master there and came with a group of immigrants to Southern Illinois stopping at Bainbridge. In turning out hats, he became the first manufacturer.

Dunaway later became a highly successful man and was president of the company that bguilt the railway which passes near the site of the old village. It was he who gave the name Bainbridge to the now vanished railway station.

Bainbridge had its quota of taverns. One was kept by John Bainbridge, a brother of the man who was serving as postmaster. Another was operated by F.F. Duncan and William Turner. Others were kept by J.D. Dempsey, John Davis, James T. Goddard. Taverns and houses of entertainment seemed always to have been plentiful in town.

Education and higher learning also took the interest of the citizens. Bainbridge Academy was chartered by the state legislature in 1839. Professor Bugg opened the school in 1840. It appears to have operated on a limited scale until the middle 1840’s.

Civil War Incidents

Dr. George L. Owen was intensely loyal to the Union cause, after the outbreak of the Civil War. Learning in April 1861 that plans were being made to burn the railway bridge at Carbondale, Dr. Owen rode on horseback to the telegraph office at Carbondale and notified Governor Richard Yates of the plans. The Governor ordered out a company of soldiers with some artillery. Part of the personnel went to Cairo while some stopped at the Big Muddy River to guard the bridge. This is mentioned as the first place west of the Alleghenies and outside of a regular military reservation to be fortified during the Civil War. The Big Muddy bridge was closely guarded during the remainder of the war.

The first troops in the county were under the command of Col. Hobbs, who was taking an Illinois regiment of cavalry from Bloomington to Paducah. Camp was made at Delaware Crossing.

General John A. Logan was called to meet with Congress on July 4, 1861, after the battle of Bull Run in which he took part. He returned home in the latter part of August. On September 3, 1861, he made his first speech in the county as a recruiting drive started in support of Union forces. On September 13, the 31st Illinois Volunteers were organized.

As the war continued, party feeling in this area rah high in the latter part of 1861. Patrick H. Lang, who was postmaster at Marion feared for his life and postal department operation here. Being a Republican, he received threats. On September 11, 1861. Lang actually closed the office at Marin. He then moved the operation to Bainbridge and kept headquarters there for a month. Some of the feeling died down, and finally patrons demanded the office be moved back to Marion. The arrangement for mail service was not good under such circumstances. Lang was promised protection and consented to move back to Marion.

With the county sear established at Marin and population center being there, Bainbridge lost its place as a dominant town.

The decline of the village found many of the people moving away and several of the buildings removed, including the first hut occupied by the doctor, long known as the ice house, a combination cook house and carriage house, the old post office and grocery.

Today Bainbridge is just a memory. The plot of the town is now absorbed as part of the Crab Orchard Wildlife Preserve. Of course, old maps, charts, county histories and other data containing the glory that was once Bainbridge.

Post Office In 1960

Marion with its first class post office, is a growing community. Progress of the town is reflected in the volume of mail handled by the local office. Figures show that in the 12 month period of 1959, the office handled 10,809,941 individual pieces of mail. Joe Witter, superintendent of mails, says that this last figure represents a 41 per cent increase over the previous year.

Postal receipts have climbed steadily since 1952, Postmaster J. Paul Smothers notes. On the basis of the first quarter in 1960, anticipated receipts are expected to hit close to the $200,000 mark or even over that amount.

Receipts by year are 1952 – $103,572.29; 1953 – $110,932.53: 1954 – $109,228.06: 1955 – $107,728.39: 1956 – $115,996.00; 1957 – $123,098.62; 1958 – $134,535.44: 1959 – $182,798.42.

Marion also is assigned to the “Saint Louis Metro Region.” Mail from surrounding areas is channeled into the local center and then dispatched in the Metro network. One day service to any of the network towns is the advantage of the new arrangement. Joe Witter is the Metro specialist in the Marion Office. He has gone to other regions of the state t5o set up similar networks.

The nine city routes serve 4,178 homes in Marion. As new housing developed in recent years, routes were extended to meet the needs of additional Patrons. Out of this office, five rural routes cover a total of 224 miles daily. Carriers service 1,523 boxes.

Since its founding the history and advancement of Marion is reflected in the biography of the post office. In the 120 year existence of postal facilities here, 27 different men have served as postmasters. Several of the initial ones were pioneer leaders of the territory and dominant in the founding of Southern Illinois.

J.P. Smothers is the 27th postmaster. He became acting postmaster on July 1, 1955. His appointment as regular postmaster was confirmed on September 6, 1957. To qualify for the position, he took special schooling in Chicago. Smothers is in his second year as a county director of the National Association of Postmasters of the United States.

Since 1953, he and his brother have operated the Marion bus station. The postal official is a member of the Elks, American Legion and Lions, of which he is vice president. He serves as treasurer of the United Fund. During the past four years, Smothers has been active in the Little League Baseball program of the community. He is a veteran of World War II, serving with the U.S. Army.

Other personnel of the present administrative section of the post office are Levi C. Simpson and Joe Witter. The former has served as assistant postmaster since July 1, 1948. Witter took over the post of superintendent of mails in 1954.

The first post office building was located on North Markets Street at the present site of the Bank of Marion. A high board walk on North Market contrasted to the surroundings and looked more like a scaffold.

In 1899, during the term of Lorenzo Hartwell, the building burned to the ground. Sandy Miller, an assistant postmaster, was able to gather all the mail and save it from being destroyed by fire.

After the fire, the office was moved into a basement room just north of the present entrance to the Gem Café. A short while later, it was moved on West Main to the building occupied by Marks Hardware. The next move was to the southwest corner of the square in the building that now houses Park’s Pharmacy. It was from this location that the first Marion rural free delivery started.

The office was moved to its former location on West Main where it remained for several years until the present building was complete on East Main.

Prior to opening the post office on the public square, the various postmasters operated in their own homes. The exact date of the opening of the building on the northwest corner of the square is not known. Mail in the early days was not large and a small room in the postmaster’s residence was sufficient to handle the needs for the village of Marion.

The first postmaster was Willis Allen. He was a member of the state legislature and U.S. Congress. A pioneer leader of the county, he was appointed January 30, 1840 and served 26 months. He moved to Crab Orchard about 1830 from Tennessee. His home was formerly at Old Frankfort, the county seat of Franklin County before it was divided into Williamson County. Allen pushed the bill to create Williamson County, with the bill becoming law February 28, 1839. He was the father of Judge Josh Allen, noted southern Illinois jurist.

On March 18, 1840, John M. Cunningham was appointed to the position. He served one year. He was the father in law of Major General John A. Logan. The Cunningham home stood on the present Logan school site. The house was torn down to build the school. Cunningham came here from Boone County, Missouri. His wife died during the cholera epidemic in Marion in 1866. She contracted the disease while nursing the sick. Cunningham was born in 1813 and died in 1872.

Napoleon Bonaparte Calvert became the third postmaster on February 10, 1843 and served nine years. He was the first deputy sheriff of the county. Calvert was the grandfather of Mrs. Aggie Sanders Abney and Add Sanders of Marion. His daughter, Cynthia, was the mother of E.B. Jackson Barter.

When he was deputy sheriff of Williamson County he lived on the place known as the Pete Wallace farm and Sheriff Sanders lived on the place known as the former Spitznas farm. They came to Marion in Sheriff Sanders’ horse and buggy. Calvert built his first home in Marion in 1842 on the present location of Kimmel Auto Supply. When John B. Heyde, father of Ted and the late Walter Heyde came to Marion from Saint Claire County, he used the dwelling for a blacksmith shop for a number of years.

Calvert was born in 1806 and died, November 2, 1866. He is buried in the old Marion Cemetery located west of North Court and south of the Illinois Central railroad.

Hoopers Named

Robert T. Hooper received the appointment March 19, 1851, as the fourth postmaster and served for about 12 months. He was married to Nan Ferguson of Marion. While attending a political meeting in Cairo in 1866, he was exposed to the cholera epidemic and died.

Joseph Hooper, no relation to Robert, was named to the position on November 5, 1852. He served nine years. Hooper was a native of New York.

Patrick H. Lang was appointed postmaster on January 15, 1861. He held the post four years. It was during the Civil War, a few months after his appointment that his life was threatened. Lang moved the post office to Bainbridge, about three miles west of town. The move was very unsatisfactory to the citizens of Marion. At a group meeting, the citizens agreed to give Lang protection if he would move the office back. He complied. However, from September 11, 1861 to October 11, 1861, the office was completely closed and no mail was received or sent out of the city.

Lang was born February 26, 1825 and died October 9, 1883. He was a veteran of the Mexican War. Mrs. Henrietta Oglesby, his daughter was a former well known country school teacher here.

After the post office had been closed for a month, Lang reopened on October 11 and continued to head the local department until May 30, 1865. On this date, Robert Elliott took over duties until March 13, 1866 when Napoleon B. Calvert was again named. His second tenure was only for 10 months.

Samuel Cover became the ninth on the list of officials on December 20, 1866 for a term of three years. John Williford was appointed next on January 18, 1869, holding the job for only a month. He was succeeded by Amzi F. White, who was appointed February 2, 1869, and served 14 months.

White was a real estate agent dealing mostly in farm lands. His efforts brought many prominent Saint Claire and Madison County farmers to the Marion area in the early 1880’s. A native of Johnson County, White was born in 1847. His marriage was to Nannie Pulley, daughter of Colonel James D. and Amanda Goodall Pulley.

The White building, located on the south side of the public square was name after him. His land office was located in the building.

William N. Mitchell and E.E. Mitchell were the 12th and 13th men to hold the office. William was appointed April 1, 1870 and served 10 years. His birthplace was in McNary County Tennessee. Mitchell came to this area when it was first being settled and located at Old Frankfort. He became a public surveyor and ran the line separating Williamson from Franklin County. He settled in Northern Township near Corinth. He was married to Rachel Roberts, daughter of John Roberts.

When the Civil War broke out, Mitchell enlisted in Company E, 60th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. He attained the rank of Captain with the company. After being wounded, he retired home to run for public office and was elected Williamson County Clerk in 1865. He was the father of J.C. and E.E. Mitchell and a great grandfather of attorney J.C. Mitchell of Marion.

Upon the death of William N. Mitchell on December 30, 1879, his son E.E. Mitchell became postmaster on January 8, 1880. He served about six months. Mitchell married to Anna Harrison, daughter of D.R. Harrison of Herrin. He was a banker and newspaper man who served as state treasurer of Illinois. He moved to Carbondale and resided there the remainder of his life.

James P. Copeland, a native of Vienna, became the 14th postmaster on June 14, 1880. He served a month over five years. Born September 24, 1845, he was the son of Judge Samuel Copeland. Copeland’s education was in the public schools of Johnson County and in 1859 he began working on the Vienna Enquirer, the first paper in that town. He went from Vienna to Anna to work on the Union County Democrat. At the first of the Civil War, he enlisted in Company E, 60th Illinois Volunteer Regiment and was sworn into service as a private in June 1863. During the war, he was commissioned a lieutenant and was discharged at Atlanta, Georgia September 23, 1864.

He returned to Vienna after the war and became editor and publisher of the Johnson County Journal. He came to Williamson County and established the Marion Monitor in 1874. In 1887, the paper was merged with the Marin Leader which was owned by E.E. Mitchell, John H. Duncan, W.H. Boles, and W.C. Rhea. In 1888, he became sole owner of the paper and operated it until 1901 when he sold the plant to O.J. Page. After he sold the Leader, he went to Carterville and purchased the Carterville Advocate which was operated for a year until the sale to L.E. Robertson.

Copeland returned to Marion and engaged in the culture of plants opening the Marion Green House. His death occurred on February 19, 1914. Copeland married Louisa Washburn on January 15, 1865. After his first wife’s death, his marriage was to Minnie Lilley Brooks, a native of Union County. Mrs. Minnie Copeland died December 21, 1944.

Major John Copeland, son of James and Minnie Lilley Copeland, resides at 500 South Court Street.

Romulus D. Holland served as Marion’s 15th postmaster from July 20, 1853 to April 15, 1889. Holland, a native of West Virginia, was born in 1847. He was known as “Tobe” to his many friends. He married Adele Hundley, daughter of Robert and Harriet Allen Hundley.

Hartwell Hendrickson followed Holland and served five years. He was born in 1848 and died in 1898. A native of Union Grove community, he married Nannie Allen, daughter of Willis Allen, the first postmaster of Marion. His wife was the first baby born in Marion.

Willis Hendrickson is the son of Hartwell Hendrickson. His sister, Mrs. Gussie Hendrickson Lamaster served as assistant postmaster under her father. The post office under Hendrickson was moved from private residences to the building located on North Market Street where the Bank of Marion is now situated.

Former Sheriff Selected

John Goodall was appointed on May 5, 1894, and served nearly four years. He was the son of Joab and Nancy Goodall and came to Illinois from Tennessee when he was seven years of age. Goodall was sheriff of Williamson County in 1850. He was associated with Curt Campbell in the tobacco business. The firm of Goodall and Campbell was one of the largest tobacco dealers in the United States. Goodall’s sister, Mary Goodall Gray, was the mother of John Gray and Mrs. Roscoe (Nannie) Parks, both of Marion.

Goodall died on November 9, 1897 before his term was up. Lorenzo D. Hartwell was appointed postmaster January 10, 1908. It was during his term of office that the post office burned and it was moved into the basement in the building north of where the Gem Café is now located. Hartwell was a veteran of the Civil War. He was admitted to the bar in 1865 and served as master in chancery, county judge and district attorney. He was the father of the late Circuit Court Judge D.T. Hartwell and his daughter, Fannie, is the wife of Dr. Ralph Burkhart. He resigned as postmaster in 1900 to take over duties as state’s attorney.

Henry C. Jones was appointed postmaster on December 10, 1900, and served for 13 years. Jones holds the record of serving longer in the position than any other appointee. He was born November 3, 1853, near Creal Springs. Jones served as Justice of the Peace for six years from 1882-1888 and was elected circuit clerk for Williamson County for two terms. He married Mary Bower, daughter of F.M. Bower of near Crab Orchard. One son, Frank, worked as a clerk in the Marion post office until his death in 1917. Mrs. Jones died January 5, 1925, and her husband died January 28, 1949.

Harry Holland was named postmaster on June 13, 1931. His service was for nine years. Born on a farm southeast of Corinth, his parents were Rolley and Mary Roberts Holland. He was educated in the public schools of the county and the Mount Vernon Business College. He moved to Marion when a young man and took a position in the First National Bank. He later entered the insurance business and he and his brother, Oscar, formed the Holland Construction Company. At the time of his death, September 10, 1949, he and his sister, Miss Maude Holland, resided at 504 E. College Street.

Willis T. Harris, one of the most prominent political figures in Williamson County, was appointed on September 8, 1922. He served for nine years. He was born in Saline County and educated in the public schools there. He moved to Creal Springs in 1881 and to Marion in 1907. Harris served as sheriff and treasurer of Williamson County. He was a leading stock dealer and considered an authority on cattle. He was married to Emma Schafer, who passed away in 1949. Harris’s son, Ralph Harris, is one of the leading attorneys in the county.

Frank Odum was named acting postmaster on November 28, 1931, and served seven months. He was a native of Creal Springs and educated in the public schools of the county. He worked as an electrical foreman before the appointment of postmaster. After ending governmental services, he moved to Pinckneyville to serve as an electrician with the Pyramid Coal Company. Odum now resides in Marion.

Oldham Paisley, editor and publisher of the Marion Daily Republican received the appointment June 1, 1932. His service was 21 months. Paisley is a native of Lincoln, Illinois. He graduated from the University of Omaha and came to Marion in 1915. He is a veteran of both World Wars and held the commission in the infantry as a colonel until he was retired. Mr. and Mrs. Paisley live at 700 South Virginia Avenue.

William H. McAlpin became the next head of the postal department on March 10, 1934. McAlpin held the position for more than four years. A native of this county, he was educated in the public schools here. He also graduated from a course in engineering and worked as a foreman with different coal mining companies. Prior to the postal appointment he served as a member of the Marion Police Department.

A well-known county educator, Donald C. Moss, began the job of postmaster on April 30, 1940. He taught schools in the county for a number of years and later served as county superintendent of schools for three years.

Moss came to Marion with his parents when a young boy. He was educated in the schools here and graduated from Marion Township High School and Southern Illinois University. After his term as postmaster he moved to his farm in Pope County near Golconda where he remained until his death in 1949.

Albert O. Ledbetter assumed the position on June 30, 1946 and served until the year 1955. He is the 26th person to hold the job. Ledbetter was born February 19, 1893, on a farm west of Cambria and was educated in the schools of Williamson County. His education also included Southern Illinois University, Draughns Business College at Nashville, Tennessee and accounting study at the University of Wisconsin.

He began teaching school at the age of 18 and taught until he entered the armed services of WWI on May 10, 1919. He also served as treasurer of the county. Mr. and Mrs. Ledbetter reside at 106 East Allen Avenue.

Eight Assistants

Eight person have served as assistant postmasters.

Gussie Hendrickson Lamaster, a native of Marion, was the daughter of Hartwell and Nannie Allen Hendrickson. She was married to Ben Lamaster, Sr. She served as assistant under her father, who received the appointment April 15, 1884.

Earl B. Jackson served for 18 months under John Goodall. Jackson resigned in 1895 to take a position in a bank at Norris City. After a few years, he returned to Marion to become cashier at the Marion State and Savings Bank. On July 6, 1898, he was united in marriage to Carra Barnes of Norris City, deceased.

James L. Keeler succeeded E.B. Jackson during the term of John Goodall. He served for only a short time and then moved with his family to Salem. He was educate din the public schools of Williamson County and at the time was engaged in the furniture business with the Garrison brothers. He was a native of Robertson County, Tennessee and was married to Valeria Powell.

Sandy Miller was named assistant in 1896 under John Goodall and left the postal service on February 28, 1914. He had over 18 years of service to his credit. Miller came to Marion on October 2, 1889, and was married to Rose Chitty in 1893. His education was in the school system of the county. After leaving the postal department, he and his nephew, Ray Miller, formed an abstract company in Marion.

Will A. Pillow, county native, was educated in the Marion School system and graduated from the township high school. He entered the postal service as a substitute clerk on January 26, 1914, and was made assistant on March 1, 1914. He served until 1917 when he became associated with the Peabody Coal Company. At the time of his death in 1945, he was justice of the peace in West Marion.

Ben T. Bundy, entered the Marion post office in 1917 and was named assistant in 1919. He retired in 1947 after completing the longest years of service of any of the personnel. Bundy was a native of Marion, the son of William H. and Belle Warder Bundy. After grade school and high school he completed a pharmacy course at the St. Louis School of Pharmacy. He maintained his certificate in this profession throughout his lifetime. He was married to Miss Iva Ing. The couple had two children, William Bundy, who is the principal of the Marion Township High School, and Lillian Bundy, who is employed by the Nelson Company Mining Supplies.

The Bundy family moved from Marion to south of Crab Orchard and he was appointed postmaster of the Crab Orchard post office in 1913 and held the position until 1917 when he came to Marion to work in the Marion office. Mrs. Bundy was left in charge at Crab Orchard. At the time of his retirement, he had 33 years of service with the post office department.

While on a motor trip in the east, Bundy suffered a sudden heart attack at Mansfield, Ohio. He died September 16, 1953.

Robert N. Rosenthal, a native of Illinois, came to Carbondale as a district post office inspector. After serving there for some time he transferred to Marin and entered the office here as a clerk on January 1, 1946. He was promoted as assistant postmaster September 1, 1947. On January 16, 1947, he was transferred to St. Petersburg, Florida as a supervisor in the department. He was later transferred as an inspector to the Rio Grande Valley post office in Texas.

Levi C. Simpson, the present assistant postmaster, is a native of Johnson County. After schooling at Simpson, he attended Southern Illinois University. He entered postal service as a substitute on August 1, 1931. In 1945, he was named regular clerk. The assistant’s appointment was on July 4, 1948.

(Marion Daily Republican, June 1960, by John Wayne Allison)


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