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Postal Service in Water Mill

Little is known about early mail delivery. Steamboats made regular trips to Sag Harbor and Long Island stagecoaches had scheduled runs to East Hampton by mid-19th century and they most likely carried mail to the east end. This mail was usually dropped at general stores or other places residents regularly visited.

The first post office on Long Island opened in 1789 in Sag Harbor.

First Class Stamps

 

Postal rates originally depended on the number of sheets and distance to destination.

From 1792 the lowest rate was 6 cents for one-half ounce mail traveling under 30 miles and 25 cents for a distance of over 450 miles.

By 1863, if the distance was under 3,000 miles the cost was 3 cents and if over that it was 10 cents. That rate would vary slightly but ws pretty consistent until 1958 when first class one ounce mail went to 5 cents.

There were gradual increases but more frequent and larger increases started in 1971 when Congress ended financial support and required the post office to be self sufficient. In 2014 a first class stamp cost 46 cents.

Rural Free Delivery

 

By the late 1800s most mail delivery was free to city dwellers but in rural areas mail had to be picked up in the post office.

Due to forceful political pressure put on the Congress, especially by the National Grange, rural delivery was common in most areas by the early 1900s.

In 1988, Water Mill had 555 deliveries to street mail boxes.

By 1994, those rural deliveries were 775 and today (2014) the number has increased to 1,252.

 

 

In 1866, Stephen Squires was appointed the first postmaster in Water Mill. His "post office" was probably a locked desk in the water mill.

Corwith General StoreThe first general store in Water Mill was owned by Samuel Corwith and later his grandson James. Both men were postmasters and had a small area set aside as a "post office".

James Jennings purchased the store and became postmaster in 1907. He kept a roll down desk, his "post office", in the front corner of the store. The desk usually had its top rolled down but a slit cut into the side of the desk served as a letter drop.


 


Photo is of the Corwith's General Store c. 1905

James H. Corwith - Postmaster 1897 - 1907 and his father Samuel Corwith - Postmaster 1875 - 1893

 

Bailey Scholtz General Store c. 1920

Bailey Scholtz purchased the general store. The post office continued to be in the store for a few years before he built an annex on the left for the post office. This was the first time the Water Mill post office had its own building.

Scholtz eventually added a second annex to the general store on the west for the post office as he wanted to use the first annex for the expansion of the store.

Scholtz was postmaster 1942 - 1946.

 

 

Photo of Bailey Scholtz General Store c. 1920s

 

 

Train - early 20th century

Many railroads, including the Long Island Railroad, had a railroad Post Office car (RPO) with a Railway Service Postal Clerk who sorted the mail as the train traveled between communities.

Water Mill ceased to be a railroad stop in the fall of 1950. With the creation of the Interstate Highway System truck transport gradually replaced trains and by 1970 trains no longer carried first class mail.

 

The coal-burning train pictured is typical of the early 1900s. The train pictured is passing over the culvert on Mill Pond just north of the water mill. To the right is the Jenning's

house, the future site of the Market Square Shops and the 1986 Post Office.

 

 

Railway Express

 

Before private carriers the only way to send packages was "parcel post" by railway express.

In the spring farmers received chicks in shipping boxes that held 25 to 100 chicks. Chicks were shipped the day they hatched as they could survive the first two days without food or water. The postmaster called the farmer when the chicks arrived.

The 25 chick box on the left was shipped from Cameron, Texas to North Sea Mecox Road resident Carl Zeh.

 



Local chicken farmers could send fresh eggs to customers in specially designed tin shipping boxes which would be shipped back after the eggs were delivered.

This box was used by Charles M. Corwith who had his farm and chicken business on Deerfield Road.

The display eggs in the box are Corwith's dummy eggs that could be put in chicken's nests to stimulate egg production.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Water Mill Post Office

The second Water Mill Post Office is where Arthur Muller started his career as Postmaster. He was appointed Water Mill's thirteenth postmaster on April 12, 1946.

According to Arthur Muller all the furnishing except the roll top desk was homemade. The U.S. Postal Department only supplied a clock, scales, lock boxes and a safe.

The second Water Mill Post Office c. 1947

 

Interior of post office

 

 

 

 

 

"Peach baskets served as wastebaskets, a beer case was nailed to the wall to hold tags and labels, a Winchester ammunition box was used to catch mail as it came through the letter drop. The beer case was left unpainted so it could be redeemed at a later date for 50 cents."

 

In the early post offices most of the furnishings were homemade. It wasn't until 1961 that the Postal Service supplied the Water Mill Post Office with some old oak furniture. Arthur refinished those pieces and 50 years later they are still in use in the current post office.

 

 

 

Interior view of second Water Mill Post Office

Water Mill Post Office 1965

Water Mill Post Office that served the community from 1961 - 1976
Photo taken about 1965

Arthur Muller

Water Mill Post Office - 1960s

left: Helen Mistkowski Postal Clerk 1940s - 1960s
center: Postmaster Muller
right: Phyllis Grimshaw, Postal Clerk 19602 - 1970s

 

Ccitation of Merit Award

President Johnson, at the urging of his wife, established a Natural Beauty Program whose purpose was to improve the landscape of the nation.

Federal post offices were encouraged by the Postmaster General to join the national campaign by improving the appearance of their post office.

Arthur Muller accepted the challenge building and installing wooden grids on the front windows of the post office. In front of those Windows he placed two flower boxes he had built and filled with flowers.

In May 1966 he received a Citation of Merit Award from a postal regional director which he accepted on behalf of the citizens of Water Mill and the Water Mill Community Club.



Postmaster Arthur Muller accepts the Citation of Merit from a postal regional director.
Looking on and sharing in the commendation are postal clerks Helen Mistkowski and Phyllis Grimshaw
and Bailey Scholtz, the former postmaster who retired in 1946.

 

Water Mill Post Office

In 1976 the Water Mill Post Office moved into the newly constructed Market Square shopping mall.

 

© 2000-2014 Water Mill Museum, 41 Old Mill Road, Water Mill, Long Island, New York 11976
updated December 22, 2014