Merrimack New Hampshire Post Office History and Its First Woman Postmaster.

Sketch of woman and man in a post office, from “The Postmaster,” by Howard Heath and Joseph Crosby Lincoln, 1912; Internet Archive

New Hampshire has a long and interesting post office history dating back to 1673. This story is specific to the area that is now the town of Merrimack in Hillsborough County. For New Hampshire’s early post office and post road history SEE “New Hampshire’s Post Road and Post Office History.”

In Merrimack’s earliest years, there were no post offices. Those who wanted to leave “mail,” documents or packages for someone in the town could leave them at one of the town’s taverns or meeting-places for the person to pick up when they next visited. The Farmer’s Monthly Visitor published by Isaac Hill in 1852 says that “As late as 1777 there was but one Post Office in New Hampshire, that at Portsmouth…while in 1852 there are 360 Post Masters in the State!

Title page of 1901 sheet music, “The Old Postmaster.” Shows inside of a small post office with PO boxes. Internet Archive.

Merrimack historically has four villages — namely Reeds Ferry, Souhegan Village [or just Merrimack], Thornton’s Ferry and South Merrimack. When the post office system developed to the point where the town had an official post office, often each or several of these villages had its own. Merrimack’s early postmasters maintained an office in their home, inn/hotel, or place of business.  They often also served the function of Justice of the Peace.

The New-Hampshire annual register, and United States calendar by John Farmer and G. Parker Lyon, editors [later George E. Jenks compiler] was a great source of information on Merrimack’s postmasters.   The earliest postmaster I could locate (there may have been earlier ones) was 1823–Eleazer Roby. Merrimack’s first woman postmaster was Mrs. Hattie A. Evans, appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant to serve South Merrimack from 17 March 1875 to 15 August 1883. [See her story below].

1914 colorized photograph of Jenkins Store, once used as the Reeds Ferry NH post office with Harry Jenkins, postmaster.

—–List (Incomplete) of Merrimack New Hampshire’s POSTMASTERS—–

1823
Elea Roby
[Editor’s note: This was Eleazer Roby, son of William and Hanah Roby, born 25 June 1772 Dunstable, Hillsborough Co. NH;  He married 26 Nov 1822 in Merrimack NH to Miss Prudence Morse. Died in 1852, as probate was 8 Oct 1852 Hillsborough Co NH.
———
1825
Merrimack – Wm. Patterson
Thornton’s Ferry – Eleazar Roby
———
1830
H.T. Ingalls
———
1832
Henry T. Ingalls
———
1833
6 Nov 1833
Obadiah Marland appointed postmaster at Merrimack,Hillsborough Co NH
Marten Crooker
David Jones
———
1836
O. Marland
———
1838
(from New Hampshire, U.S., Court Rosters, 1800-1961)
Abel Goodrich Jr.
Samuel McConihe
Simeon Kenney
Robert McGaw
———
1839
Merrimack, Obadiah Marland
Ephraim W. Livingston
———
1840
John McConihe Jr. /or/ Samuel McConihe (records differ)
Samuel Barnes Jr.
Obadiah Marland
Martin Crooker
———
1841
New Hampshire, U.S., Court Rosters, 1800-1961
James U Parker
———
1842
Oliver Spalding Jr.
Leonard Walker
———
1843
Edward Wheeler
Robert McGaw
Samuel Barron
———
1851
Reeds Ferry: M.P. Nichols
South Merrimack, Charles O. Smith
Thornton Ferry, Caleb Jones
———
1853
Merrimack, Matthew P. Nichols;
South Merrimack, Peter E. Smith.
Thornton’s Ferry, Caleb Jones
———
1855
Reeds Ferry – M.P. Nichols
South Merrimack – Harding Ball
Thornton Ferry – Caleb Jones
———
1861
Reed’s Ferry – Matthew P. Nichols
South Merrimack – Kimbal W. Brown
Thornton’s Ferry, Caleb Jones to Oct 26, George Drew from Oct 26.
———
1870
Merrimac: (sic) – John G. Read from Sept 24
Reeds Ferry: M.P. Nichols
South Merrimack: K.W. Brown, from Aug 8
Thornton’s Ferry: George Drew
———
1875
Merrimack, POSTMASTER & EXP AGT – G.H. Bixby
Merrimack South,POSTMASTER, MERCHANT & EXP. AGENT–K.W. Brown
Reeds Ferry, POSTMASTER–M.P. Nichols
———
17 March 1875 to 15 August 1883:
South Merrimack: Mrs. Hattie A. Evans, appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant.
———
1881
Reeds Ferry – M.P. Nichols
Merrimack – G.H. Bixby
South Merrimack – Hattie A. Evans** (SEE below)
———
1884
Merrimack, Postmaster & Exp. Ag’t — J.T. Jones
Merrimack South, Postmaster and Merchant–Asaph Evans
Reed’s Ferry, Postmaster–M.P. Nichols
———

A rare photo postcard postmarked 1913, courtesy RICK PRICE, showing the Fessenden & Lowell office (on 16 Maple Street) that apparently was also the Reeds Ferry post office for a time.

1907
Reeds Ferry – M.P. Nichols
South Merrimack – Harding Ball to July 15, K.W. Brown from July 15.
———
1911
Reeds Ferry – Grace I Sullivan
South Merrimack – Ella E. Morse
Thornton’s Ferry – Angus Morrison
———
1918
Thornton’s Ferry – Angus Morrison (Station Agent of B&M RR & postmaster)
———
1931
South Merrimack: Percy Q Morse
———
1940-current
Name   Title   Date Appointed
Mrs. Grace M. Hoffman, Postmaster
Louis Hoffman, Acting Postmaster 01/31/1940
[Editor’s Note: 1941 Reeds Ferry Postmaster, H.L. Jenkins. ]
Mrs. Sarah A. Sloan, Postmaster 08/20/1941
Mrs. Sarah A. Sloan’s name was changed by marriage to Mrs.
Sarah S. Bishop, on October 3, 1954.
[Raymond Jenkins retires as Postmaster in 1967. He was postmaster from 1961-1967.
[Mrs. Rita (Ralph) Nolet, named acting Postmaster January 1967]
Mrs. Phyllis O. Boles, Officer-In-Charge 02/26/1969
Alan D. Carswell, Officer-In-Charge 06/30/1970
Alan D. Carswell, Postmaster 12/11/1971
Robert A. Dion, Officer-In-Charge 08/10/1979
Robert S. Hamer, Postmaster 02/23/1980
Dennis C. Ward, Officer-In-Charge 07/19/1984
Paul B. Cathcart, Officer-In-Charge 09/24/1984
Paul A. Lipnick, Postmaster 10/27/1984
Michael T. Prifti, Officer-In-Charge 08/26/1987
Kenneth F. Magoon, Postmaster 10/24/1987
Wendy J. Hankins, Officer-In-Charge 08/22/1988
Michael K. Fortunato, Postmaster 10/22/1988
Charles P. Basbas, Postmaster 03/06/1993
Carol Hauser, Officer-In-Charge 08/11/1994
William W. Adams, Officer-In-Charge 04/20/1995
Susan F. Cutting, Officer-In-Charge 12/13/1995
Denise I. Wilson, Postmaster 03/30/1996
Donald M. Snow, Officer-In-Charge 01/18/2001
Dean L. Mottard, Officer-In-Charge 09/26/2002
Jeffrey M. Ryder, Officer-In-Charge 04/04/2003
Kathy A. Cwenar, Officer-In-Charge 05/08/2003
Clare Maureen Clarke, Postmaster 10/04/2003
Kathleen A. Cwenar, Officer-In-Charge 03/31/2004
Kathleen A. Cwenar, Postmaster 10/02/2004

—–Some Locations of Merrimack’s Post Offices—–

Colorized photograph of Reeds Ferry’s post office on the DW Highway in Merrimack before 1975 when it was converted to a restaurant. This building is now Charlies Homestyle Diner.

Reeds Ferry: various buildings held post offices over time, One older location was McGaw’s Tavern, located on the corner of the DW Highway and Depot Street, where a gas station is currently located. [The McGaw’s Tavern building was dismantled and moved in 1970 and rebuilt in Bedford as a private home on Meetinghouse Road.] About 1913 the Reeds Ferry Post office was located in the Fessenden & Lowell office on Maple Street (see photo below). Another location of the Reeds Ferry Post Office was in the building now known as Reeds Ferry Market, formerly Jenkins Store with Raymond Jenkins as postmaster.  On Oct 15 1961 a “new” Reeds Ferry Post Office was dedicated at 600 DW Highway. According to the Nashua Telegraph “it was built under the government’s investment finance scheme which allows the facilities to be leased to the government, remain under private ownership and pay taxes to the community.” This post office was converted to an ice cream parlor in 1975 and became a restaurant shortly after. William & Ruth Robinson bought the business in 1982, and called it Ruthie’s Postal Parlour Restaurant. Currently this is known as Charlie’s Homestyle Diner. The Reeds Ferry Post Office’s zip code was 03078.
Thornton’s Ferry: In 1911 the post office was located at the Thorntons Ferry B&M Railroad Depot.
South Merrimack: On 23 March 1948, the Nashua Telegraph reported that the Clover Farm store of Carold Ford Hall in South Merrimack also housed the South Merrimack post-office. Per Rick Price, this store was also known as “South Merrimack Market”, but the locals called it “Hall’s Store.” According to Andy Schneider, the South Merrimack Post Office was also once located in the “Eat Here and Get Gas” building on 101A, the corner of Continental and 101A. A Nashua Telegraph news article mentions that eatery stating he bought stamps from the waitress while the postmaster was busy cooking. The zip code was 03083.

Cover of Merrimack NH’s 1965 Annual Report. From University of New Hampshire Digital Archives. Shows post office when it was located at 395 Daniel Webster Highway

Merrimack /or/ Souhegan Village: According to my cousin Ginny Penrod, as a child she remembers this post office being on Chicken Street, past the (now) Merrimack Flower Shop & Greenhouse. On July 1, 1954, the Post Office was moved into larger quarters–a section of the first floor of a factory building which housed part of the chemical plant, a knitting mill and a plating company. A newspaper article states this post office remained there until August 1 1965 when a new” post office building was completed and ready for occupancy. Andy Schneider of FaceBook group “Remember When in Merrimack” states that when his family  “moved to town in the late 60’s, the post office was a standalone building across from New World gas – the building that has CEJ computer systems (before the addition was in the back where medical offices are today).” PO Boxes were located inside.   This is 395 DW Highway].  From Nashua Telegraph, Nashua NH, 10 Sep 1965, page 6: “Merrimack Post Office Dedication. — Formal dedication of Merrimack’s new post office Sunday afternoon at 3 will make a new brick colonial facility on Route 3 “official.” Gov. John W. King heads officials expected to attend the ceremony planned as a salute to the new facility and the town’s growth.  MERRIMACK POSTMASTER — Mrs. Sarah S. Bishop celebrated 24 years as Postmaster of the Merrimack Post Office on Wednesday in the new building which will be formally dedicated in a ceremony on Sunday at 2 pm. The public is invited to attend. POST OFFICE IS CREDIT TO TOWN GROWTH. Merrimack — The new facility, located at Merrimack, NH is part of the Post Office Department’s lease construction program, Postmaster Mrs. Sarah Bishop explained today.Under this program, investment financing is used to obtain needed facilities which remain under private ownership, pay local taxes in this community and are leased by the Federal Government. At the same time, the need for large outlays of money from the Federal Treasury for construction purposes is eliminated. Like most of the new postal buildings that are going up across the country, this post office is leased to the Post Office Department. This gives the Department some flexibility in adapting its building program to changes in mail volume, transportation and population, Postmaster Sarah S. Bishop said. The Department is now concentrating on constructing new postal units only where they are most urgently needed. In areas where it is practical to do so, existing buildings are undergoing renovation.  The fact that Merrimack has been chosen for a new post office,” Postmaster Sarah S. Bishop said, “reflects credit on our growing contribution to the economy and life of the nation.”  Though Merrimack now had a new MAIN post office, according to the following news article, postal sub-stations remained. “Nashua Telegraph 8 Aug 1969 page 10: “Merrimack Post Office as main office with a branch at Reeds Ferry. Carriers to emanate from Merrimack. A sub-station is located in South Merrimack.” [SEE “Our Current Post Office below for newest (and now the main) post office in Merrimack NH.

—– Merrimack and Rural Free Delivery (RFD) —-

Rural Free Delivery (RFD) was established on an experimental basis in 1896 to deliver mail directly to rural destinations.Before that time residents of rural areas had to travel to a designated, often-distant post office to pick up their mail, or they paid for it to be delivered by a private carrier. In 1902 RFD became an official part of the Post Office Department’s services.

In Merrimack the RFD System continued until 1970.  The Nashua Telegraph, Nashua NH on 23 June 1970, page 15 reported: “The Post Office Dept authorized the conversion of the Reeds Ferry Post Office to a station of the Merrimack Post Office, effective June 30. All residents will be Merrimack NH 03054. Alan Carswell, officer in charge of Reeds Ferry Post Office RFD 1, 2 and 3 were served by a different route and patrons would use the name and number of the street or road on which they live rather than RFD and box numbers.”

—–Our Current-Day Post Office Building History—-

My thanks to Rick Price for his corrections and additions to this section of the story.

Merrimack NH’s Post Office as it is today.

It did not take long for Merrimack to outgrow its main post office at 395 Daniel Webster Highway. The Nashua Telegraph 5 June 1975 page 14 reported on the building of the new facility, located at 510 Daniel Webster Highway : “Merrimack’s New Post Office Merrimack’s new post office, costing about $600,000 will be opened for business on Monday June 16. The facility is located on the Daniel Webster Highway, Reeds Ferry area, and will provide about five times more space than previously. An open house has been planned for residents to inspect the building on Sunday, June 22 from 1 to 4 pm. The former Merrimack post office and Reeds Ferry station will close June 14. The South Merrimack rural station of Nashua will close June 30, according to postmaster Alan Carswell.”

If any of my readers have information to add to this story, i.e. postmasters, locations, details, please leave a comment!

—–Merrimack’s First Woman Postmaster: Mrs. Hattie Evans —–

Harriet A. Lewis, later Mrs. Hattie A. Evans, the first woman postmaster of South Merrimack NH. Photo from Alice Howe Mason’s, collection courtesy of James Van Wert.

As mentioned earlier, Mrs. Hattie A. Evans was appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant to serve as postmaster of the South Merrimack office from 17 March 1875 to 15 August 1883. She was the first woman postmaster in the town of Merrimack, New Hampshire.   Appointments of women as postmasters during this time period was a rare occurrence.

Mrs. Hattie A. Evans was born Harriett Adelaide Lewis on 25 June 1851 in Concord Massachusetts, daughter of Charles Henry & Mary Elizabeth (Gleason) Lewis. Her mother was a direct descendant of Thomas Gleason of Watertown MA.  She took the nickname of “Hattie” and married 24 Dec 1868 in Amherst NH to Asaph Evans, son of Hosea & Hannah Porter (Martin) Evans.  In 1870 Asaph & Hattie (Lewis) Evans were living in Mason NH but by 1875 they had moved to Merrimack, New Hampshire, and remained their until Hattie’s postmaster appointment ended. By 1900 Hattie’s husband Asaph had died, and she had moved with her mother and then-17 year old son Forrest to  Laconia New Hampshire.  Hattie died 3 Dec 1935 in Manchester NH, and is buried in Union Cemetery, Laconia NH.   Asaph & Harriet A. “Hattie” (Lewis) Evans had two children:Everett Lewis Evans 1869-1943, and Forrest Leon Evans 1882-1955.

My personal thanks to Anne Jordan Davis of Rutland, MA, a relative of Mrs. Hattie Evans for suggesting a photograph to use here.   My thanks also to Anne’s cousin, Judy Thompson for helping me with this story.  Both Anne and Judy are direct descendants of Martha Elizabeth Lewis Graham ( Hattie’s sister) and her husband George Sumner Graham. The photograph used above is a section of a group photo, from Alice Howe Mason’s collection, courtesy of James Van Wert.

=====ADDITIONAL READING=====

New Hampshire’s Post Road and Post Office History

Postmaster Finder (Tool) at United States Postal Service

Article on Woman Postmasters by the US Postal Service (pdf)

Airmail A Brief History (pdf)

 

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1 Response to Merrimack New Hampshire Post Office History and Its First Woman Postmaster.

  1. Donna M Dunn says:

    Thank You!!

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