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July 17, 2007 > History


Pioneer Post Offices

By Philip Holmes

The United States Post Office Department treated California as a territory and set up a postal system while Congress was debating its status and future. A post office was established at Mission San Jose April 9, 1850 with Jose Jesus Vallejo as postmaster. It was housed in a small adobe storeroom near the present museum. The office moved from store to store until it was located in the Solon building and finally moved to Ellsworth Street in 1959. It was discontinued in 1960 during the consolidation of the Fremont Post Office but was reopened June 1, 1961, celebrating 125 years of service in 1975 and 150 years in 2000.

Our second post office was established at Alvarado August 8, 1853. Henry C. Smith was the postmaster, and the office was apparently in his store. Smith's former partner, Augustus Church, became postmaster in 1856. Edwin Richmond served about 30 years.

The Centerville office was established March 3, 1855 with Reuben Clements as postmaster. Mr. Clemens erected a two-story building in 1854 with a residence on the upper floor and a general store below. The first post office was probably in this store. George Bond, who opened the first store in Centerville, was appointed postmaster in 1858 and Henry Gregory later had the post office in the Gregory Hotel. Centerville finally gained a large, modern structure in 1948, built to government specifications by Alan Walton on the original town hall site.

A daily mail route was opened between Oakland and San Jose in 1858. People appreciated the regular service at Mission San Jose, Alvarado and Centerville but grumbled because the Oakland office held up the mail on Sundays.

A post office was founded at Harrisburg (Warm Springs) on December 15, 1865. George Peacock was the postmaster and his hotel served as the post office. James Murray was appointed postmaster in 1884 and the building became known as the Rural Hotel. The post office name was changed to Warm Springs in 1885. The office was in the Warm Springs store while Helen and Jacob Steinmetz were postmasters. Joe Brown bought the store in 1911 and served as postmaster for 45 years. His wife Rose took over the office in 1957.

Washington Corners (Irvington) received a post office June 16, 1870. Timothy Rix was the first postmaster followed by William Mack, Frank Griffin, Alson Clark, Nathaniel Babb, Otto Hirsch and Edward Thompson, editor of The Washington Press. The office moved from store to store around The Corners but stayed in the Tierney-Weston store about 20 years. The name was changed to Irving in 1884 and to Irvington in 1887.

The Decoto office was established January 9, 1871 with James Hine as postmaster. It was discontinued in 1872 and begun again in 1875 with Andrew Hare as postmaster. John Olson held the office from 1902 to 1936.

Niles received its post office October 8, 1873 with William Snyder as postmaster. He was paid $12 per year to handle two mails a day in his store. The office moved up and down Main Street with each change of administration to William Dickey's store, John Briscoe's store and back to Snyder's store. It finally escaped the Main Street traffic to a new building built on J Street by Judge Silva in 1932.

Mail for the people in the Newark area came from Centerville until they obtained their own office March 25, 1880. Martin Carter was the first postmaster followed by George Thom. The office moved from the Thom Store to the Munyan Store, the State Bank building and other locations. Julia Harris held the office for 38 years.

Newark had only six postmasters before incorporation. Mission San Jose had only 8 in 100 years before it became part of the City of Fremont. Irvington had the most. Solomon Ehrman was postmaster three separate times at Mission San Jose. Mary Owen at Alvarado was the first woman postmaster. Rural delivery was begun in Newark in 1903. Another route covered the rural areas from Alvarado to Mission San Jose. People who were not on a rural route had post office boxes.

Postmasters were appointed by the president of the United States until the Civil Service system was adopted in 1938. Postmasters in 1953 were Joseph Brown, Warm Springs; Julia Harris, Newark; Manuel Lewis, Centerville; Mary Janiero, Decoto; Manuel Joseph, Irvington; Lois Bottenberg, Mission San Jose; Genevieve Dutra, Alvarado and Edward Enos, Niles. Incorporation of the three cities, beginning in 1955, brought changes and confusion to the people and their post offices, but Mission San Jose retained its historic postmark.

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