Whitewater’s first postmaster walked miles on job
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In 1840, Whitewater’s first postmaster, D.J. Powers, walked the mail to Whitewater from East Troy on a weekly basis. He began those duties on April 1 of that year.
Powers came to the area in 1838 from Vermont by way of Milwaukee, and built the first hotel in the community. In 1842, he bought a mill in Palmyra and platted that village.
He was a member of the state Assembly, published and edited the Wisconsin Farmer for several years and served as secretary to the Wisconsin Agricultural Society. He then moved to Chicago.
In 1840, when Wisconsin was a territory, there were 12 post offices in the county: Big Foot, Darien, Delavan, Elkhorn, Fairfield, Franklin, Heart Prairie, Lyonsdale, Round Prairie, Sugar Creek, Troy and Whitewater.
According to Albert Beckwith’s “History of Walworth County,” those who followed Powers were Thomas K. LeBarron, Warner Earle, Eleazar Wakeley and Isaac U. Wheeler. The latter was postmaster in 1849. George G. Williams became postmaster in 1853 and Lallemand H. Rann around 1861.
Next, in order were Edmund B. Gray and Henry O. Montague. In 1872, Prosper Cravath was named postmaster. It should be noted that each new presidential administration named new postmasters throughout the county.
The order continued with: Henry McGraw, 1880; Edward F. Donnelly, 1887; Edwin D. Coe, 1891; John H. Fryer, 1895; and Frank B. Goodhue in 1899. Fryer continued as first assistant after Goodhue was named. Goodhue continued as postmaster until about 1915.
Around 1892, this post office was raised to second-class status. It had five rural free delivery routes. It also had a city delivery service.
Back in 1859, the post office was open on Sunday mornings. I assume that this was for the convenience of rural residents who would come to town for Sunday church services.
In 1896, the post office was located at 135 W. Main St. and John H. Fryer was the postmaster. Right across the street at 136 W. Main St. was Leffingwell’s Livery Stable. The current post office building was constructed in 1935.
LeBarron also ran a store in Whitewater, which he bought from Benjamin F. and Joseph L. Stanton. Warner Earle was added to the role of county attorneys in 1844. He was a town clerk, a member of the state Legislature and a hotel-keeper. He moved to California in 1850.
Eleazar Wakeley was a delegate to the final Assembly of our territory. He was town clerk from 1851 to 1852 and in 1856. He served as a state senator from 1852 until 1855. He was a lawyer and later went to Omaha as a federal judge.
Isaac U. Wheeler served as justice of the peace for many years. He bought land in Sections 23, 24, 28 and 29 in the town of Whitewater.
George G. Williams served on the county board in 1849. He was an associate supervisor for the township in 1852-’53 and 1855. He was a trustee on the board of the State School for the Deaf from 1852 until 1854.
At one time he had half interest in Cole Pottery. He was president of the village from 1861 to 1862. He died on Aug. 8, 1889.
Edmund B. Gray and Edwin D. Coe were early organizers of the Walworth County Soldiers and Sailors Association. It was begun in 1889 as a result of reunions of the Civil War veterans. Gray had been a colonel in the Army, commanding the 28th Infantry.
Coe was in the state Assembly in 1878 to 1879. He helped publish the Annals of Whitewater and was editor of the Whitewater Register, considered to be one of the best village newspapers in the state. He had this post from 1871 until his death in 1909. His son then became editor and publisher.
Henry O. Montague was added to the roll of county attorneys in 1859 and served as a court commissioner in 1861. He was town clerk from 1859 to 1860 and 1864. He served in the First Infantry during the Civil War.