A Note from Cottonwood Corners

That section of the Constitution of the United States known as the “Postal Clause,” states, “The Congress has the power . . . To establish Post Offices and post Roads.”  The fledgling United States government followed a long tradition of governmental control of communication first documented by Persia, Egypt, and Babylonia by about 500 BC.

Once mail reached the shore of what was later to become America, the colonists were left to their own method of delivering the mail as conditions permitted.  In the 1640s a post road was established between Boston and New York.  Later, postal delivery points were established in taverns and inns between Williamsburg, Virginia, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Benjamin Franklin was named postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737 and was later appointed postmaster general for the American Colonies in 1753.  The Post Office Act of 1792 modified the service, transforming it into a truly “Americanized,” service.  This prepared the way for the postal service to grow with the new country to South Dakota.

FORT RANDALL — One of the first post offices located in South Dakota was at Fort Randall in what is now South Dakota on September 29, 1860.  Even though it was situated on the west side of the river, it was attached to Charles Mix County when established.  The county system had not yet been extended west of the river.

Todd County was created by Dakota Territory in present South Dakota and Nebraska from non-county area on May 8, 1862.  Todd County at that time was fully organized.  Gregory County was created on the same day.  It was attached to Todd County since it was not fully organized.

Todd County was named for General John Todd, a cousin of the wife of Abraham Lincoln.  He was a graduate of West Point in 1837 and came to Dakota as a captain and served as a topographer.  He resigned his commission to enter business and was a delegate to Congress in 1861.  He later settled in Yankton and became a man of education and a leading citizen.  A portion of his library is preserved in the State Library today and indicates his discriminating taste in literature.

In 1887, the Postmaster General reported that Dakota Territory had more post offices than Maryland, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Connecticut and nineteen other states.  Dakota Territory was twenty-fifth in a ranking of the states at that time.

On April 30, 1897 the post office at Fort Randall was discontinued and mail and postal business was transferred to White Swan.  The office was re-established at Fort Randall on December 31, 1897.  When Gregory County was fully organized and detached from Charles Mix County, Fort Randall was listed as being in Gregory County.

Fort Randall was the first post office to be established in what was to become Gregory County.  It was discontinued on April 15, 1907.  Rural delivery was established at Gross, Nebraska, and the mail and postal business was transferred there.

ANTELOPE — Antelope was the second post office established in Gregory County.  It operated from March 16, 1868 to December 6, 1873.  It was located on the river six miles west of Fort Randall and was listed under Charles Mix County.  Kerwin Wilson was the only postmaster.  His salary in 1869 was listed as $1.00 a month.  The name probably came from the pronghorn antelope which were common in the area at the time the post office was established.  Lewis and Clark, on September 2, 1804 recorded in their diary that “We see a strange animal, new to science, which we will call ‘Wild goats.’”  They were then below Emmanuel Creek near what would later become the site of Springfield.  They continued to see their “Wild Goats” for more than a week as they journeyed up river.   [Later, in 1815, they were technically named: antelope.]

WHETSTONE AGENCY — Whetstone Agency post office was established December 28, 1869 before any county system extended into the area.  It was located at the mouth of Whetstone Creek on the river.  The office was discontinued September 6, 1870 with mail to Fort Randall.  It opened a second time from February 1, 1871 to February 26, 1872, with mail again to Fort Randall.  The Whetstone Agency was established at the mouth of Whetstone Creek, thirty miles above Fort Randall.  It was a one company post and contained the usual assortment of buildings which were built of cottonwood logs.  It was abandoned on April 30, 1872.  The Whetstone Agency can be found on the U. S. Geological Survey Map and is reported as “historical.”

ROSEBUD LANDING — Rosebud Landing post office was located at the mouth of Landing Creek on the river at Durex Island.  It was established February 4, 1879 in what was then considered part of Lyman County.  It was discontinued March 6, 1879, re-established September 16, 1879 and noted as being in Gregory County on February 5, 1880.  It was discontinued on April 30, 1883 with the mail to Bijou Hills.  Rosebud Landing is clearly identified on an 1884 map of Dakota Territory on the west side of the river below Bijou Hills.  Landing Creek is also listed as “Rosebud Creek” on the U. S. Geological Survey Map.

NOTE:  For the next two weeks, the location and a brief history of the remainder of post offices which were established in Gregory County will be reported in their order of creation. Some of these you probably never knew or thought about!  Dakota Collector, A Research Journal of North and South Dakota Postal History, Vol. XXXIV, No. 4, October, 2017 is the source for much of this information.  Their web site is: http://www.dakotapostalhistorysociety.org/

 

Author Clarence Shoemaker, originally published in the Gregory-Times Advocate on January 22, 2020.

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