Creston Post Office Photos

This page features a collection of photos and related memorabilia that were shared with me by Creston resident Barb Coenen and her sister, Phyllis Allen, of O'Fallon, Missouri.

In 2004, Phyllis bought the old Creston Post Office on 222 Maple Street in downtown Creston and began renovating it with an eye toward housing some kind of retail store there. Given Creston's downtown retail potentional at that time I would have warned her against this scheme. But I would have been wrong. Now, some five years later, (2009) Allen's business is not just surviving, it's expanding. By rescuing the old post office from the wrecking ball, Allen and her sisters haven't just preserved an invaluable piece of Creston's history, they have created one of Creston's liveliest and most interesting new businesses: Maple Street Memories. (Click here for more info.)

During the renovation, the sisters came upon the photographs below, which document the construction of the Creston Post Office as well as the early days of Rural Free Delivery system. As you can see, most of the photos are by Agnew, so when the sisters caught wind of the Agnew Studio project, they contacted me and offered to let me make copies. All the photos share the theme of mail delivery, so they seemed like a perfect collection for a special feature, so here they are, gathered together for your enjoyment.

If you (the viewers) have any other photos or stories to share about the Creston Post Office, the Gummere family, or Rural Free Delivery, please share them with me via the "Contact" link and I will consider adding them to this page. Thanks!

All text on this page is by David Preston unless otherwise noted.

Click on any photo to ENLARGE

Creston Post Office Postcard

Creston Post Office Postcard
Date: Early 1900s (?)

I believe this is an undated postcard photo, but from scenery around I'm guessing that it dates from the 1920s or 1930s.

 

Post Office with Carts

Creston Post Office Delivery Carts
Date: 1910  Photographer: Fouchak

This photo shows Will Gummere and his daughter Alice, Creston's rural route letter carriers, and their two-horsepower mail carts. According to the information compiled by Jane Briley of the Union County Genealogical Society, (see the "Other Studios" page) S.A. Fouchak did not open a studio in Creston until 1913, so this photo might have been taken for the Creston newspaper.

Miss Alice Gummere and friends

Alice Gummere with Delivery Cart
Date: 1910 (?)  Studio: Probably Fouchak

The note pasted on this photo gives some additional biographical information on Alice.

R.F.D. Mailcart

Close-up of Mail Cart
Date: 1906  Studio: Unknown (Probably Fouchek)

Notes: In this photo Will Gummere peaks out of a one-horsepower version of the mail cart. It appears to be the same cart as the one on the left in the photo above. It looks like a chilly ride, doesn't it?

On the side of the cart it says: "R.F.D. Route No. 3." R.F.D. stands for "Rural Free Delivery." In 1906, Rural Free Delivery was still a relatively new way of delivering mail. Until the late 1800s, the Postal Service had delivered mail directly to homes only in the larger cities. Country folks (who still made up most of the population at that time) were required to travel to the nearest post office to pick up their mail. In the 1880s, the Postal Service began implementing free home delivery across the nation, creating thousands of jobs for folks like Will and Alice, and saving millions of rural Americans the trouble of traveling several miles to pick up their mail.

RFD route designations were still a common sight on letters to rural Union County residents as recently as the 1990s; however, they are becoming increasingly obsolete as street and address assignments are given to even the most out-of-the-way places.

There are several good articles on Rural Free Delivery on the Internet. Here are a few:

US Postal Service Article

Rural Maryland's "Daily Times" Article

RFD Museum, Morning Sun, Iowa

On the back of the photo is written: "Uncle Will Gummere 1906 – Clara." If Clara wrote this it suggests that Will was her uncle rather than her father. However, the second portrait below, which includes a "Clara Gummere," suggests that Clara was one of Will's daughters. Perhaps Clara was a niece the Gummeres raised as a daughter – not an uncommon practice in those days.


Will Gummere

Creston Post Office Delivery Carts
Date: c. 1910 Studio: Agnew

This portrait is unusual for an Agnew in that it shows a person dressed in work clothes. Clearly, Will was proud of his job.

 

Will Gummere Family

Will Gummere Family: Will and Etta (seated), Clara and Alice
Date: 1887 Studio: Healy (Afton)

Note the strong physical similarities between the parents and the children. Perhaps Will had wished for a son but, blessed only with daughters, decided to have one of them follow him into the profession.

This Gummere family portrait was taken by Healy Studio in Afton, which probably indicates that the Gummere family lived there. (There were many more photo studios in Creston at the time, so it's unlikely that the the Gummere's would have traveled ten miles from Creston to Afton to have their portraits taken.) If the Will Gummere family did live in Afton at the time – or if they at least lived closer to Afton than Creston – that would indicate that Will must have commuted to work each day, which would have been a round trip of between ten and twenty miles daily – quite a feat in the days of the mud road and horse and buggy transport. But, as the saying goes . . . neither rain, nor snow, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

 

Reverse side of the Will Gummere Family portrait above.
   
Alice Gummere in Uniform

Alice Gummere in Uniform
Date: 190?  Studio: Agnew

Like father, like daughter.

In this portrait, Alice is holding a stack of letters in her hands and looking very proud of herself, as well she should be.

I based the date of this photo on Alice's apparent age, which I would say to be in the early twenties.

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Post Office Construction Series

The following photos were taken by Caleb Agnew during the construction of Creston Post Office. They are part of a series of some two dozen shots, taken at one-month intervals throughout the construction period, which lasted from the summer of 1902, when ground was broken on Maple Street, through the late fall of 1903, when the building was fully occupied and open for business. If you'll look closely you'll see what a wealth of historical information these photos provide. They offer a fascinating glimpse of Old Creston, as well as of construction techniques used during this era.

Like the other photos in this series, these were generously provided to me by the good folks at Maple Street Memories. More photos in this series are available. If you'd like to see them, please contact the webmaster.

 

Creston Post Office Construction Site
Ground was broken on the post office site in June or July of 1903. This photo was probably taken in early September. I believe it was shot from West Mills street, looking northeast. I believe the church in the background is the old St. Malachy's (Catholic) church, which is now gone.
Creston Post Office Building, April 2, 1903
This was taken about eight months later and was shot from Maple street, facing west-northwest.
Creston Post Office Building, May 1, 1903
May, 1903, facing northeast.
Creston Post Office Building, May 1, 1903
May 1, 1903. I believe this shot was taken from West Howard or North Elm street and is facing southeast. It was obviously taken from an elevated position, probably the First United Methodist Church of Creston, which I believe still stands.
Creston Post Office Building, June 6, 1903
The view facing southwest. This would've been taken from the steeple of the church (St. Malachy's?) in the first photo. Note the workmen on top of the building, who are posing for the photographer.
Creston Post Office Building, November 7, 1903
This must have been taken within a few weeks of the building's completion or opening. There appears to be bunting decorating the two first-floor office windows.
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