Jessie Post Office

JESSIE POST OFFICE HAS LONG HISTORY

According to the last line of the Lake Jessie Historical Marker, "The mail carriers had a shelter on the east end of Lake Jessie from 1867-1872."  At that time the stage from Fort Abercrombie, Dakota Territory to Fort Totten was the mode of transportation, and shelter and horse changes were available there - the remains of a cave just south of the Orville Tweed home immediately south of the NP track marks the spot of the shelter.

In the early 1880's, mail was distributed by William T. McCulloch at his farm home.  The mail was carried by horse, sled, foot or whatever from end of track to McCulloch's by Knute 0. Buxegard.

According to Postal records, on October 14, 1884, William T. McCulloch was appointed Postmaster of "Jessie, Griggs County, Dakota Territory."  The nearest office on the route was Cooperstown, 11 miles SE and the nearest office, not on this route, was Willow, 7 miles NW. The Jessie Post office was located on the Southeast corner of Lake Jessie, very near the present home of Jud and Ginger King.  The patrons as they then were called (indeed "patrons" was the word until USPO Dept. became USPS July 1, 1971) would go to McCulloch's home and pick up and send their mail.  The original desk with distribution boxes attached is now in the Griggs County Historical Society Museum at Cooperstown.

When the Northern Pacific Branch Line arrived in 1899, Frank Pfeifer sold the southwest corner of his homestead to the Northern Pacific Railroad.  NP later sold it to a Mr. and Mrs. J.E. Mellem who planned to name the town "Mellemville."  However, early settlers persuaded them to call it "Jessie" after the Lake Jessie, which had been so named in 1839 by Lt. John C. Fremont in honor of his fiance - Jessie Benton.

Mr. Wilson J. Hummer was named Postmaster on December 8, 1899 and he had the "Postoffice on the line North side of the NP track, 15 feet from track" according to his topographer report.  It showed the nearest office "Cottonwood about 5 miles by the traveled road, in a northerly direction."  The nearest Postoffice on the same route was Cooperstown, and the nearest office "off the route is Binford.”  Postmaster Hummer had the dubious honor of having served the shortest time, December 8, 1899 to October 15, 1900 - suppose he couldn't stand another Christmas in the Postoffice?

The next Postmaster was Andrew Hjort who was appointed October 15, 1900.  The Post office was moved to lot 5 block 13 on Main Street - it is believed Hjort-Thinglestad ran a general store located on the west side of Main where the home of the late Gus Suess stands.

Otto E. Back became Postmaster on December 10, 1906, and the Postoffice itself was on the same site.

On July 10, 1909, Nels O.  Haugen was named Postmaster at Jessie.  Haugen owned a two-story hardware store on the Northwest corner of Main Street and Grant Avenue where the Bendicksons later lived.  Actually it was the lot west of the house.

Oscar M. Rogney, an elevator operator bought the Haugen Hardware and became Postmaster at Jessie October 6, 1913.

By the spring of 1918, the United States had become involved in World War 1, Jessie town had reached its height and one by one the businesses were beginning to dwindle.  The Haugen Hardware was one of the fire victims.

Fred Rule had purchased from Herman Hovel the J.E. Laffin Store on the Southwest corner of Main Street and Grant Avenue.  The Rules had a confectionery shop and pool table along with the Post Office.  Mrs. Grace Rule was appointed Postmaster April 30, 1918.

Mrs. Ovidia (Anderson) Dahl became acting Postmaster October 6, 1925.  She and C.P. Dahl bought the Rule Store and converted it to a general store.  The Post Office remained in the same Northeast corner of Dahl's Cash Store.

On March 1, 1948, Reynold (Punch) Hovel, eldest grandson of the late Frank Pfeifer who originally homesteaded the site of Jessie, bought the store.  On June 12, 1948 Mary E. (Mary Punch to Jessie people) Hovel assumed charge of the Post Office.  She received her commission as Postmaster on February 3, 1949.

The Post Office was in the same Northeast corner of the now Hovel's Cash Store and remained there until Black Friday, June 30, 1961 when the store was destroyed by fire.  For the next few days, the Jessie Hall served as Post 6ffice.

From July 5 to August 1, 1961, the Jessie State Bank Building, owned then by Art Anderson, located on the Northeast corner of Main Street and Grand Avenue housed the Post Office.  Makeshift fixtures included an old separation case that was salvaged from Knutson's garage and scrubbed to high heaven, bearing such names as Art, Bud, Ed.  R., Ed.  Z., Bill D., Henry, Frank M., Frank F., Frank W., Swede, Rudy, Gary, Sig, Ed. and Margaret, NAPUS, Harvey, Alf, West Prairie, Math, Punch, (my memory's too slow to match the box number to the name, indeed I must have forgotten some of the names).  Anyway it was business as usual in a most unusual manner until August 1, 1961 when the Post Office was located on the Southeast corner of Main Street and Grant Avenue, thus having been located on all four corners of that intersection.  The present lock boxes were supplied by a good friend, M.A. Ellingrud, former Postmaster at Buxton, North Dakota.  The frame to hold the Post Office was built by E.B. Ressler, Tony Becherl, with the assistance from Punch Hovel and Margaret Pella.

Soon Jessie Post Office will have completed 98 years as an official U.S. Post Office, but if one counts the years that the Army outpost on the Southeast corner of Lake Jessie served the early settlers, we are already 115 years old -ancient, yes?

(The foregoing account was written by "Mary Punch" Hovel who retired in October of 1981 as Postmaster in Jessie).

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial page 23

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