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Friday, February 6, 2009

New Gretna Postmasters and a 4 Legged Chicken

I had previously mentioned two New Gretna Post Masters, actually Post Mistresses, in earlier Blog entries - Laura Leek and Naomi Post Maurer. Since the Post Office was such an important part of New Gretna history, today, I thought I would list the Post Masters who have served New Gretna throughout the years. Some may have been relatives of a few of our Blog readers and, if so, we would like to hear from you.

Actually, in addition to the New Gretna Post Office, there were three other post offices in the geographical area that is now Bass River Township: (1) the Bass River Post Office which was located in the Bass River Tavern, also known as the Red Tavern, located at the present site of Pilgrim Lake Campground from 1827-1854; (2), the Wading River Post Office at the McKeen Hotel adjacent to the Wading River Bridge at Bridgeport from 1858-1923; and (3) the Post Office at the old paper mill town of Harrisville or Harrisia from 1856-1862 and 1889-1895. Perhaps, these might be discussed in later Blog entries. I would love to have a post mark from each of these "dead" Post Offices. How about everyone out there checking their old letters and post cards?

The Post Offices in New Gretna were not located in seperate government owned faciflities as is most often the case today. The early Post Offices were located in taverns or stores. This not only eliminated the cost of the United States government constructing and maintaining Post Office facilities but, generally, placed the Post Office facilities in a convenient location for use by the public. Postmasters were part time as they also operated their taverns or stores and, later, when Post Offices were operated out of private houses, ran their households.

The first New Gretna Post Master was Joseph B. Cramer who served, briefly,  from August 6, 1850 to November 9, 1852. Cramer was a farmer and also served as a constable and Justice of the Peace. He probably was an employee of a local tavern or store, as it is unlikely that the Post Office would be located on his farm. According to newspaper accounts, Joe became a celebrity by raising an unusual chicken. 

The greatest curiosity in Bass River township is in the possession of constable Joseph B. Cramer, of New Gretna, and consists of a four-legged chicken. The fowl walks on its front legs, and becoming tired sits down its back legs. The chicken seems to enjoy the novelty of being a quadruped and struts around with its extra pair of legs sticking out behind with all the dignity of a Chinese mandarin. Mr. Cramer is going to send it to the Zoological Garden. (Mt. HollyHerald 6/6/1885)

Following is a list of the New Gretna Post Masters and Post Mistresses with their appointment date. [Information obtained from the National Archives in Washington, DC.]

1. Joseph B. Cramer (08/06/1850) Farmer, Constable, and Justice of the Peace.

2. Rollin M. Ashley (11/10/1852) Store Keeper

3. Sarah S. Cramer (02/04/1853)

4. Franklin Adams  (05/05/1857) Proprietor of Bass River Hotel.

The post-office at New Gretna was established in about 1853, with Franklin Adams as postmaster, which position he now holds. The office was formerly kept in a store erected by Mr. Adams. At the time he purchased the hotel property it was moved to a building adjacent the hotel, where it is at present located. ["History of Burlington and Mercer Counties" by Major E.M. Woodward and John F. Hageman, 1883, p. 230.] Moderator's Note: Woodward and Hageman were incorrect regarding the date of the first Post Office and the first Post Master which shows that you can't trust all history books. It always pays to have more than one source, if possible.

Photo courtesy of Franklin W. Gray.

5. Joseph B. Lamson (11/02/1885) Builder and proprietor of the New Gretna House.

Photo courtesy of Betty Lamson West.

6. Ida Deacon (06/06/1889) Sister of Charles Deacon.

There is trouble here over the post office. When Miss Deacon was appointed she received 14 signers and the objection to her was that it would be kept in her brother’s hotel. He stifled this by saying he would abandon hotel-keeping when his license expired. Now there has arisen family trouble and Miss Deacon and her brother are on the outs. She applied for a room at Lamson’s [The New Gretna House] for the post office but was refused.  [Mt. Holly Herald 8/14/1889]

7. Charles R. Deacon (03/12/1892) Proprietor of Bass River Hotel. Son in law of Franklin Adams.

8. Rollin A. Mathis (02/02/1893) Bought the Burrows M. French store in partnership with his brother, Howard Mathis. Later, Howard's son, Clarence, ran the families' grocery store near the South-West corner of Route 9 and South Maple Avenue for many years.

9. Alfred M. Sullivan (06/24/1897) Store keeper, school teacher, and Justice of the Peace.

There has been a shakeup in the post office in New Gretna, and postmaster Alfred M. Sullivan is out, Miss Laura Leek having been appointed to take charge of the office for the present. The reason assigned for the change was that Mr. Sullivan was short on his accounts. [Note: Sullivan disputes the charge in the article and attributes it to politics.]  Mt. Holly Herald 3/16/1901

10. Anna L. Leek (07/03/1901) Operated out of her home on Route 9.

11. Mary S. Leek (06/01/1929) Anna's sister. Operated out of her home on Route 9.

Photo courtesy of Helen Sears Carty.

The Route 9 home of Mary Leek, minus the second story which was destroyed by a 1939 fire. See the January 23rd Blog entry for a newspaper account and a photo of the house right after the fire. It is currently the home of the Earl Cramer family. (January, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

12. Maybelle Ray Cramer (07/01/1944) Operated out of her home on North Maple Avenue. After her husband Harvey "Gid" Cramer drowned, Maybelle married Eugene "Booter" Mathis.

Maybelle with her 3 children - James, Charlotte & Marguerite

Maybelle ran the Post Office out of her North Maple Avenue house which is currently the home of the Sellner family. (February, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

13. Naomi Margaret Post (09/15/1944) Operated out of Miss Margaret Adams home on Route 9 and later from her own home on Route 9. After her marriage to William Maurer, Naomi Post Maurer was reappointed in 02/02/1946.

November, 2003 photo by Pete Stemmer.

Naomi began her Post Mistress career in the closed in front porch of Miss Margaret Adams house which is adjacent to St. Paul's United Methodist Church. (January, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer)

The Route 9 house of Naomi and Sharon Maurer that served as the New Gretna Post Office for many years. (January, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Click below to read more about Naomi and the Post Office:

14. Helen E. Carty (11/29/1957) Operated out of Naomi Maurer's home on Route 9.

November, 2003 photo by Pete Stemmer.

15. Bernadette M. Murphy (06/30/1979) Operated out of present leased facility. Helen worked as a clerk for Naomi before becoming Post Mistress. 

16. Joshua O. Weber (11/14/1981) Operated out of present leased facility.

17. Melanie A. Klix (01/02/1988) Operated out of present leased facility. Melanie is currently the Post Mistress at West Creek.

August, 2007 photo by Pete Stemmer.

18. Richard W. Irion (12/28/1991) Operated out of present leased facility.

March, 2003 photo by Pete Stemmer.

19. Michele L. Scamoffa (01/25/2003) Operates out of present leased facility.

February, 2003 photo by Pete Stemmer.

The current Post Office is located in a leased facility at 5624 Route 9 in New Gretna.

January, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.

So, the next time you are in the New Gretna Post Office, pause for a moment and think of it's rich history - four legged chickens and all.

Pete S


  1. Pete - What is the address/street No. and etc. of the current Post Office or is it the house with the sign out front?? Clif Brown

  2. Clif,

    The Post Office currently is at 5624 Rt. 9. I added a current photo to the Blog.

    Pete S

    1. Is there any information on the house that the current post office is attached to in New Gretna on route 9?

  3. I assume that Maybelle Cramer married my grandfather AFTER my grandmother died. ;-) I never knew that Maybelle had been Postmistress. Of course, my grandfather remarried very late in life. I visited them once, in 1969, if memory serves. She was losing her vision at that time. I was far away at when they married although I do have pictures of their wedding.
    Beverly Mathis (Robinson)

    1. Beverly,
      My name is Brandon Sutton and I live in Arkansas. I collect military memorabilia and recover artifacts for the Historical Society. I am 100% certain I have Harvey Gideon Cramer's Naval sword that was given to him for his service in the World War. Do you happen to know any of his family members?

    2. Beverly,
      My name is Brandon Sutton and I live in Arkansas. I collect military memorabilia and recover artifacts for the Historical Society. I am 100% certain I have Harvey Gideon Cramer's Naval sword that was given to him for his service in the World War. Do you happen to know any of his family members?

    3. If you will, please reply by email
      Thank you!

    4. If you will, please reply by email
      Thank you!

  4. Beverly,

    Yes, Maybelle Cramer married your grandfather, Booter Mathis, late in life. Her first husband, Harvey Gideon Cramer, drowned in 1939. She didn't remarry until July 9, 1961 when she married your grandfather, Eugene "Booter" Mathis. I'd love to have a photo of their wedding.

    Pete S

  5. Pete: I finally located the wedding pictures. How should I send them to you. I assume you want them in jpeg format. I now have other pictures scanned-the ones of the Leepa farm and I can send those too. I have an interesting picture of Suwarrow and Ida French with Elizabeth as a young child. There is another couple in the picture. He is a minister but I don't know who they are.

  6. Beverly,

    You can email them as JPeg file attachments to the Blog's email at . . .

    Suwarrow was a Methodist, so there is a good chance that the minister may be a Methodist preacher, perhaps Rev. Bilderback. There's an interesting story about the Rev. Bilderback, Suwarrow, and some fisticuffs that I may post on the Blog in the future.

    Looking forward to getting the photos.


    Pete S

  7. I lived next door to Mabel Cramer from the time I was born until I was married. A very nice lady. I think she was originally from the south. Virginia I think. I remember when she and "Booter" were married. After Boot died she moved to Florida to live with her daughted. She was just about totally blind at that point. I have a picture of Boot in the bay, if I can find it.

    Bob Mathis

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