LeRoy Historical Society

Volume XXVIII Number 1 2017 (continued on page 2) 23 East Main Street • PO Box 176 • Le Roy, New York 14482 LeRoy’s Postal History Following the American Revo- lution, the American postal systemwas organized to meet federal regulations. Congress designated “post roads” for the mail. The best-known post road in New York was between New York City and Albany. In Western New York, the postal service hinged on the posses- sion of Fort Niagara. It was held by the British, even after the Revolution. Pro- visions of the Jay Treaty in 1794 man- dated that the Fort be turned over to the Americans, but it would be three years before Congress established a post road from “Kanandaigua” to Niagara” in March, 1797. This route ran through Avon and LeRoy. According to Turner’s History of the Phelps and Gor- ham Purchase, (p. 178) Jasper Marvin carried the mail in 1798. He often “dis- pensed with mail bags, and carried the contents in a pocketbook.” Phineas Bates carried the mail for his brother Stephen. It took him six days going and returning, with stops at Mrs. Ber- ry’s at the Genesee River in Avon and at Tonawanda with the Indians. The mail was delivered every two weeks. In 1804, Congress declared that the post road to Niagara had to pass by Buffalo Creek (later named Buffalo) But since there were no roads between Buffalo and Fort Niagara, the mail was carried into Canada.With the outbreak of the War of 1812, the route through Canada was impossible. Dur- ing this time a special “Express Mail” was established between Fort Niagara and Washington D.C. via Avon and Bath and on to Williamsport in Penn- sylvania.This route was run with a relay of post riders and took 4 ½ days. Regu- lar mail to Albany took 5 days. Many early post offices were in the home of the postmaster.The first post office in LeRoy (the name of the community was not LeRoy until 1812, so the post office was not known as the LeRoy post office) was established on April 1, 1804 in the home of Asher Bates on East Main Road – (opposite the LeRoy Machine shop) Richard Stoddard succeeded Bates in 1808. He served only one year, turning the post office over to James Ganson. Samuel DeVeaux operated the post office in his store in 1815 at the corner of Lake Street and Main (later the Wiss Hotel). Herman Redfield served from 1816 until 1836 when the Village of LeRoy was incorporated and the post office became part of the Village. Mail was held at the post of- fice until someone came to pick it up. There was no mail delivery. It was nec- essary to publish the names of people with mail at the post office in the Le- Roy Gazette. Letters weren’t canceled. Postmasters were required to mark each letter with the name of the post office, the state and the date of receipt as well as the rate of postage. Postmas- terswereoftenpaid30%of the receipts of the office. For many small post of- fices the income was minimal so as an incentive, postmasters also received free postage, or “franking” privileges. Many postmasters used their frank- ing privilege and were agents for vari- ous businesses - - including lotteries. The first postmaster in the Vil- lage of LeRoy was Perrin Smith. Post- masters were presidential appoint- ments. In 1851, the LeRoy postmaster was replaced when Millard Fillmore became President upon the death of Zackary Taylor.The postmaster was C.B. Thompson and his replacement was a political rival, J.H. Stanley. The contro- versial issue was about the Compro- mise of 1850, which was known as the Fugitive Slave Act. Although Taylor and Fillmore believed in the abolition of slavery, Fillmore did not believe that the federal government should get in- volved. When Taylor died, Fillmore set about dismantling the Whig Party. His followers were known as “Silver Grays.” The issues in Washington became is- sues in LeRoy, and the ramifications af- fected the appointment of local post- masters. LeRoy was not the only post office to be affected. According to an article in the Gazette,the postmaster at Roanoke, Pavilion Centre, Muttonville, and surrounding towns were required to“pledge never towrite,speak or pub- lish any thing against the Compromise measures from this time henceforth. If they refuse, their places will be filled with Silver Greys. When no person of this stripe can be found in any town where a removal is sought, a man must be imported from Buffalo or Rochester, to make the deficiency good. In the towns mentioned, we believe there is not a Silver Gray to be found of course an importation will be necessary. “ Obviously, C.B. Thompson, editor of the LeRoy Gazette, wouldn’t sign the pledge. But he certainly used his newspaper to expose the situation. (The political appointment system remained in effect until 1970, when Early 1822 letter written on a single sheet of paper, folded and sealed with sealing wax. The letter was canceled by H. Redfield the LeRoy postmaster who used his franking privilege to send this letter for free.