#Lookback: Riverton Post Office
There were a total of 15 post offices established on the land that would later create the Territory of Wyoming on July 25th, 1868. The first post office in Wyoming was established at Fort Laramie on March 14th, 1850, because Fort Laramie was a key point on the Oregon Trail. One of those original 15 post offices was established in South Pass City, the legendary gold mining town.
The residents of South Pass City sent a representative to the Dakota Legislature in the winter of 1867 to persuade them to fill their need for civil authority. As a result, Carter County was created and South Pass City was declared as the county seat. Initially, the mail was brought to South Pass City from the post office in Fort Bridger. On March, 18th, 1868, the post office in South Pass City was established. This post office remained in operation until 1957. By this point, the post office only served families who still lived near South Pass City and a few ranchers.
After the Organic Act that created Wyoming Territory, the expansion of the Union Pacific Railroad across the territory allowed post offices to be created at towns that were created along the newly laid tracks. Prior to the 1900s, the Chicago and Northwestern had built a route to Casper, but plans were made to build an extension of the line. After construction of the line extension began on May 2nd, 1905, new post offices developed in the towns along the new route including Shoshoni, Lander, and Riverton.
The first postmaster assigned to Riverton on October 5th, 1906 was William T. Judkins. He only served as the postmaster until April of 1907. On April 22nd, 1907, Frank H. Allyn was appointed as the second postmaster of Riverton. Judkins, who worked at a post office in Lenore, and Allyn worked together to establish a better mail route to give people on the outskirts of Riverton better service during 1908. Frank H. Allyn served as the postmaster in Riverton until 1914.
During these early years, the first location for the Riverton post office was a small frame building located in the 400 block of east Main Street. In May of 1912, a fire, possibly caused by a stove fire, partially destroyed the original post office. The contents of the building were moved to the Mooney building on the corner of Main and Broadway. Later, the post office was moved back near its original location on Main Street, but this time it was on the opposite side of the street.
After Frank H. Allyn left his position as the postmaster, Nellie Gilbert was appointed as the new postmaster on January 27th, 1914. Prior to becoming the postmaster, Nellie Gilbert was a registered nurse who attended to the sick in the area. After her appointment, Nellie Gilbert moved the location of the post office to another location between Broadway and 5th Street.
Not long after the post office was moved to its new location, talks began to expand the capacity of the post office. At this time in Riverton’s history, the population began to expand due to the 500 men who were employed by the lumber industry between Riverton and Dubois. After word of the new Masonic Temple being built where the old Mooney building once stood, plans were made to move the post office to the ground level of the new building.
On March 1st, 1919, after the Masonic Temple was completed, the post office was moved. This new location allowed the post office to increase the number of lock boxes from 252 to 520. The new location also allowed the post office to expand the services provided to the residents of Riverton. These services included: Registry, Money Order, Parcel Post, and General Delivery. In 1922, Nellie Gilbert retired as postmaster and Thomas B. Wright was appointed as the postmaster on July 10th, 1922.
Thomas B. Wright operated the post office until 1934. Later on January 30th, 1935, James E. Smith was appointed as the new postmaster. During Smith’s time as the postmaster in 1938, word was spread that Riverton would receive $85,000.00 from the federal government to build a new post office. This money was a part of the New Deal Act.
The New Deal was a series of projects to build government buildings and roads to help the United States Economy recover from the Great Depression. A telegram was received from Senator J.C. O’Mahoney and Congressman Raul R. Greever announcing that the Post Office Department and the Treasury Department had allocated money for the purchase of a site and the construction of a new building.
There was some divided opinion on where the new building should be located. One proposed location was on Main Street in the 500 block and the other location was off of Main Street across from a new office building. In the end, the five hundred block on Main Street was chosen in September of 1938, by the Post Office and Treasury Department Committee in Washington D.C. After the site was chosen, construction of the new post office was put on hold after the $85,000.00 offered by the government was used for other programs and projects. A year later, funding was again available for the construction project, but the preparation of new plans and the enlargement of the proposed structure delayed the project.
In 1939, it was reported in the Riverton Review that Attorney J.D. Spiker spoke with Senator J.C. O’Mahoney regarding an increase in the funds appropriated for the post office project. This increase was approved in the 1939 session of Congress. Construction of the new building was set to begin in June of 1939, but new bids for contractors were not requested until March 27, 1940. The Jensen Construction Company won the bid of contracts and the ground breaking ceremony was planned for May 20th. The ceremony on May 20th, 1940, was officiated by Mayor A.B. Conant and Postmaster James E. Smith. The next day, The Jenson Construction Company officially began construction on May 21st.
On July 27th, 1940, the cornerstone was laid in the new building during an event held for the community of Riverton. During the event, Attorney Donald Spiker gave the main address and John Spillane of St. Margaret’s Catholic Church gave the invocation. Oscar E. Nelson, a stone mason, sealed a time capsule into the cornerstone of the building. By February 12th, 1941, the final inspection of the building was scheduled and the federal inspectors gave their approval to open the new building. The new post office provided 682 lock boxes, a public lobby, and five service windows on the first floor. The second floor provided office space for the Department of Agriculture, the Extension Service, Reclamation Service, and the Farm Security Administration.
In addition to providing funding for the new post office, the New Deal Treasury Section of Arts invited George Vander Sluis of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center to create a mural for the Riverton Post Office. The mural titled “Farm Scene” was installed in the post office in October of 1942. It depicts lambing activities taking place at the Pitts-Madden Ranch.
Next up for the Fremont County Museums
October 17th, 6:30pm at the Riverton Museum, “Haunted Tales of Fremont County” by Alma Law
Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series
October 19th, 1-3pm at the Dubois Museum, “Halloween Pumpkin Carving”
Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series
October 19th, 5:30pm at the Riverton Museum, “Haunted Trek through Riverton”
Wind River Visitors Council Adventure Trek
October 25th & 26th, 6-9pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Halloween Night at the Museum”
Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series
Consider supporting The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander or the Riverton Museum with a monetary donation. The museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark. Please make your tax deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.
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