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Tolley's "village" Post Office operation goes back 106 years

The 21st-century concept of the Village Post Office, suggested by the U.S. Postal Service as a way to conduct business efficiently, is already familiar to thousands of rural customers who are served by some of the 3,653 retail offices recently proposed for closing, including patrons of the Tolley Post Office.

8/03/11 (Wed)

 

Editor’s Note: The historical information in the following article was provided by Duane and Louise “Snookie” Stark, longtime Tolley-area residents and authors of Tolley, North Dakota, and Surrounding Area: Forever Remembered, a collection of area history compiled in 2005 to celebrate Tolley’s centennial anniversary.

 

The 21st-century concept of the Village Post Office, suggested by the U.S. Postal Service as a way to conduct business efficiently, is already familiar to thousands of rural customers who are served by some of the 3,653 retail offices recently proposed for closing, including patrons of the Tolley Post Office.

 

In fact, around a hundred years ago the Tolley Post Office was one of those village post offices, located in conjunction with a general store, a grocery store and at least one barber shop during its 106-year history.

 

The first post office in the area was established in 1885 at the town of Joslyn, named for Clyde Joslyn who was foreman of the Mouse River Horse and Cattle Company. Area ranchers and farmers could receive mail there or, by 1886, at the site of McKinney, named for Otis McKinney who was one of Joslyn’s partners in the horse and cattle ranch.

 

The third post office in what was proposed to be Renville County was established at the town of Pleasant in 1895. The post office at McKinney received the area’s mail by stagecoach, and then delivered to the Joslyn and Pleasant offices.

 

After the area was opened to homesteaders in 1896, new families arrived to claim land for farming and business ventures followed. A flour mill, the only one located northwest of Minot, was erected at McKinney in late 1903, but the Soo Line (Wheat Line) railroad chose the new town of Tolley, founded in 1905, for placement of its tracks through the region.

 

Several area businesses scrambled to relocate in Tolley and gain access to the rail lines. In fact, the Joslyn post office closed its doors and moved to Tolley on July 20, 1905, only six days after the first city lots were made available for sale by the First National Bank and nearly three months before the railroad even arrived. Henry Ludtke served as the postmaster in the Joslyn office and kept his position at the Tolley office, which was then located at the back of the Reba Store. Eventually, mail for the McKinney and Pleasant post offices also came through Tolley.

 

Oscar M. Lindblom, who was postmaster at McKinney for a time, later held that position at Tolley. The post office served customers from 7 am until 9 pm on the weekdays and even opened on Sunday from 1 to 2 pm.

 

The Tolley Post Office couldn’t seem to find a permanent home, however, as it was moved from one store to another and located in a barber shop for a period of time until William Grinnell offered space in his grocery store. Grinnell also served as postmaster.

 

Fire often plagued small towns building themselves up on the prairie, and Tolley was no exception. A fire on January 31, 1908, burned not only the post office and the store it was housed in at the time, but also five other buildings on that block.

 

From 1920 until 1956, the Tolley Post Office was located in a building originally built in 1905 by the Rogers Lumber Company and later remodeled by Dr. Critchfield for his office and living quarters. The Post Office finally moved to its own building in 1956, built by L.C. Butt.

 

Postmasters at the Tolley Post Office through the decades included Lou Mullneaux, Nick Schammel, Herb Schadler, Clara Ritter and Allan Kirkelie.

 

Faye Alexander serves as the current postmaster of the Tolley Post Office, and while the town’s population and business activity has declined since the boom years of the early 20th century, the post office remains an important element of the community.

 

“It’s something we want to put on the back burner,” Tolley-area resident Louise Stark said about the proposed closing. “We think it’s not going to happen to us, but I’m sure the [Tolley residents] would be sad, and I think it will be a huge impact on the [Renville Elevator Company].”

 

A press release from the U.S. Postal Service indicated that community meetings may be held to discuss the proposed post office closings. As of press time, no meeting was scheduled for patrons of the Tolley Post Office, and no date had been announced to potentially end services there.