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Good Read - Studebaker Mail Wagon Finds Home In Museum in Colorado

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  • Good Read - Studebaker Mail Wagon Finds Home In Museum in Colorado

    (snippet copy - see link for complete article)

    Adventures of a Boulder County mail cart

    By Diane Goode

    Posted: 08/05/2012 01:00:00 AM MDT

    Albert F. Hess drives his Studebaker mail cart on his rural mail route in Boulder County in 1928. (Irene McConnell, Courtesy photo)

    In 2012, the U.S. Postal Service is under financial stress due to modern means of communication and thus requesting a reduction of staffing and services.
    In early Colorado, however, local grange member Andrew "Johnnie" Gordon was working toward the adoption of rural mail delivery in the St. Vrain Valley. There were enough families for delivery and certainly enough mail.
    It was not until the early 1900s that farm and ranch families received daily mail delivery. Housewives eagerly awaited the Sears Catalog, their husbands eagerly anticipated the latest news on livestock care, dairy management and farming.
    On Feb. 16, 1907, Albert F. Hess (1874-1957), with one horse and one road wagon, picked up the first load of mail from the Lyons Post Office for delivery to new Rural Route No. 18. After a month of bouncing and jostling in all kinds of weather, Hess traveled to Denver and purchased, at his own cost, a horse, a harness and a sturdy Studebaker mail wagon with good springs and a floor brake.
    The mail train arrived in Lyons at 11 a.m. again at 7 p.m. Mr. Fuller, the engineer on the Burlington Railroad, blew the whistle as he entered town. The conductor, L.C. Wolff, unloaded the mail, which Postmistress Nettie McFadden and her assistant, Grace Flynn, took to the post office to place into letterboxes and lay aside for Hess.
    Hess and the Studebaker mail cart carried mail and packages far onto the plains for the next 10 years. The horse knew the way and clip-clopped over dirt roads as far as 63rd Street to the Wang, Montgomery, Reese and Weese farms. On his return, Hess flicked the reins to encourage the horse to trudge up the incline to the quarry towns of Noland and Beech Hill to deliver mail to the Hirschfelds, the boardinghouses and other residents.
    Albert Hess was a kind man. Without expectation of compensation, he picked up groceries from town and delivered them along with the mail.
    "I have been out in wind and electric storms. I've wallowed in the mud and drifted snow. I've forded the creek and washouts during high water and flood," he reminisced to a Lyons Recorder reporter.
    In 1917, Hess upgraded from his horse and cart to a Ford Motor car, which in retrospect he regretted. Rural roads were poorly built and deeply pitted, making motoring rough going. In addition, his small salary was being eaten away by the constant purchase of tires and fuel.
    Hess didn't want the retired mail cart to end up in the dump, so he asked Miss Nora Sineles to store it in her barn.
    When Albert F. Hess died in 1957, his mail cart was donated to the Mail Carriers' Association, who eventually sold it to an antiques dealer. No one seemed to want to store the old cart.
    In 1979, Richard and Jan Barrett, antiques dealers from Veneta, Ore., bought the mail wagon from another dealer to use as a showpiece for their store. When the family moved to Naches, Wash., the Studebaker mail wagon was shipped along with the rest of their buggy collection.
    The wagon continued its statewide travels; in 1981 the Barrett family moved to Missouri, then returned to Washington state.
    Barrett wrote to the Lyons Post Office to ask if anyone had an early picture of the mail cart. Irene McConnell replied that she had taken a picture in 1928. Hearing that the mail cart had been found, the Lyons Historical Society contacted the Barrett family and negotiations began. The price was set at $1,350.
    Immediately, the ladies of the historical society went into action. Through donations and bake sales, they raised enough money to buy the wagon and pay for shipping costs. On Jan. 11, 1984, Allied Van Lines arrived in Lyons with the Studebaker mail wagon.
    The adventure of the little mail cart, however was not over. Storage became a problem. Tim Combs kept it for a while in his Y Not Antiques shop at Fourth and Main. When his business expanded, the wagon was moved to George Newby's barn at 240 Evans.
    The ladies of the Lyons Historical Society went into action once again and applied for a grant to pay for the construction of a steel structure to house the mail cart. In May 1990, the building was erected at the side of the Lyons Redstone Museum, the original 1890 Lyons schoolhouse, and secured with bars and metal skirting.
    Hess' Studebaker mail wagon finally had found a permanent home. It sits in the shed behind a locked chain link fence, surrounded by other artifacts, maybe not in grandeur, but definitely protected and treasured.
    The Lyons Historical Museum (303-823-6692) is at 340 High St. The museum is Open from May 1 to Oct. 1. The wagon is not on open display.
    HTIH (Hope The Info Helps)


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