Saline Mail Carriers Pose in Front of Post Office in 1905

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 02/29/2016 - 03:07

The Saline Post Office has roamed around the downtown over the years. The 1888 Sanborn map shows it on the east side of South Ann Arbor Street, just south of the fire department; now the north part of Carrigan Coffee Shop.

By 1899, the post office was located on the northwest corner of downtown, just north of the bank. It was in the same place on the 1912 map, so we know that today’s photo of 1905 was taken at that location.

My friend Hazel Proctor published this photo in a book for Standard Federal Bank. She gave the photo date as 1905 but did not explain how she knew. She is no longer around for me to ask her, but perhaps there was more information available to her in 1975 than we have today.

The post office later traveled to the north side of Michigan Avenue just west of the Presbyterian Church, before making its present home on Maple.

The most famous person in today’s photo is George Burkhart, who ran a retail store in downtown Saline before becoming president of Saline Savings Bank. Along the way, he was named postmaster. He is fifth from the left.

I wonder if “postmaster” was a ceremonial title to some extent, as this man must have been busy with his real job. Also, keep in mind he had Grace Collins working as “Assistant Postmaster,” making me think that she did most of the work.

Members of the Burkhart and Burkhardt family tell me they are all related, and that one of the early family members got rid of the “d” in his name. Angie Austin says Charles Burkhardt was the one who removed the “d” in his name, and says she is a direct descendant.

Grace Collins, the only woman in this photo, was born on a farm about 1876, the oldest of four children. She worked as a teacher before getting her post office gig. Later she became a bookkeeper at Citizen’s Bank, next door to the post office. She lived on Ann Arbor street with her parents and her sister; her father was a hay dealer, the sister was a teacher.

Albert Niethammer, far right, lived on Henry Street with his wife, Clara. In 1915, he owned about 80 acres in Pittsfield Township close to Saline, with the Rentschler farm as a neighbor.

Niethamer was born in 1880 and died in 1962, resting in Oakwood Cemetery.

Charles B. Herbert, second from left, was born about 1854 on a farm in Lodi township. He did farm work until he was able to get hired at the post office as a rural mail carrier.

Herbert moved from the farm into town, living at 18 Lewis St. with his older sister, Matilda.

Earl Theodore Fosdick is the next man to the right of Herbert. Fosdick was born on a farm in York township in 1880.

Young Earl was raised with his parents, who were farmers, and his grandparents who were also farmers.

Fosdick was married in 1909 to Anna Klunk, and the marriage record shows he was a mail carrier at that time. He lived until 1953, and is resting at Oakwood Cemetery.

The next one, fourth from left, is Luther Briggs. Born in 1880, he and his wife Anna and daughter, Clara lived at 104 Henry Street.

Briggs did not work for the post office as a life-long career. By 1920, he had switched to working as a day laborer. Briggs lived until 1961.

Lee Tower, on the left, is the hardest to find in historical records. There is a Charles E. Tower who lived at 813 Henry St. He grew up on a farm in Lodi township, and married Norma Orr of Milan in 1907. They had three children, Ronald, Elowena, and Wendell.

Since everyone else in this photo was a mail carrier or worked for the post office, probably Mr. Tower had some employment there as well. Late in life, he worked for the University of Michigan.

Mr. Tower’s gravestone at Oakwood says 1885 to 1955.

Thanks to the late Hazel Proctor, author of “Old Saline Village,” published in 1975 by Standard Federal Bank; the Saline Historical Society; Sanborn fire maps; city directories of Saline; Find a grave; Angie Austin, member of Saline’s Burkhart family; census records; 1903 US Registry of Civil, Military and Naval Service, page 1203; WW II draft registrations; marriage records; and atlas information.

Martha Churchill's picture
Martha A. Churchill
BA in Journalism and Anthropology at UM in 1973. Law degree at Cooley Law School in 1979. Member of Milan City Council since 2004. Practicing attorney. Genealogist since 2001; local historian since 2006. Free-lance writer.