Jackson post office celebrates 126th anniversary

JACKSON, WY – On March 25, the town of Jackson and the valley of Jackson Hole celebrated a long-forgotten anniversary. On this date in 1892, the very first Post Office in the valley opened on the Fred and Mary White ranch. The first homesteads in the Hole were located near Flat Creek, having been established just a decade prior.

The mail in Jackson Hole was delivered via the Oregon Short Line to St. Anthony, Idaho. It was carried into the valley over the pass by a wagon, sled or skis depending on the time of year. In the early years, it stopped altogether in the winter. Occasionally a brave volunteer would make the dangerous trek over the pass to Idaho. This was always a very welcome event, as many homesteading wives found the long winter months isolating without news from friends or family. One man made an attempt but lost his life and was not found until spring when the snow melted.

Before the Post Office was approved, the residents of the Flat Creek area had to carry their own mail, on time, for a year to prove that it could be done. The USPS also wanted to ensure that there were enough people living in the area to make the route worth it. In 1892 after several years of letters and an approval process, Jackson Hole was awarded its first Post Office.

Once there were enough residents, the mail was delivered six days a week. Those who received the contract of Postmaster were usually women. They kept track of the necessary supplies, and their only income was from the sale of stamps. The office of Postmaster could rotate between neighbors often because the “Post Office” only consisted of an organized box. With few families in these far-flung communities, the job was often very simple.

Postmaster Sara McKean standing in the doorway of the post office, her home, south of Town Square on Broadway. She ran the post office from 1904 through 1918. Photo credit: Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum collection, 1958.0548.001.

In larger communities like Jackson, Moran and Grovont the Post Offices were actual buildings. However, that did not stop the locals from moving the tiny log structures around depending on who was serving as the postmaster at a given time.

The later Post Offices, Moose and Jenny Lake were started purely to keep up with the influx of tourist letters during the summer months. With the advent of dude ranches, the valley population would increase exponentially in the summer. With reliable roads being built and maintained, traffic began coming down south from Yellowstone to see the Jackson Hole valley. All of these temporary residents and tourists wanted to tell their loved ones where they had been.

There were fifteen separate communities with their own Post Offices in Jackson Hole. By the 1960s, the majority of them closed. With improved roads, the valley became more accessible, and the post offices were consolidated. Although today’s electrified, mechanized, and dedicated Post Offices would be foreign to our early homesteaders, the process of acquiring the mail remains nearly the same. Residents gather in established locations to receive their letters and packages, much the same as our ancestors did over a century ago.

To hear more fun local stories about Jackson Hole, check out the Museum’s Beers & Banter program on March 28th at 7pm. Jerry Blann, Jake Elkins, and Steve Duerr will talk about the more recent history of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

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