Snail Mail in Sandwich, Ontario


From a Sentry Box, to Postmasters’ homes, from General Stores and Shoe Stores to the current Sandwich Post Office, Sandwich certainly has had its share of different post office locations.

As with most small towns, the post office in Sandwich was once the place to get all the gossip. You could pick up your mail and spread the news, in one convenient stop.

Back in those days, the Postmaster was held in high esteem. After all, he was responsible for the delivery of the town’s mail, bringing news from other parts of Canada — or the world — to the town folk, sort of like an 19th century version of Peter Mansbridge.

The first Postmaster of the town of Sandwich was William Hands, who held the title from 1800 to 1835. He also held the positions of Sheriff, District Treasurer, Customs Officer, Judge of Surrogate and Registrar Surrogate. Obviously a pretty hands on guy. (No pun intended, I swear.)

During Hands’ term as Postmaster, he ran it from his home, built in 1780. (Too bad it was torn down years ago.) This very first Sandwich Post Office was located on Main Street (now Sandwich Street) at the north end of town. Close to the street were a gate and a “Sentry box” type hut, where town folk picked up and dropped off their mail.

Hands died Feb. 20, 1836. (Some of you might remember, or even attended, William Hands High School on  California Avenue off of Tecumseh Road West. William Hands is now Century High.)

After Hands’ death, the position was given to George Gentle in 1834. (Great name.) He operated a General Store and post office, across the street from the Courthouse (now Mackenzie Hall Cultural Centre).

A view of Sandwich Street looking South. The current post office is on the far left. (circa 1910)

Edward Holland was the Postmaster from 1838 until his death Feb.7, 1843. This post office was at his residence on the corner of Mill and Peter.

Next was Pierre Hector Morin who kept the post office in the William G. Hall building, at Lot 5, East Bedford Street.

Calixte St. Louis took charge of the post office in 1865 and retired in 1881 when Victor Ouellette became Postmaster and ran it from several locations, including the McKee building, Clarke Bros Shoe Store and the Girardot building at the northwest corner of Mill and Sandwich (replaced by a modern government building). The words POST OFFICE could be seen in the step on the south side of the building at the doorway.

On August 8, 1885, John Spiers received the appointment of postmaster, held until June 1, 1907. He kept the post office in his general store, which was on the northeast corner of Sandiwch and Mill, and is now The Mill tavern.

The Dominion Government secured a permanent home for the Sandwich Post Office in 1907 on the southeast corner of Mill and Sandwich. This brick and stone three-story building was erected at a cost of $15,000. Mr. Spiers and Miss Jessie Spiers were postmaster and postmistress, respectively. The Honourable R.F. Sutherland K.C. M.P. was chiefly responsible for securing the monies needed to build the post office.

The second-floor apartments were for Inland Revenue & Customs House. John McLean was the Customs Inspector; John Mcleod was appointed janitor and lived with his family on the third floor.

During the Sandwich Old Boys’ Reunion, held in August 1909, a former town resident, William Leech, donated that large fountain in the front of the post office. Despite attempts to close the post office in recent years, it still continues to operate out of this beautiful old building.

The Olde Sandwich Towne Festival starts tonight, Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 and continues through the weekend (starting at 10 am Sat. and 11 Sunday) in the Mill and Sandwich area. There will be live entertainment, 1812 historical displays, fireworks, cricket, drum and bugle shows, buskers, clowns and local vendors selling jewelry, arts and crafts. At 10:30, Saturday morning, the Freeing of the City by the Essex & Kent Scottish will take place at the Olde Sandwich Town Hall between Mackenzie Hall and the Post Office on Sandwich. (For more info check out their facebook group.)

Look for History Babe and Chris Edwards too. We will be having a sale and signing of our latest history books, “Windsor Then” and “500 Ways You Know You’re From Windsor” in the vendor area on Saturday and Sunday. Check our books out at walkerville.com.

(all photos are from the archives of Walkerville Publishing)

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About Elaine Weeks

How history was taught in my day: memorize lots of boring dates and facts, watch corny old black & white history films. There was one bright spot, however. Grade 9 history at Walkerville Collegiate with Miss Falls (Georgina) when she taught a section on local history and took us on a field trip to explore some of Windsor's built heritage. Due to a peculiar series of events, celebrating local history became part of my business. My company, (partner is Chris Edwards,) Walkerville Publishing Inc., launched "The Walkerville Times" in 1999, which in due course became "The Times Magazine". Our goal was to make history real. I am a writer, editor, blogger, photographer, mother, wife, sister, activist, traveller, gardener, knitter, masters track & field competitor (when I have time), glass is nearly full person.
This entry was posted in Essex County, Lost Buildings, People, Windsor Now, Windsor Then and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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