Early Postal System
We Americans take for granted our mail system. Mail a letter anywhere in the US and it will probably get to its destination the next day. Clay had some early Post offices. But first a little background on the first Cabinet Postmaster General, Gideon Granger.
On a recent trip to Canandaigua, New York, we had occasion to visit his homestead where I obtained a book on his life.* His grandfather, Launcelot Granger, was one of the first settlers in Suffield. Connecticut in 1678. His father, Gideon, became influencial and graduated from Yale. Thus Gideon, Jr., born in 1767, was able to also go to Yale to study Law. Eventually, it lead him into Politics. In the early 1790’s, there was much western land speculation and Gideon was part of it, buying much land in Ohio in the Cleveland area.
Elections were becoming complicated by 1801. In the fall election, Thomas Jefferson won the presidency, with Gideon working hard on his campaign in the New England area. To soothe feather of the Federalists, Jefferson selected cabinet members from New England; thus Gideon Grange became the first Cabinet Postmaster General putting the position on an equal with Attorney General and Secretary of War. Although reluctant, he left his family in Connecticut, and moved to the new capitol of Washington, DC.
Jefferson actually introduced the spoils system into the Civil Service with party allegiance as the controlling factor. Gideon followed this policy removing and hiring those postmasters he preferred in 1802.
The first mention of a post office in Clay was found in an article by Lona Flynn, former Cicero Historian, who quotes, “ the Great State Road (31) crosses the one to Sackett’s harbor (11) at which there is a meeting house, school, post office, a Mason’s Lodge, several taverns, etc.” Clay was still part of Cicero until 1827.
The next reference is to the West Cicero Post Office in Belgium in 1825. The first postmaster was Nathan Teall. A marker strands at the corner of Route 57 and Route 31. A Post Office was established at Euclid in 1827; the first postmaster being Andrew Thompson who was followed by Nathan Soule in 1832.
For a time there was a post office about a mile north of Route 31 at Young Station in the Dutch Settlement in Peter Young’s home. But as the settlement around Clay Station grew, the former diminished and it was discontinued.
The original home of the Clay Post Office was the Railroad Station on Route 31. When the trains first came to Clay in 1871, a big change occurred. The mail from all these small post offices was brought here to the Clay Station to be sorted and sent by rail. It was also picked up at the Woodard Station south of the Clay Station. Of course, local mail was dropped off.
The Clay Post Office+ has a varied history, also being called Cigarville Station because of the local tobacco crop and the cigar-making factories; plus the cottage industry of rolling cigars in a spare room or shed on the homesteads.
From there it went to the Weller store just across the tracks where everything was sold from patent medicines to groceries, kerosene and farm implements. Then it went to the Carpenter home with the Carpenter family in charge. Carriers were Clifford Nash and George Moore.
Then to a small building between Sotherden’s Mill and the Clay Hotel built exclusively for that purpose. The postal workers were Charles and Grace Neuman and the carriers included Cliff Nash, Will Hughson and Frank Waffle. This building was moved to Caughdenoy Road, enlarged and used as a home by Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Nash. Back to the Weller Store went the post office with Charles and Dora Driscoll in charge. The number of carriers and routes was enlarged.
When Marge Schneider became postmistress, it was moved across the road (Route 31) into a cinder block building erected for that purpose. It now served an area which included Euclid, Belgium, Three Rivers, all the rural routes west of the Village of Cicero, and all the intervening side roads. And, of course, the Village of Clay.
Today, there are no post offices in Clay. On Route 31 in Cicero is the Clay-Cicero Post office just east of the Clay Town limits. And on West Taft Road in North Syracuse is the main Post Office for our area.
*GIDEON GRANGER, copyright 1962 by Arthur S. Hamlin.
+From Article by John S. Kisselburgh, former Clay Historian. 12/4/74 Star News
Dorothy Heller, Historian