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Jul. 20, 2019 | Saturday
Entertainment News
Niagara's History Unveiled: The Queenston Post Office

 

In an unpublished research report, J.A. Doyle wrote the following:

Among Robert Hamilton’s more lasting legacies in Queenston is the post office. Hamilton became postmaster in 1820. Rules governing the delivery of mail were in flux. At the time there were three postmasters in the Niagara region and they got on cordially.

Hamilton developed the cross-border postal system. Much of the mail going to Britain passed through Queenston and went on to New York. 

Overseas mail had to have both Canadian and American postage paid. As the letters had to cross the Niagara River, an extra fee was added for the ferry journey. With all of the various fees to be collected, Hamilton managed to increase his fees for services six-fold.

As the Upper Canada frontier government gained more control, Hamilton could no longer charge fees for collecting overdue postage or for handling undeliverable mail. A new post master general, Thomas Stayner, reduced Hamilton’s ferry fees. Stayner wanted to standardize all of the postal services, including fees, rather than continue with the haphazard collection.

In 1829, the same year the Welland Canal opened, the post master general moved the official post office to Niagara. Hamilton continued to run his services out of Queenston, while he lobbied the government to overturn this. By 1831, Hamilton won the battle, however, his compensation and the fees he could charge as Queenston post master were now decreed by the government.

The position of postmaster remained in the Hamilton family, as the following advertisement printed in 1833 indicates.

POST OFFICE, QUEENSTON U.C.

21st JANUARY, 1833

NOTICE

Is hereby Given – That SEALED TENDERS will be received at this Office till the Fifteenth day of February next, inclusive, for transporting his Majesty’s Mails from the Post Office at Queenston, to the post office at Fort Erie and back three times per week, four times per year, from the, 6th day of April now next ensuing, and also for three additional Trips per week, from the Post Office at Queenston, to the Post Office at Drummondville, and back, from the 8th day of October in each year.

The said Tenders to be in strict conformity with certain Articles of Agreement to be entered into by the Contractors, which may be seen at the Post Offices at Queenston and Fort Erie – The said Contract to be taken is to and for a specific sum per annum, payable quarterly as stipulated in said Agreement. The Contractor, and two unexceptional Sureties, will be required to enter into Bond for the due fulfilment of the said Contract, whose names must accompany the Tenders. It may be proper to observe that the said Tenders require the approval of the Deputy Post Master General of Quebec, before they can be accepted.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON, P.M.

By the 20th century, the post office was a grocery store and a waiting room for streetcar passengers. It was also a gas station run by Pop Sheppard, yet another well-known Queenstonian. (A street starting at York Road commemorates the Sheppard family.)

 Many children used to play checkers with Pop Sheppard as they waited for the streetcar to take them home.

Helen Glendenning, who lived in Queenston from the 1930s, and who died at the age of 101, told the 1988 Queenston walking tour that when she was a child, she lived with her parents in Niagara Glen, several kilometres south of Queenston.

Her mother gave her money for the streetcar. She said she was usually late getting home because she spent that money on candy at the post office and then walked home.

Another story about the post office concerns the move to have glass windows installed at the post boxes.

In the mid-20th century, people had to go in to the post office and ask the post master for their mail. The constant influx of customers interrupted the poker game that was going on in the back room.

After the glass was installed, people could see if they had received any mail. If they had none, they didn’t have to interrupt the game.

The post office still exists in Queenston. According to longtime residents Jonathan and Elizabeth Kormos, there was an effort to remove it in the mid-20th century.

Elizabeth and several other villagers decided it was worth fighting for. The crusade was one of the actions that helped lead to the founding of the Queenston Community Association, which remains active in the 21st century as the Queenston Residents Association. The post office was indeed saved.

The operation has moved at least twice from its original location. Some archeological evidence suggests that the first building could have been at the northwest corner of Dee Road and Queenston Street, close to the Hamilton home, Willowbank. During the 1988 walk ,the location of a later sorting office was identified on Princess Street.

The Queenston post office is a survivor from the days of Queenston’s prosperity.

In the new millennium, it has become a major source of information for the village’s inhabitants. When they pick up their mail, villagers find out about upcoming meetings, potluck dinners, and musical performances as well as services such as lawn mowing or snow clearance, and requests to help find lost pets.

It remains a village hub to this day.

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To learn more about the topic of this story you can visit the Niagara Historical Society & Museum website at, www.niagarahistorical.museum, or visit the museum for yourself.

The Niagara Historical Museum is located at 43 Castlereagh St. in Old Town, in Memorial Hall. Visit, or give them a call at 905-468-3912.

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