By Marjory J. Sente

Last week’s Days Past told of tribulations with early Prescott mail service as experienced by Margaret McCormick, wife of Governor Richard McCormick.  This week continues those experiences, including the sacking of the postal contractor for non-performance and an insider’s look at the competition to succeed John N. Goodwin as territorial governor.

To backtrack a bit, Prescott’s first postmaster, Rev. Hiram Walter Reed, came with the Goodwin party to be the territorial postmaster.  He served in this capacity for less than a year from June 10, 1864, until May 17, 1865, when he left Arizona.  His business for the year was $23.16.  The first post office, located on Montezuma and Goodwin near today’s Galloping Goose, was turned into a saloon.  A Federal rule did not allow a post office in the same room as a saloon, so the Prescott post office moved across the Plaza into White’s store.

Margaret McCormick’s letter written on May 20, 1866, began, “Dear Emma, Yours numbered ‘8’ reached me this evening, being the 7th received.  I presume the 8th has started by way of Santa Fe and will probably reach me in the course of time.  There are so many complaints of the mails.  You may have noticed a very severe article in the last ‘Miner’ on the subject.”

The May 9, 1866, Miner article that Margaret referred to is a scathing analysis of the service or pretense of mail service to Prescott.  The article closes by asking the Post Office Department to not renew Sanford J. Poston’s mail contract.

Margaret’s letter continued, “There have been numerous meetings held during the last week, & by this mail goes a protest from the people asking relief from the P.O. Department at Washington.”  She then turns her attention to Sanford Poston’s younger brother Charles: “I have not as high an opinion of Col. Poston as I had when I left the East.  He has acted contemptibly.  After pledging himself to do what he could to have my husband made Governor & writing him constantly he was doing all he could for him, in reality he was doing all for himself, but fortunately more attention was paid to Richard’s friends than those of Col. Poston.”

“Col.” Charles D. Poston, Arizona Territory’s first delegate to the U.S. Congress, lost that post to Governor John Goodwin in the election of 1865, leaving the territorial governor’s post open until mid-1866.  Poston worked hard behind the scenes to get himself appointed governor but lost out to McCormick, who had been the territory’s acting governor ever since Goodwin’s rapid departure.

Sanford Poston raised the ire of more prominent people than just Margaret McCormick. In a January 1, 1866 letter to Secretary of Interior Seward, U.S. Marshall Milton Duffield wrote that Sanford “received more than $80,000 for pretending to carry mail from Albuquerque to San Bernardino via Prescott and from to latter place to Tucson.” He also indicated that letters from the East “arrived only by sheer accident.”

Sometimes, the collection has a letter and no envelope.  For example, in Margaret’s Oct. 9, 1865, letter written on the Steamer “A.T.” she wrote, “To-morrow we hope to reach Aspinwall, and I am, going to write you a few lines to send back by this Steamer.  Richard has just been to see the purser and he tells him we cannot prepay letters, so you may have seven or eight cents to pay on the arrival of this epistle, which I will have to make up to you sometime in postage stamps or something else.”

The last letter in the collection, dated February 25, 1869, was from Richard to Emma.  Margaret had died on April 30, 1867 after giving birth to a stillborn girl.  They were initially buried in Prescott near the Governor’s Mansion.  In the 1869 letter Richard told Emma, “Yesterday we quietly deposited the remains of dear Maggie in the receiving vault of the Presbyterian Cemetery.  When the good weather comes I shall select a lot there.” Margaret’s final resting place was in the Hazelwood Cemetery in Rahway, New Jersey.

Both postal historians and Arizona historians are fortunate that Margaret’s letters and some of their envelopes were saved and later donated to the Sharlot Hall Museum so we can learn more about both life in the capital of the Arizona Territory and its postal history.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles to dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com.Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com for information.