1st Post Office West of the Rockies!

Post Offices…Mail Carriers…Cannons in the Surf

Postal carriers witness history. Think about it…who’s out and about six days a week, often on foot? Mail carriers, and they often were eye witnesses to historical events…like finding cannons on the beach, but first…

In Astoria Oregon, March 9, 1847, the first federal post office and U.S. customs house was established. That’s only 42 years after Lewis and Clark first made it out to the Pacific Ocean and only one year after the Oregon Treaty that made Astoria US territory. It was the first federal post office west of the Rocky Mountains. Did they relish the significance? I know I did when I encountered it.

20190405_115809~2The picture shown here is a replica of the first, which was some 200 feet…to the right? To the left? So much activity happened on this spot that I just had to be a participant in the long line of history, so I mailed myself a post card from the city with the first post office this side of the Rockies. However, I had to do so at the third postal building established in Astoria.

Like other federal postal buildings of the 1930’s, the newest post office had multiple functions. The second floor held the court house and revenue offices, and a very helpful, postal carrier/ history buff in the lobby indicated that the tax revenue offices there even have loop-holes for possible protection purposes back in the day.

It was also postal carriers in Cannon Beach Oregon that are connected to its naming. The USS Shark, a Navy vessel, sunk off the coast after failing to enter the Columbia River in September 1846. The foredeck and three cannons attached to it, eventually washed up on shore. 20190406_122241~2The native Clatsop tribe discovered it on their beach and passed word along to the crew, who had survived and were staying in Astoria. However, the cannons couldn’t be retrieved before the tide came in and took them.

It was not long after that the carriers entered the story.
-1863, mail carrier John Hobson saw a cannon in the sand, but the tide took it.
-1891, postmaster and mail carrier James Austin searched for it until he died.
-1898, mail carrier George Luce found it.

Luce, along with John and Mary Gerittse, also postal carriers, retrieved the cannon and told Austin’s wife (who had succeeded Austin in his postmaster role). She placed it in front of the Cannon Beach post office.

-2008, the remaining two cannons were found.

-2019, I saw the cannon!

It’s curious how many postal employees were connected to searching for, finding, and retrieving the cannon. The USS Shark’s bell, capstan, cannon, and a tiny model of the Shark now reside at the Cannon Beach History Center and Museum.

Definitely go see them; but, after that, visit the beaches and imagine the Clatsop finding the Shark’s foredeck washing ashore, all those who searched for her cannons, and those who found them.


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