About Me

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Lake Mathews (Perris), CA, United States
Born in Illinois, I grew up in Wilmette, a northern suburb of Chicago. I have one sibling, an older brother. I am married, for the 2nd time now, to Butch & got 4 children in the deal. They have gone on to make me grandmother 25 times over & great-grandmother to over 20!. After many years working in industry, I got my bachelors and masters degrees in speech communication, & was a professor in that field for 13 years. I retired in 2001 & returned to school & got my doctorate in folklore. Now I meld my two interests - folklore & genealogy - & add my teaching background, resulting in my current profession: speaker/author/entertainer of genealogically-related topics. I play many folk instruments, but my preference is guitar, which I have been playing since 1963. I write the "Aunty Jeff" column for the Informer, newsletter of the Jefferson County NY Gen. Soc. I work in partnership with Gena Philibert-Ortega & Sara Cochran as Genealogy Journeys® where we focus on educating folks about Social History. More about that: genaandjean.blogspot.com. More on our podcasts: genjourneys.podbean.com. More about my own projects: Circlemending.org.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

U.S. Postmasters, Part 6 - Early Arizona, Apache County

My husband (Lynn Alden - Butch - Hibben) comes from early Arizona (and Utah) stock. His mother's family consisted of pioneer Mormons, but his father's family (non-Mormons) also settled Arizona in the early years. His father, Lynn Maxwell Hibben, was born on the Navajo reservation at Hubbell Trading Post where the elder Lynn's grandfather was employed. Known as "Dad Hibben(s)" by the locals, Harry Cobb Hibben was meticulous with the books he managed in the Winslow, Arizona location. He was highly respected by his boss, who seemed to consider him more a father than an employee (Martha Blue, Indian Trader: The Life and Times of J. L. Hubbell, Walnut, CA: Kiva Publishing, Inc., 2000, p. 253). Harry had brought with him the training from his trade as County Recorder from his days in Flagstaff and ended his life selling Indian curios in Hollywood, California (still under the employ of Hubbell) (George C. Hibben, ". . .60 Poles to a Sugar Tree and Thence to the Beginning": A Social History of the Pioneer Hibben Family 1730 to the Early 1900s, Charlestown, MA: Acme Bookbinding, 2003, pp. 318-319). 

Let's look at the boss: Lorenzo Hubbell, Jr. was the son of the entrepreneur, J. L. (Juan - AKA John - Lorenzo) Hubbell. Lorenzo, also an entrepreneur, handled much of his father's establishment in Ganado, Arizona. But the area that the trading post serviced stretched almost to Holbrook and Winslow, Arizona, and Gallup, New Mexico. In the middle of the Navajo reservation sits the Hopi reservation; Hubbell provided all with goods and services, running freight and mail to the nearby (to us, if not to them) communities (Indian Trader, pp. xi-xv).

With this history as a spring-board, let us see what the United States government recognized as the postal
 service area.

On 15 February 1883, Charles Hubbell was appointed postmaster of the Ganado "Post Office"; it likely was not what we would consider the regulation postal facility, but in the early days of Arizona territory, many buildings were nothing more than tents. Later Hubbell buildings were far more permanent in appearance and purpose (Indian Trader, pp. 43-44). It appears that the Post Office (at least as an official location) was discontinued shortly after that, only to be reestablished on 27 October 1884 with Clinton Cotton as Postmaster. A year later, the mail was rerouted to Keams Canyon. On 18 January 1895, John L. Hubbell (this would be Juan Lorenzo, Sr.) was named Postmaster at the Ganado location. The position was assumed by Charles H. Bierkemper on 10 October 1908. Who were these people and the places referenced?

Charles (AKA Charlie) Hubbell (1856-1919) was the brother of J. L. Hubbell (Indian Trader, pp.xiv-xv) and worked with him in their efforts to establish a successful business with the Native Americans (p. 43). Unfortunately, Charlie did not share his brother's opinion of alcohol. J. L. firmly opposed the use of liquor, stating that it would render a man unable to think effectively (Indian Trader, p.87). It is possible that Charlie's love of booze led to the discontinuation of the Post Office at Ganado so soon after it was established. That is just speculation. It is clear that J. L. relegated his brother to the locations as far from Ganado as possible and suspected that such action was due to his drinking (p. 118).

Clinton (AKA C. N.) Cotton was a friend of J. L. and on 23 September 1884, bought a half-interest in the Trading Post at Ganado. With the new rail line now serving that area of Arizona, a telegraph was a necessity and C. N. arrived a couple of years earlier to run it. He also developed a mail order business for the Trading Post, shipping out Navajo blankets and other items. Perhaps that is why, in October, Cotton took over as the Ganado Postmaster. In 1885, Cotton received a license to trade in Chinle, a short piece north of Ganado (Indian Trader, p. xi). That may be the reason that the Ganado location discontinued service. It's hard to tell for certain as many records are unclear, according to the author of Indian Trader (pp. 82-83).

Keams Canyon is located just inside the Hopi reservation boundary that, as mentioned earlier, was contained in the Navajo reservation (Indian Trader, p. xi). Thomas Keam, owner of the Keams Canyon Trading Post, eventually sold it to Hubbell in 1902. It was there that Lorenzo Hubbell, J. L.'s son and eventual employer of Harry Cobb Hibben, "cut his teeth" on the trading business.

J. L. Hubbell became the Postmaster of Ganado in 1895. Why would this entrepreneur, who has established trading posts all over the territory, employing a number of qualified individuals, elect to take over this responsibility? 1895 was the year in which J. L. Hubbell was focused on building up the Ganado location. Its geographic position made it a perfect "crossroads" for trade going from Gallup to the Indian reservations as well as from Holbrook to those same destinations. And many goods, as mentioned earlier, were shipped out from Ganado to the east and other areas, as well. Also, at this point, the 42-year-old J. L. may have been interested in being more established in one location. He apparently stayed in that role until 1908 (he died in 1930).

The last listed Postmaster for Ganado is Charles H. Bierkemper, who took over on 10 October 1908. Bierkemper actually was a young seminary graduate who showed up at Ganado in 1901 to establish the Ganado Presbyterian Mission on land donated by  Hubbell, arranged with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Bierkemper, originally from Pennsylvania, had been recently married and Hubbell provided him with lodging while the chapel and residence were under construction. J. L. apparently took to the young pastor and their relationship continued for ten years, after which the now-seasoned minister was transferred elsewhere. That means that his role as Postmaster was maintained for only about three years. It is clear that he was well-ensconced in the life of the Southwest during his stay in Ganado (Indian Trader, pp. 164-165, 200).

Who took over the Postmaster duties after Bierkemper left in 1911? The records are not clear on this. The microfilms of Postmasters do not always totally clarify all time periods, but they give another glance at the communities that are covered and the lives of those people in charge of handling the area's mail. I have found Barbara H. Goodman, daughter of J. L. Hubbell, living in Ganado and listed as "Postmistress" on the Federal census in 1930 (1930 Federal Census, Ganado, Apache, Arizona; Roll: 55; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 9; Image: 90.0), so maybe the family just handled it as necessary (note: because she is listed as living in Ganado does not mean that she was the Postmistress of the Ganado Post Office . . . she may have commuted to Keams Canyon or another area nearby . . . never assume that the person worked in the town in which he/she lived).

Hubbell Trading Post is a National Historic Site and is open for visitors. Check their website for more information. For researchers interested in the Hubbell, Cotton, and Bierkemper families, the U.S. Postmaster films, available for viewing at a number of National Archives locations (see earlier blog), makes for an interesting expose of their lives, possibly not accessible in any other record collection.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. Early Arizona postmasters caught my eye, and your stories kept me reading. Thanks --- o and BTW, when I first saw your name,it seemed familiar --- but I think not, probably just wishful thinking. Simpatico.


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