by William H. Bauer
From Volume 13 - Issue Number 3 - Published
This issue contains the first installment of
a project that I have been working on for nearly 30 years. In
the 1960's, when I first began to collect Colorado Postal History
I quickly learned that there was a near void in literature relative
to the postal history of the state. It became my goal to alleviate
that situation. Since 1970, much has been accomplished. In cooperation
with James Ozment and John Willard two editions of the listing
of Colorado Post Offices have been published. It is considerable
gratification to often find those books cited in other published
historical studies of Colorado. Also, in the 1970's David L. Jarrett's
book, Colorado Territorial and Pre-territorial Postmarks.
was an important addition to the literature. The pages of the
Colorado Postal Historian and La Posta, have also
added to the published knowledge of Colorado Postal History.
However, none of this has accomplished the primary
purpose that I hoped to achieve. My interest in Colorado goes
beyond the markings and the covers to the history of the places
that at one time had, or still have, Post Offices. Where were
these places? What was the reason for their existence? What was
the origin of the Post Office or settlement name? And of course,
the second part of the effort would be to list the postmasters,
and the known postal makings from each office. Certainly a monumental
task, and one that may never be completed.
Now, in 1998, I feel that I have gone about as
far as I can in collecting information, and it is time to put
what I have on paper and to let others add to the data base. The
first of what will be many segments appears in this issue.
The production of this "encyclopedia"
will be county by county, and in no particular order. Hopefully,
there will be a portion in each issue to come of the Colorado
Postal Historian. The previously published articles on the
"City and County of Denver" are actually a part of this
Within each present-day county all of the post
offices will be treated in alphabetical order, and the information
will hopefully be presented in a consistent format. However, that
could change as time and experience dictate a change in format.
For each office the information will be in the following sequence:
1. A discussion of the history, the location,
and the source of the name of the office.
2. A chronology of the post office: dates of
establishment, discontinuance, reported locations, postmasters
to approximately 1980, and other events.
3. A descriptive listing of the recorded postmarks
for the office.
4. Tracings of the postmarks.
During the past 30 years, my reading of Colorado
history has been extensive. A short list of references provided
the bulk of the information, however, some key facts were uncovered
in some rather esoteric publications. Often historical information
is repeated, and in many cases it is possible to follow the trail
of a statement from the one author through several subsequent
The reason a settlement (post office) existed
is usually well understood. Various authors usually agree on who
were the founders, and the reported dates of founding of the settlement,
at least within reason.
The location of a settlement, particularly the
tiny and short-lived ones, is more often a point of contention.
On the eastern plains, the post offices were often at the ranch
of a person willing to be the postmaster. For such post offices,
if the postmaster changed, so did the location of the post office,
and in a few instances the move was across a county or even state
boundary. Therefore, depending on the time under discussion, different
authors will report the office at different locations with different
postmasters. In several instances, I have found references to
"postmasters", and even to a few "post offices"
which are absent from the official records. Such names will not
be reported in this encyclopedia.
In connection with the previously described Site
Location Reports, I have also studied a number of published maps,
and have integrated that information into the locations I report.
More recently, together with James Ozment and others, I have begun
the task of actually visiting every site which we can physically
reach. A few are no longer on or close to public roads, or they
lie beneath reservoirs. As of January 1998, I have been able to
cover most of the counties east of the Front Range. Surprisingly,
when reaching the indicated spot, there has often been some remnant
or evidence that there was indeed human habitation at the location.
As time passes, the evidence becomes less, and more and more locations
are "empty fields." A photographic record has been made
at each site visited, and I will include comments on what was
to be found when I visited. From these visits it should be possible
to provide a description of how to find that site today.
Ever since reading Names on the Land by
George R, Stewart, I have had a fascination with the source of
town names. Therefore, in my reading I have paid particular attention
to from whence came the settlement names on the Colorado Landscape.
Many are obvious and well known, for many a reasonable assumption
can be made, and for some the reason is lost in antiquity. Local
legends, often fanciful abound, but from reading the postal records,
at times a more prosaic explanation seems appropriate. Very often
the post office name is the family name of the person who filed
the original application for a post office, or who was the first
postmaster. Derivation of the names will be reported where a logical
explanation exists or, if a speculative version, it will be so
OPENINGS AND CLOSINGS: Included in this
section will be the dates of establishment and discontinuance
that were listed in Colorado Post Offices 1859-1989. That
information will be updated to reflect recent closings and the
correction of a few typographical errors. This information was
originally extracted from records of Postmaster Appointments,
maintained by the Post Office Department, and preserved on microfilm
available from the National Archives. In addition, in 1980, I
was given access to a card file containing recent information
on the active post offices. Some of that information was subsequently
added to the microfilm records.
Since 1980, learning of changes in post offices
has become increasingly difficult. For a time, the weekly Post
Office Department Bulletin reported openings and closings;
frequently and with a fair degree of accuracy. Since 1990, the
Postal service has been most casual in their reporting. Fortunately,
there has been not a single new, independent post office established
in Colorado -just numerous branches and stations. There are a
number of post offices that have closed, but in many instances
they had ceased operation months, and even years, before an official
announcement was made. Because of this, any post 1990 closing
date should be considered speculative.
For each Post Office, I will list the names and dates of appointment
of the postmasters, as I have extracted them from the Records
of Postmaster Appointments. For the most part these documents
are handwritten, and in some instances poorly. I have done my
best to copy the names correctly, but I offer no guarantee that
all of the spellings are correct. 1980, has been chosen as an
approximate cut off date for postmasters. That is the extent of
the information available to me, and since then the Postal Service
more frequently appoints an "Officer in Charge." Such
persons serve until a postmaster is appointed, and they change
frequently as the Postal Service employees are moved to other
assignments or locations. Therefore, I feel that attempting to
bring the postmaster name records to a current status is not worth
the effort, and in addition would be a task without end.
The location information reported in this section is based primarily
on the Geographic site Location Reports of the Post Office Department,
which are also available on microfilm from the National Archives.
These documents were submitted prior to the granting of the application
for a new post office, when there was a change in the location
of the post office, and occasionally when a survey of all post
offices was conducted. This later event leads me to believe that
many changes in location were not reported, and that eventually
the Post Office Department decided it was time to find out where
everything was situated. The last such survey appears to have
been in the late fall of 1941. Subsequent to that time, there
are very few documents, and none dated later than 1948.
The site location reports are most helpful if
they were prepared after the Federal Land Survey Grid (Section-Township-Range)
had been established. Prior to that, the descriptions rely on
estimated distances to other towns, or to geographic features.
In a small percentage of the reports there are obvious errors
in the description and I am left wondering if the postmaster really
knew where he was. Hopefully, I have recognized most such errors
and what I record here will be accurate.
On occasion, the Records of Postmaster Appointment and the Geographic
Site Location Reports provide a comment on some other historical
event that affected the post office. Such items, when found, will
be included in the chronology for the office. All of these facts
will be listed in order as determined from the dates present on
the documents. This should provide some additional guidance to
the history of the individual post office.
A key section of this encyclopedia is to record
the postal markings used at each post office. Often only a single
type of marking is known, or early markings have not been reported,
and for many post offices I have yet to record any markings.
I will make no attempt to assign a "rarity
or value factor" to either the towns, or the specific marking.
There are too many factors that influence the desirability and
value of a given postal marking, not the least of which is individual
collector interest and desire. I recall that it was not many years
ago that I found my first MONON postmark. Today, nearly every
auction offers one for sale - times change.
Nearly all of the markings here recorded have
been seen by me, or by some one in whom I have confidence. Nearly
all will be shown as tracings; traced from examples in my collection
or that of friends and acquaintances.
For manuscript markings, I have chosen to show
only one example, unless there are distinctly separate periods
of manuscript use or unusual formats.
I also choose to illustrate the associated killers,
unless they are common cork smudges. In the case of 4-bar and
wavy line machine killers, only a portion, enough to be distinctive,
may be shown.
I have done my best to prepare an accurate tracing,
however, I am not an artist, and at times my hand is a bit shaky.
I feel that I do present a true representation of the diameters
and of the size, style, and spacing of the lettering. Irregularities
in shape of the letters are my fault, unless otherwise noted.
These tracing should be satisfactory for matching to actual examples.
During the last half of the nineteenth century,
and the early twentieth century. The great majority of steel handstamps,
provided by the Post Office Department, were manufactured by a
single firm. These handstamps were all hand engraved. Thus, even
if two devices were made for a town at the same time, there will
be minor differences between them.
It is necessary to emphasize that slight variations
will occur in the impressions of the postal marking depending
on, the nature of the device, the age of the device, the precision
of the strike, and whether it was recently, if ever cleaned.
The purpose of this section is to provide specifics
and additional information about each of the postal markings.
Included will be a description of an occasional marking, which
I have seen and recorded, but which is not available for illustration.
The description is a modification of a system I proposed in 1972,
and have personally used ever since. The original system was conceived
for computer storage and was thus complicated. With time I learned
that the complexity was not necessary, and even less so when I
decided that the planned publication would illustrate the markings.
In addition, any one who builds computer data bases learns that
there is a residual percentage of data that is better presented
in narrative form instead of "code". The description
will consist of the following items, as appropriate, in two lines
for each marking. A third line will occasionally be used to describe
of the device will be from top to bottom. A "/" will
separate lines, or the clockwise reading portion from that reading
counter-clockwise. Words enclosed in "( )" are in the
central portion of the date stamp, and words following "::"
are outside the datestamp. The use of upper and lower case letters
reflects that use in the date stamp. Manuscript markings will
be listed in upper and lower case letters. Punctuation is a problem.
I have tried to record it accurately, for at times it can be the
distinguishing characteristic. However, periods and commas are
fragile. They wear quickly, break off, or fail to imprint, thus
there may be some variations from what I report.
Either one or two dates are given. They are the extremes of the
range of dates that I have recorded. If only a single example
has been seen, then it is given as the end date. For most of the
markings I feel certain that there are in collections, markings
with dates that are either earlier or later than the ones listed.
I will use some codes. Hopefully they are simple and easily understood
Initially, this number
has been assigned to markings, in chronological order, depending
upon the earliest date recorded. It is my intention that any additions
will be inserted in a decimal format ( 1.1, 1.1.1, etc.), or added
at the end.
Shape: A two letter code that describes the simple
geometric shape of the postal marking.
AC - Arcuate OC - Octagonal
CI - Circular OV - Oval
IR - Irregular, (non-geometric) RC - Rectangular
MS - Manuscript SL - Straightline (rimless)
Framing: A three character code (two numbers
and a letter) that describes the number, the position, and the
character of the lines that frame the marking.
1st character - The number of exterior frame
2nd character - The number of interior frame
3rd character - the nature of the outermost frame
C - Cogged H - Heavy, (thick)
D - Dashed or dotted P - Plain, (thin)
F - Fancy R - Rimless (no exterior frame)
T - Toothed
By far the most commonly encountered combination
of these codes will be "CI 10P" - A circular marking
with one plain outer frame line and no inner frame line.
Size: The diameter, or width by height of the
marking. A size will be given for each frame line, separated by
"/". For straightline, irregular, and rimless markings.
the extreme dimensions will be reported. Measurements are to the
nearest half millimeter. For an obviously distorted circular marking,
an average diameter will be reported.
Type of Device: A four or five character abbreviation
to describe the type of device used to create the postal marking.
Aux - Auxiliary, instructional handstamps of
Doane - Doane style 4-bar postmarks
Dplx - Duplex (usually with an oval, grid killer)
Flag - Machine Flag cancels
Hstp - Handstamp
Mach - Machine
Mscp - Manuscript
Pict - Pictorial postmarks of recent years
Rolr - Continuous, roller applied postmark
4bars - 4-bar handstamps of various types
Killers and Comments: A narrative description
of the killer(s) used with the marking, and other comments about
The descriptions, combined with the tracings,
should make it possible to identify examples of each reported
CONCLUSION TO THE INTRODUCTION
This introduction has required considerable space,
hopefully it will not have to be frequently repeated. I am certain
that each and every one of you possess markings from towns for
which none have been reported, additional markings to those listed,
or earlier and later dates. PLEASE SEND ME PHOTOCOPIES OF ANY
THAT YOU MAY HAVE!!! I would also appreciate any additional historical
data or any suggestions and comments you might have for this project.
Eventually the sections will be revised to reflect
additions and hopefully re-published as a series of pamphlets.
The greater purpose is to record this information and to make
it available to the collector and to other interested parties.
At some point in time, the collected data, photocopies, maps,
and other notes will be placed in the Rocky Mountain Philatelic
Library, in Denver.
Adams, Alamosa, Arapahoe, Archuleta, Baca, Bent, Boulder,
Chaffee, Cheyenne, Clear Creek, Conejos, Costilla, Crowley,
Custer, Dolores, Douglas, Eagle, Elbert, El Paso, Fremont, Garfield,
Gilpin, Grand, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Jackson, Jefferson, Kiowa,
Kit Carson, Lake, La Plata, Lincoln, Logan, Mesa, Mineral, Moffat,
Montrose, Morgan, Motezuma, Otero, Phillips, Pitkin, Rio
Blanco, Rio Grande, Saguache, San Juan, San Miguel, Sedgewick,
Summit, Washington, Weld counties.
In addition, express company markings used in Colorado has been
published as a part of the "Encyclopedia" and Denver
County was published in an issues prior to the start of the
"Encyclopedia" in 1998.
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