October 23, 2001
The Perry post office has been around since those days in 1893 when the public and the government began speaking openly of allowing homesteaders to stake claims in the Cherokee Outlet of what is now the state of Oklahoma. Mail service was essential in that era when communications were limited even in the best of circumstances. Operating a reliable postal service was a top priority on the Western frontier as this country extended its borders. Unfortunately, few public records are available to document the creation and growth of the postal service in this developing area. One thing is clear: Perry has had a post office from the beginning.
Interest in this subject was evident the other day when the Northwest Corner included a picture of the old sandstone Perry post office as it appeared in 1917. The photo was provided by a former Perryan, Nevalyn Freese Stotts of Stillwater. I’ve received several inquiries about that old building since the picture appeared, so here’s some information to answer a few of those questions.
A tiny wooden shack served as Perry’s first post office. It was located on the courthouse square, along with one other wooden building – the Land Office, where homesteaders registered their claims to some of the choice real estate in this virgin land. They were the only buildings in the courthouse park for more than a year. The five-acre park itself was pretty desolate. There were no trees, only a stand of alfalfa that the early-day city fathers had planted to reduce the erosive damage caused by Oklahoma winds. A buffalo wallow on the east side of the park reminded one and all that livestock had been pastured in this area for years before the run.
As a sidelight, after the run the courthouse park initially was occupied by squatters who thought they were claiming lots for business buildings in the heart of this brand new town. Hundreds of businessmen located on all four sides of the park reserve and they stayed there for a month after the run, according to Judge E.W. Jones’ Early Day History of Perry, Oklahoma. Eventually they were driven off the park grounds by U.S. troops and the area surrounding it quickly became the busy commercial heart of the tented city. The west acre of the park was reserved by the federal government. The south half was deeded to the city of Perry and is now the location of Perry’s Carnegie Public Library.
Eventually, which is to say we don’t know the year, the little wooden post office near the northwest corner of the park was replaced by a sandstone, single-story post office. It was not an especially handsome building, but it blended with most of the architecture around the square. It included a fair-size lobby and a space where postal clerks waited on patrons and answered numerous questions about dispatch times and other matters. Tiers of various size mail receptacles lined one wall. The main entry was on the west front of the post office and a single-width door on the north side provided another access. Most of the north side was covered by dense vines of ivy. Roughly half of the interior was set aside for clerks and city and rural carriers to prepare for their duties. Foot carriers delivered mail to city homes twice daily. The outlying area was served by four rural routes. We’ll have a bit more on this subject when the Northwest Corner returns. Stay tuned.