News from the eastern states traveled very slowly to the pioneers of southern Lake County. Mail from relatives and friends took many weeks to arrive at the homes of the 1834-35 settlers, some of it sent with those just starting out from the East as settlers themselves.
There was one established route at that time, running along the beach of Lake Michigan in northern Lake County, called the Detroit-Fort Dearborn run, with coaches following the shoreline of Lake and Porter Counties on their way to what would become the City of Chicago.
Fort Dearborn, situated on the Chicago River, was built in 1803, destroyed by Indians in 1812, rebuilt in 1816, and was maintained until 1837. It was chiefly a military post and fur trading station until 1830 and became part of Chicago in 1837.
Mail came a little closer to the pioneers when, in 1835 and 1836, the town of Liverpool (three miles south of Hobart) was settled and the Detroit-Fort Dearborn run turned from the beach and stopped at the new village, "which was on the great route of travel" (now US 6).
In July 1836 the United States Congress established a mail route from Toledo, Ohio, by way of Lima, Ohio, and the Indiana towns of Bristol, Carrollton, Elkhart, Mishawaka, South Bend, LaPorte, Morgan Prairie in Porter County, and several stations in Lake County on the way to Joliet, Ill. In part, this route followed the present-day US 20.
During the same session of Congress, another route was proposed from LaPorte to Joliet. Still another went from Indianapolis by the way of Frankfort, Delphi, Monticello and Jasper County to Michigan City.
Another mail route established about that time (1836) is shown on an old map and was called the "Peoria Mail route." It had its beginning at Michigan City, traveled through Bailey Town, Deep River, Merrillville, Crown Point, Cedar Lake, and ran about two miles west of Lowell, heading for the crossing of the Kankakee River at the rapids in Momence, Ill., and then on to Peoria. This was the planned route, but according to early history books the plan was not followed. Four-horse coaches were to be used on the entire route, from Michigan City to Peoria, Ill.; these were not used. Young riders on horseback rode a portion of the route, that from City West, near Michigan City, to the West Creek Post Office. Two known post offices were in existence through the years in the West Creek area -- one at the site of the "old Ervy Brown farm," and another on the Bailey Estate, called the "Lantus Post Office."
In July 1838 another mail route was started from Logansport to Winamac, rode through Sherwood's Ferry on the Kankakee in Porter County, and on to City West by way of Valparaiso. The Peoria route mentioned above sometimes took another route in this area, coming down from Deep River to Robinson's Prairie northeast of Lowell, and then into Illinois. In 1838 a short route was also used from Crown Point to West Creek.
H.S. Pelton, who later became a Crown Point businessman, was one of the mail carriers on the route from LaPorte to Joliet, the principal route for many years for the central part of Lake County. He also carried the mail from Monticello, but that line was discontinued.
Congress had not studied the geography and history of the Kankakee Marsh and it broad valley, and of the counties of Iroquois, Newton, and Jasper. "The route was afterward found to be through such an interminable wilderness that it was discontinued," says historian T.H. Ball.
By 1847 seven post offices were in operation in Lake County. The mail was delivered twice a week from LaPorte to Joliet and supplied the Crown Point office on the way. A mail route went once a week from West Creek to 'Valpo,' and on to City West.
In 1850, with the beginning of the railroads, postal stations were located along their route, within the limits of the county, and citizens were soon happy to receive daily mail. The Michigan Central Railroad established a stop at Lake Station and a daily stagecoach started running between there and Crown Point, by way of Merrillville (old name, Centerville). Branches were soon extended, more railroads were built, "Hack lines" carried the mail berween stations, and the postal facilities of Lake County compared well with the best in the nation.
The steam whistle of the first train at Lake Station was heard in 1850, when the population of Lake County found itself connected to their friends and relatives on the Atlantic Seaboard by both rail and wire communications -- the beginning of a new era. Railroads soon replaced most of the shipping done by the slower oxen and horsedrawn wagons.
In the 1870's John Wilkinson, son of 1834 pioneer Judge Robert Wilkinson of West Creek, was driving a stagecoach between Lowell and Crown Point. Lawyer Schuyler C. Dwyer of Lowell wrote many years ago: "I came to know him (Wilkinson) to be fatherlike, friendly and good natured, as I had occasion with my parent's family to be passengers in his two horse drawn commodius and comfortable well-fitted public stage, running between Lowell and Crown Point by way of Tinkerville, now Creston." The stage run took an average of two hours each way, owing to the early dirt roads and bad weather conditions.
The following is from an 1872 Lake County history book: "About 1843, "Outlet Postoffice" was established and located at a point one mile east of the site of Lowell, with James H. Sanger as Postmaster. He kept it for some years when it was moved to a point half a mile west, kept by Leonard Stringham. Dr. Hunt, H.D. Mudge, Mr. Foote, and G.W. Lawrence each held the office for a time. J.W. Viant took the office in 1858 and held it until Johnson's administration, when Sanford Barlow was appointed. He held it until 1870, when C.P. Post received the appointment." Post was still postmaster in 1872.
The early post office at the Lowell area was named after the stream coming from Cedar Lake, now called Cedar Creek, called "The Outlet." When Sanger was postmaster, the office was on the grounds of the present Lowell High School. Other early post offices were at the general store at Orchard Grove, at Pleasant Grove (now a part of Lake Dalecarlia), and the Cedar Lake office at Creston.
Post offices were in stores and other businesses, where townspeople and farmers would come in for their mail and stay awhile to hear all the local news.
As mail service progressed, farmers received their mail on the rural routes by horsedrawn buggies; then came delivery by auto-trains that sometimes "caught the mail on the fly," picking up mail sacks off a pole without stopping.
Towns soon received house-to-house delivery -- and soon the trains that made the delivery of mail a daily occurence gave up the business to the trucking industry.
Some residents of Lowell objected to home mail delivery when it began. They argued that it made obsolete their daily walk downtown to collect the mail and socialize with other postal patrons.
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