When this area was part of the Indiana Territory, modern mail service was not even a dream. When the Territory was founded in 1800, there was one post office, at Vincennes, and only a few more were established before Indiana became a state in 1816, when not more than 20 were open. Riders carried the mail in their saddlebags down crude paths and buffalo trails through the wilderness, with no accommodations for the rider along the way.
Often the mail was delayed, with the uncertainty of service continuing well into the 1830's and even later here in the northern part of the state. News from the eastern states traveled very slowly and the pioneers of south Lake County waited weeks to hear from their relatives. Some letters were marked "Place on next wagon to Lake County, Indiana."
A very early mail route was established along the beachfront of Lake Michigan from Detroit to Ft. Dearborn (Chicago), and mail routes reached a little closer to Lake County pioneers when the stagecoaches turned off the beach road to stop at the pioneer village of Liverpool (three miles northwest of Hobart) which was on the "great route of travel" (now U.S. 6).
By July 1836 another mail route began in Toledo, Ohio, passed through the Indiana towns of Bristol, Carrollton, Elkhart, Mishawaka, South Bend, LaPorte, Morgan Prairie in Porter County, and through several towns in Lake County on its way to Joliet, Ill. In part, this trail became the present U.S. 20 highway. To get mail from the South, a route was established from Indianapolis to Michigan City.
The "Peoria Route" planned in 1836 was a route beginnning at Michigan City, travelling past Bailey Town near the Indiana Dunes, on through Deep River, Merrillville, Crown Point, Cedar Lake, crossing through West Creek on the way to Momence and Peoria, Ill. The planned route was not followed, however, but the young riders did ride from City West, near Michigan City, to the West Creek Post Office on what is now Calumet Avenue.
There was another early post office in West Creek Twp. on the Bailey farm, called the "Lanthus Post Office" -- named after the nearby tree.
Poor government planning had some proposed routes heading through the swamp in the Kankakee Valley, according to an early pioneer historian who wrote that it seemed that they did not study the geography and history of the marshlands in the counties of Iroquois, Lake, Newton and Jasper, the result of which was that most of them were discontinued due to "such an interminable wilderness."
Some of the progress included the establishment of seven post offices in Lake County by the year 1847, with mail delivered twice a week from LaPorte to Joliet, with stops at the Crown Point station. For a time, another route followed the trail from West Creek Twp. to Valparaiso and on to City West.
When the railroads began to come through the county in 1850, postal stations were made all along the route, and many early settlers were finally able to receive mail on a daily basis. The Michigan Central made a stop at the Village of Lake Station, where a stage line began the trip to Crown Point by the way of Centerville (Merrillville). Branches were extended, and more railroads were built, with "hack lines" carrying the mail between stations. The postal facilities of Lake County were, by then, comparing well with the best in the nation, and the railroads were slowly taking over shipping from the wagoners.
One of the stagecoach drivers in Lake County in 1870 was John Wilkinson, son of Judge Robert Wilkinson, pioneer of West Creek Twp. Long ago, lawyer Schuyler C. Dwyer wrote about this river and a trip to Crown Point: "I came to know him to be father-like, friendly and good natured, as I had occasion with my parent's family to be passengers in his two, horse-drawn commodious and comfortable well-fitted stage, running between Lowell and Crown Point by way of Tinkerville [Creston]." The run to Crown Point took an average of two hours each way, down early dirt roads during all kinds of weather conditions.
The Old Timer recently received a letter asking about the "Outlet Post Office." The writer had read the diary of her Civil War ancestor, who wrote that he had corresponded with a "Sally W." whose address was at the Outlet Post Office, Ind.
The following is written in an 1872 Lake County History volume: "About 1843, 'Outlet Post Office' 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 of postmaster for a time.
A 1968 photograph recently received from the Gordon Fitzgerald family shows the old Sanger house ("Outlet Post Office") standing east of Lowell in front of the steel girders of our present Lowell High School.
The 1846 home is said to be the first house in southern Lake County constructed of sawn lumber imported from a Chicago mill and transported here on ox-drawn sleds. There was an effort to save the historical building, but it burned to the ground soon after the high school was completed.
Many south Lake County post offices were in stores, including offices at Creston (which was the Cedar Lake Post Office for a time); at the general store at Orchard Grove east of Lowell; and at the Pleasant Grove general store near the present Lake Dalecarlia. Townspeople and farmers came to the post office to get the mail and to hear the news of the day.
The post office was moved from the "Outlet" site into a three-story building on the corner of Commercial Ave. and Clark St., a general store owned by John Viant. Some years later it was moved to another building in the same block until the time when it was moved around the corner in the first building on Clark St.
From there it was moved to the south side of Commercial, next to the resale shop, and finally made the move to the present location at the corner of Liberty and Washington Streets, on the actual site of the 1835 cabin of pioneers Horatio and Abram Nichols.
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