Sepia Saturday – J. S. Strange, Postmaster

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The first white men to establish residence in what would become Lincoln County, Kansas settled along the Saline River in 1865. The group of six men were known as the “Colorado Boys,” having belonged to the First Colorado Cavalry. In 1866, seventeen individuals or family groups settled in the territory. Among them were the family of my second great-grandparents, John Sylvester Strange and Susan Nancy Hendrickson.

In June of 1870, a U. S. Census was taken and included Lincoln for the first time. A population of 516 met the population requirement and a petition to form as an independent county was approved by the state legislature.

Lincoln County was linked to the outside world by a stage coach, which at first brought the mail and passengers once a week. The first post office, named Colorado after the Colorado Boys, was in the home of E. E. Johnson. The stage coach brought the weekly mail to several small settlements in the county, each with a resident serving as postmaster or postmistress.

On 14 July 1870, J. S. Strange was appointed as the first postmaster of Lincoln Center, Lincoln County, Kansas. His home served as the post office.

John Sylvester Strange


U.S., Appointments of U. S. Postmasters, 1832-1971
accessed at

If I am reading this correctly, this document shows that a new postmaster was appointed on 11 Sept 1872.

Newspaper clippings, however, document that J. S. Strange was still serving as postmaster in 1873, so maybe what I see as a 2 is supposed to be a 3.

Lincoln County Patriot, 1873 Jun 12

I don’t understand the joke about the elephant. Does this mean that he would be happy or unhappy about the move? Unhappy, I guess.

The post office moved again a month later.

Lincoln County Patriot, 1873 Jul 24

The second postmaster from the original document above is Daniel W. Henderson, so that seems to jive with the newspaper account about who would be the next postmaster.

According to Brief History of Lincoln Kansas: “Throughout the years, the post office in Lincoln moved many times. Whenever the rent was lower in another building the post office would move. The first postmaster received $12.00 per year. During the early years the postmaster’s position was political and he would likely lost (sic) his job when a president from a different party was elected. The law was changed in 1938, so the postmaster could expect to continue being employed.”

I don’t know if GGreat-grandfather Strange went about his postal area delivering the mail once a week or if there were “office hours” when folks could stop in to get their mail. J. S. Strange had a farm to manage, lots of children, other civic responsibilities, and pastoring to do, so it is not surprising that he would be ready to pass on the responsibilities of mail service to someone else after three years.

As I was doing research for this post, I found the photograph below.

The photograph is not dated, but the Saline Valley Bank building was erected in 1883, so it was taken sometime in 1883 or later. It is hard to distinguish some of the faces, but that signature white beard on the man identified as “Uncle Johny Strange” sure seems to be my J. S. Strange. The man next to him on the right, friend and fellow minister H. C. Bradbury, is holding mail. And to top it off, there is a horse and cart in the photo.

There is no junk mail at Sepia Saturday, so feel free to read their posts – you won’t be breaking any federal postal service regulations.

Lincoln – that County in Kansas, by Dorothe Tarrence Homan, 1979
Souvenir History: Lincoln County Kansas, by Elizabeth N. Barr. 1908
Brief History of Lincoln Kansas
Lincoln County Historical Society

16 thoughts on “Sepia Saturday – J. S. Strange, Postmaster

  1. I’m surprised so few people were needed to establish a county. I’m guessing, as you seem to be, that the elephant/lottery joke means that this job was a lot more than he bargained for.

    • I was surprised by that number too – in fact, I had never thought about a criteria for the formation of counties, so I learned something. The joke makes more sense now that I have read it several times.

  2. What a great, well documented post! My ggg grandfather Zebulon Blakeslee was also a postmaster in rural New York State and then across the border in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t unusual for the post offices to be located at train stations, in stores (my ancestor was a merchant), or other available locations. Sounds like the Lawyer wasn’t happy about the P.O. being located in his office…hence the hasty move to a new location a month later.

  3. A fascinating, well researched post that linked family and local history. I had two great uncles who were postmen and my great aunt worked in the local post office during the First World War,

  4. That last photo is great, to include J.S. Strange gives you another link to your G G grandfather! I loved learning the elephant in the lottery joke…and imagine it would have made a few people chuckle when they read it.

  5. Good post, Kathy! I believe I recall our grandmother saying that her father (J. S. Strange) had to go pick up the mail somewhere – and that somewhere was on the other side of a river with no bridge. Once the wagon tipped over and the mail bag had to be retrieved from the water. That might be one piece of evidence for the elephant!

    Someday I’ll try to find time to make photocopies of all the articles from old Lincoln County newspapers that I have that mention J. S. Strange and other of our relatives. The Kansas Historical Society quit sending the roles to local libraries for people to use, so I wasn’t able to finish the process. As soon as Kansas became a state, they started collecting local papers. Unfortunately the one that probably reported the birth of our grandmother is missing from the collection.

    • Oh – I wonder if we could figure out what river he had to cross? Maybe the post office at Colorado was the stage coach stop where he had to pick up the mail … Thanks for sharing that story. I may go back and add it at the end of the post.

  6. Your great-grandfather Strange has a smile, rare to see in a photo of that era, which suggests someone who enjoyed jokes and tall tales. Operating a post office meant he was main social hub in the town and got to know everyone and their business.

    • He was also a county commissioner and a minister – he must have known all the news there was to know. There were many tragedies in his life, but he has a nice smile and soft eyes.

  7. Such an interesting story. I got so hung up on the horse and cart, that I didn’t even think about the post office angle. I have several family members who were appointed postmaster.

    Gotta love hose old newspapers for the style of writing. The elephant joke is a good one. Winning an elephant and “white elephant” must have the same meaning.

  8. My great grandfather was Superintendent of the San Francisco Post Office sometime after his participation in the Civil War with the Union Navy. He seems to have stayed with the position for only 2 1/2 years until he could find employment in his chosen field of engineering. It seems the U.S. government placed retiring servicemen in governmental jobs as much as possible as a way of ‘thanking’ them for their service.

  9. We seem to have a lot of postmaster connections in our SS group. And here we all are, continuing to spread the news.

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