Chronicles of the Pincher City Post Office

Farley Wuth File photo / Pincher Creek Echo

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An intriguing aspect of Pincher City’s history is its chronicles of the post office, which provided an essential service to this railway, ranching and commercial centre.
According to a series of dusty old archival records, the Pincher City Post Office was established on Aug. 1, 1906, some eight years after the construction of the railroad through the area. It remained in operation until April 6, 1954, a span of nearly half a century. The volume of postal business remained strong throughout most of those years due to local community patronage and the fact that much of the mail for Pincher Creek came in on the train. However, in the years following the Second World War business fell off and the outlet was forced to close. The post office also moved locations a few times within the city itself as various postmasters took over the job but official postal records show that its location always was Section One, T7, R30, W4 which is the official land description for the entire community.

Early postmasters had business connections
The first postmaster of the city’s post office was James McKnight, who served briefly in the position. Appointed when it officially opened, he resigned less than four months later, on Nov. 20, 1906. Born in July 1864 in Quebec to parents of Scottish ancestry, James came west as an adult. His wife Mildred was born in England in Jan. 1874 and came to Canada at the age of 33. He was Presbyterian; she belonged to the Church of England.
Pincher City’s second postmaster was pioneer businessman and clothier William Hartfield. The post office was set up in his store, located on the north side of the railway tracks. Hartfield served as the postmaster for nearly a year and a half, resigning effective April 30, 1908.
Local pioneer Richard Morgan (1878 – 1957), who operated a successful general store in the city until 1916, was appointed as the third postmaster. The post office was moved once again. His thirty-month tenure lasted until the end of Nov. 1911.
Three postmasters served the city in just over following fifteen years. Morgan was succeeded by Fred Pemberton, whose term as postmaster lasted throughout the First World War era. His resignation came in on July 29, 1919. W. W. Scott, who had served overseas during the Great War, was the next appointment. He was the postmaster for four years ending on Aug. 29, 1923. Thomas MacKay was Scott’s successor, serving for just over three years. His resignation was submitted in mid-Jan. 1927.

Valued community efforts in addition to postal work
W. Percy Nielson, a well-known esteemed pioneer, followed till Dec.12, 1931, when he passed away unexpectedly due to a heart attack. His collapse that morning came on the platform of the railway station as he awaited the CPR’s daily delivery of the local mail. Nielson was born in Scotland in 1872, and at the age of 34 had come to Canada to purchase property adjacent to this railway and ranching settlement. He was very active in the community, serving as the secretary-treasurer of the Village of Pincher City for seventeen years. Nielson’s successor at the post office was his widow, the former Elizabeth Patterson, whom he married in 1914. Born in 1875, she continued in this postmistress position until her mid-May 1935 resignation.
Pincher City storekeeper William (Bill) Laidlaw served as the postmaster for over ten years, which included the Second World War. Born on Aug. 4, 1882, Laidlaw’s exemplary tenure was cut short by his death on Oct. 27, 1946, following a lingering illness of several months. Born in Scotland in the late summer of 1882, he immigrated to Canada in 1911 and established a general store in the city. The commercial outlet thrived for over twenty years, after which he took over the postmastership. Like Nielson, Laidlaw was active in the community. He helped to organize the Pincher City Recreational Society, which looked after the community hall in this railway and ranching settlement, and later served as its secretary. For several terms he served as chairman of the Pincher City School District No. 1725. Both Nielson and Laidlaw found that their community endeavors significantly assisted their postal work.
The post-World War Two era witnessed a series of local postmasters. Following Laidlaw’s death, his widow, the former Florence Mary Hann, born in England in Jan. 1877, served for four and a half years as Pincher City’s acting postmaster. Her successor, also in an acting capacity, was Eleanor Anna Baldwin, who was born in Oct. 1907. She served for four months in 1951. Edward Myles, whose family owned and operated a busy garage at Pincher City, adeptly served as postmaster for two years. The final postmaster was Eleanor Jean Hoedl who sadly saw the closure of the Pincher City Post Office. Postal officials and locals alike were highly pleased with her work, but the volume of postal business no longer warranted, in dominion eyes, its continued operation. The closure of the Pincher City Post Office brought an end to a valued era in rural postal service in southwestern Alberta.
Sources of information for this history article include back issues of the Pincher Creek Echo housed in the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village archives and the Canadian postal histories issued by the Dominion Government.