24 July 1979 Page Three – Section Thre

Courtesy of  Harriett Fuquay

Early Starke Post Office Gave Weather Warning Service by Flying Flags

Neither rain, nor hail, nor sleet, nor snow” shall halt the mails, the postal service motto says, but at one time the Starke post office, did even more – it provided something extra for growers of the area with a “splendid weather signal system,” using a set of flags, according to a story in the Feb. 4, 1898 issue of The Florida Advocate, a newspaper competitor of the Telegraph in the late 1900’s.

Through the efforts of L. C. Hull, an early Republican postmaster of Starke, the public was advised to “notice the flags on the pole in front of the post office every morning and you can tell just what kind of weather to expect the day following.”

Here was the list of the different flags and their meaning: A square white flag means clear weather; square blue, rain; black triangular, moderate; white with black center , cold wave.

This was doubtless a service highly valued by Starke area growers who had lost their citrus crop and most of the trees to the “Big Freeze” three years previously.

George W. Cole, who came here from Fernandina before the Atlantic-to-Gulf railroad arrived a year or so later, was appointed first postmaster of the fourth class office established here November 17, 1857. The town dates its birth from that time and celebrated its Centennial in 1957.

Cole apparently came here on the prospect of investing in property, expected to rise in value because of the railroad’s coming. He soon acquired title to the 40-acre section comprising the “Original Town of Starke” – the old Call Street business district. It cost him $100 or $2.50 per acre.

The first year the office was in business, receipts totaled $71.90, increasing to $2,360 by 1900 and $350,000 by 1978.

By 1887 Starke had grown to third class status and was delivering mail to nearby fourth class offices in Lakeside, near the south shore of Kingsley Lake; Lake Butler, then in western Bradford County; and Wilderness, a settlement east of Kingsley Lake. Two more post offices were located on the lake: Kingsley, on the north side, and Ionia on the west side, but there is no mention of deliveries to them in the earliest records.

In her register of arrival and departure of mail, Adeline E. Morgan, postmistress in 1887, made the following notations:

Lakeside – G. W. Chambers, contractor, and B. C. Lee, carrier, by hack, three trips a week,

Lake Butler – J. W. Andrews, contractor and Willie Thomas, carrier, by hack, three trips a week.

Wilderness – L. L. Greene, contractor, and Elmer Alvarez carrier, by buggy, two times a week.

In June 1888 the Lake Butler route was extended to Providence. Andrews remained the contractor for a short time, but switched the mode of travel to horseback.

On April 23, 1888, Mrs. Morgan noted that the mail to Lakeside was delayed several hours. A wagon wheel had been broken by the careless driver of another team, and the mail could not leave until it was fixed. Shortly afterward M. G. Griffis became the contractor and carrier on the Lakeside route and switched from wagon to sulky.

Mrs. Morgan served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, but when Benjamin Harrison (Rep.) succeeded Grover Cleveland (Dem.) as President in a bitter campaign, L. C. Hull was named as the new postmaster.

Hull served for four years, as did Capt. J. C. Richard, who succeeded him in Cleveland’s second term. Then in 1897 N. B. Hull, republican son of L. C., began a 13 year term as postmaster, from 1900 to 1913 when Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, succeeded to the White House.

Wilson remained in office for eight years, during which time J. W. (Will) Alvarez served as postmaster. Hull returned to the job in 1922 with the Harding (Rep.) administration and remained for seven more years before retiring. He was succeeded in 1919 by Mrs. H. H. (Jeannette) Young who managed to serve under Republican Herbert Hoover, as well as during the first two years of Democrat FDR’s first term.

Fred F. Stump stepped into the post under Roosevelt, serving from 1934 to 1952, when S. R. Johns, Jr. became acting postmaster for about a year and a half. After a brief gap with the post, unfilled, G. J. McGriff, Jr. was named to the job. After McGriff, assistant postmaster Blake Jackson filled the job as acting postmaster until the appointment of T. C. (Cliff) Hazen on Feb. 14, 1964. He has served ever since.

The postmastership has been removed as a “political plum” so there is no shifting of the job with every change of party in the White House. During the early days it was the responsibility of the postmaster to provide a building for the office. In 1907 N. B. Hull was not only receiving $125 monthly salary, but also $8.33 in office rent for housing the post office on his premises.

The location shifted several times before its last stand in a building about where Mallard’s Ten Cent Store is now. It remained there until 1941 when the new $72, 600 (including site) post office was dedicated on Walnut Street. An enlargement soon became necessary and was made in 1962.

Starke’s post office hit its peak during Camp Blanding days when it became a first class office. After the war it dropped back to second class rating with receipts falling under $30,000, because of the decline in business after the camp was deactivated. With the increase in Starke’s population and the rising costs of stamps to a present high of 15 cents, receipts here are more than sufficient to ensure continued first class rating.

That first year’s $71.90 total, as compared to today’s $350,000 tells a lot about the progress and prosperity of Starke during the intervening years.