On September 7, 1887, the Grand Island Daily Independent had proudly announced:
Orders have been issued in Washington establishing the free mail delivery system in Grand Island, to take effect the first of October. This will be a great convenience to many of our citizens, and will save much wear of shoe leather in running to and from the post office for 'that expected letter,' as when it arrives it will be brought right to your door without extra charge.
Since the new service would increase the price of a stamp, "free" delivery and "without extra charge," might have caused a few cynics to scoff.
Yes, prior to the fall of '87, citizens of Grand Island had to trudge, rain or shine, to the post office to get their main. In those days, the post office was located in the Masonic Temple Building, a two-story brick erected in 1882 on the site of the present seven-story Masonic Building, 217 North Locust Street. The Masonic meeting hall was on the top floor of the '82 building, the post office in one of two ground-level business fronts.
Grand Island, population near 7,000, had felt slighted back in December, 1886, when mail delivery to homes and businesses was approved for Hastings, Fremont and Beatrice. But Grand Island's new postmaster, Lafayette Myers, quickly made application to extend this service to his community.
The job of postmaster at this time was considered a political plum -- "to the victor goes the spoils." Myers, an enthusiastic Democrat, had taken office on May 1, 1887, appointed by Democratic President Grover Cleveland. A native New Yorker, Myers had been an enterprising coal dealer in Grand Island since 1876.
Of course, to get mail delivered to homes and businesses required letter carriers. So Myers announced he would hire four, and was swamped by 60 applications for the positions that would pay a salary of $600 the first year, a boost to $850 promised the second year.
It is quite plain that he [Myers] cannot accomodate all who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the country's good,
teased the Independent.
But shrewd Postmaster Myers, not wishing to stir up political controversy, formulated a plan that would relieve him of the responsibility of selecting the carriers. He turned to three of the city's most influential organizations -- the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic), the Knights of Labor and the Liederkranz Society. Each organization would select a worthy candidate for letter carrier from it membership. .
.But before the delivery system could be implemented, a plan for numbering houses and businesses had to be devised.
During October, the first month of the new service in 1887, 29,904 pieces of mail were delivered by Grand Island's letter carriers, Myers reported. This climbed to 39,789 pieces during January, 1888, a
remarkable showing considering the month and the fact that it was only the fourth month of our free delivery system,
the Independent commented. In 1888, a fifth letter carrier, Christian Woelz, was added.
Despite his success at introducing the free mail delivery system to Grand Island, Myer's career as postmaster was brief. The November election of 1888 saw Benjamin Harrison, the Republican, oust Cleveland from the White House.
The ever-efficient Myers immediately placed this notice in the Daily Independent:
Applicants for the position at Grand Island, Nebr., are now in order. Republicans will please hand their applications into the post office between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. so they can be properly recorded, numbered and filed away for future reference. Would suggest to the applicants the propriety of not overcrowding the office with their applications, so as to interfere with the regular business of the office. They have until the 4th of March to file.
Lafayette Myers, P.M.
Grand Island, Nebr. Nov. 9th, 1888