The Burford Post Office Building: Part 2
Over two centuries ago, when Burford was part of a vast wilderness in the newly settled Province of Upper Canada, there wasn’t a special building dedicated to the Postal service. Only a log constructed dwelling of an early settler, which also served as an Inn and a place to hold religious meetings, had been built along the old Indian trail. Once a month, a native courier carrying a sack on his back, would walk from York (now Toronto) to Detroit and back again delivering mail and other supplies to the isolated settlements along the way.
In 1819, the first Post Office in the County of Oxford was established at Burford and the first Postmaster was Col. William D. Bowen, one of Burford’s early military officers. Though he wasn’t officially appointed to the position, the Colonel consented to be the Postmaster and held the position until his death in 1821. The Post Office was situated in Bowen’s residence west of Burford on the present Highway 53. After Bowen died, his son-in-law William Van Allen took over the duties, which only paid 1 pound 10 shillings per year. Back in those days, what is now the Urban Centre of Burford used to be called “Dickie’s Corners”; named after an Inn Keeper named Alexander Dickie who kept an Inn near the main corner of the village.
In 1824, George W. Whitehead (son of Rev. Thomas Whitehead) was Burford’s first officially appointed Postmaster. When he took over, the Post Office was located in his General Store. The position of Post Master remained in the Whitehead family for the next 50 years, as the second officially appointed Postmaster in Burford was G.W. Whitehead’s brother Willard M. Whitehead who was the Postmaster from 1839 until he resigned in 1858.
Throughout most of the time that Willard was Post Master, the community was torn between two names: “Burford” and “Claremont”. It appears that there were two types of settlers living here; those who settled here in the late 1790’s who only knew this place as Burford (named after the Oxfordshire town in England) – and those who came here in the mid 1800’s and wanted to rename the community to Claremont (after a town in either Vermont or New Jersey). Finally, a few years later, the Postmaster General’s office changed the name of the Post Office at Claremont back to “Burford”, in keeping with the original name that Governor Simcoe and his faithful government officials picked out of a hat, back in 1792-93.
The Township continued to have only one Post office until 1851 when another was opened at New Durham…(Note: Princeton’s served the Burford Township side since 1837, but was located on the north side of the road on #2 Hwy in Blenheim Twp.).
…but there were other unofficial Post Offices located in homes and general stores and even hotels, that never made the “official” list of rural Post Offices, compiled by Canada Post, from which the following was gleaned (Library and Archives Canada). Some of these were established earlier than noted, but with self-appointed Postmasters.
1837: A Post Office at Princeton was established April 6th, 1837 in a General Store on the north side of the Townline that closed April 23rd, 1839. The Postmaster was Jerimiah Corwin. It was re-opened July 1st 1841 with Wm. Grinton as Postmaster.
1851: The next Post office to serve Burford Township people was the one in the Schooley General Store at New Durham established June 6th, 1851 with Jessie F. Schooley as Postmaster – closed Nov. 30th, 1918.
1852: The Post Office at Scotland was established Dec. 6th, 1852 with Henry Lyman as Postmaster in his general store.
1854: A Post Office was established at Kelvin Oct. 1st, 1854, with John Kelly as Postmaster.
1855: A Post Office was established at Gobles July 1st, 1855 with Wm. L. Goble as Postmaster. It closed Apr. 23rd, 1912.
1856: Cathcart Post Office was established Jan. 1st, 1856 with Isaac S. Lawrence as Postmaster. (Possibly in Lawrence’s Hotel, while the community was still being called “Sydenham.”)
1859: The Post Office was established at Harley (a.k.a. Derby) Apr. 1st, 1859 with James L. McCellend as Postmaster.
1862: Martin Stally was the Postmaster when the Post Office was established at Falkland June 1st, 1862. It only lasted a short while and closed Feb. 1st, 1886, but then another Post Office was opened Dec. 31st, 1887 and closed Dec. 31st, 1913.
1868: Like many of these historic rural Post Offices, the Post Office at Fairfield Plains was established in a general store May 1st, 1868 with Alex. Howell as the Postmaster. It closed Aug. 31st, 1913.
1869: The local carpenter, Henry H. Force was appointed the first official Postmaster of the newly established Post Office in his building, at the four corners of Woodbury Apr. 1st, 1869. This was closed June 1st, 1872.
1874: Though the list only includes the Post Office established Jan. 1st, 1874 at Muir, the community was known as Trimble’s Corners prior to that and mail was transferred by way of that point several years earlier. William Bryce was the Postmaster in 1874. It closed in 1877 and re-opened Aug. 1st, 1901 and managed to continue to serve the communities of both East Oxford and Burford until it closed again Nov. 30th, 1913.
1875: There was a Post Office in the house/general store at Northfield Centre back when it was called “Florencevale” but the first official Post Office was established there May 1st, 1875 with Elias Bowman as Postmaster. It closed Jan. 31st, 1814.
1881: Hatchley Station had an officially established Post Office from Sept. 1st, 1881 to May 1st 1969, in Powell’s General Store. W.B. Powell was the Postmaster in 1881.