Reaching Out: Pioneer Era Post Offices
Many of the first settlements established in Palm Beach County still exist today, although some evolved with different names, and others disappeared. Most of them, if they had a name, were registered with the U. S. Government as a post office to receive and send mail, a link with the world they left behind. These are the post offices of the pioneer period grouped by settlement, in the order they were first approved:
Post Offices - Jupiter:
Fort Jupiter was built in 1838 after a battle with Seminole Indians on the Loxahatchee River. A 9,088-acre military reservation was created around it, including the site of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse. The Fort Jupiter Post Office was activated from 1855 to 1856, during the Third Seminole War.
Lighthouse keeper James Armour opened the Jupiter Post Office briefly during 1884. Three years of inactivity followed before Mary Moore “Mollie” Carlin reestablished the office in 1887 at the Jupiter Lifesaving Station, where her husband, Charles Carlin, was the keeper.
The area that includes today’s Town of Jupiter was called Jobe (Hoe-bay) by the Spanish, for the nearby Indian tribe. When the English arrived in 1763, they interpreted the name as Jove and referred to the area as Jupiter (in ancient mythology, Jove and Jupiter refer to the same god).
Post Offices - on Lake Worth:
At the present center of Palm Beach, James B. Brown established the first post office on Lake Worth, Tustenegee, from February 27 to October 23, 1877; the office was reestablished with Albert Geer as postmaster from November 20, 1877 until March 11, 1879. At least one map, dated 1878, identifies the island as Tustenegee, a Seminole name. No other reference to James B. Brown has been found, but he possibly arrived on Lake Worth in 1876 with the David E. Brown family.
In 1880, before there was a town or city of Lake Worth, the Lake Worth Post Office was established at the home of Valoris O. Spencer at the north end of Palm Beach. It was long thought to be the area’s first post office. Tustenegee had been discontinued for ten months when Spencer and his 20-year-old daughter, Mattie, sailed Lake Worth gathering signatures on a petition for mail service. Although their skiff turned over in a storm, the petition was dried out and used to reestablish a post office. When Spencer’s health deteriorated in 1887, George A. Gale took over as postmaster.
Edmund M. Brelsford and his brother, John, applied for a Palm City Post Office in January 1887, and were notified that the name had been approved for an office near Fernandina just a month earlier. Gus Ganford, a winter visitor from Philadelphia, is credited with suggesting the name “Palm Beach,” which was officially recorded in October 1887. The Brelsfords ran the post office from their lakefront store, near the present site of the Flagler Museum.
The first medical doctor on Lake Worth in 1881, Dr. Richard B. Potter, was the postmaster of record at Figulus (“potter” in Latin), established in 1886. The 150-acre homestead—in his brother’s name, George Potter—was located south of Southern Boulevard and the Bath and Tennis Club in Palm Beach. After their sister, Ellen, and mother joined them, the Potters moved to the west side of Lake Worth.
Andrew W. Garnett, one of three Kentucky bachelors who had arrived on Lake Worth two years earlier, was appointed postmaster of the Hypoluxo Post Office in May 1886. When it interfered with his farming, Garnett turned it over to Charlie Pierce, his assistant, who moved it to his home. Charlie’s father, Hannibal Pierce, replaced Garnett officially in September 1887.
From 1888 to 1892, Annie Hubel Andrews was postmistress of the Zion Post Office at Orange Grove House of Refuge No. 3, near present Delray Beach. Annie was married to Steve Andrews, the second and last keeper of the house, and having the office meant her husband had to leave her alone less to pick up mail at Hypoluxo. Charlie Pierce wrote, “The office of Zion must have been the smallest in the United States. … [Steve and his wife] were the only patrons, there was absolutely no one else.”
In February 1889 the Dade County seat, representing about 700 residents scattered over 7,200 square miles, was moved from Miami to Juno. The Juno Post Office was established in 1891 by Guy Irwin Metcalf, who published the county’s only newspaper; the postmistress was Leahretta C. “Lettie” Field, who died the following year. Lettie’s husband, Albert M. Field, donated an acre for the Juno Courthouse, near present U. S. Highway One and PGA Boulevard. When the county seat returned to Miami ten years later, Juno lost its purpose. The present Town of Juno Beach was later established nearby.
After Allen Edgar Heyser and Mattie Spencer married in 1885, they built a large home that grew into the first hotel on the west side of Lake Worth, about where 10th Street is today in Riviera Beach. It was first named Oak Grove for five huge trees on the property; the Heysers applied for an Oak Grove Post Office to be renamed Oak Lawn for their hotel in late 1889. Heyser also became a judge that year and the first to hold court at Juno.
In 1892 the Heysers renamed their hotel the Riviera Inn and the post office became Riviera. Mattie Heyser served as postmistress.
A post office called La Paz and renamed Deer Park, and then Jewell, represented a settlement that became the nucleus of the City of Lake Worth. In 1889 Samuel and Fannie A. Jones James, of uncertain and mixed race respectively, were homesteading 187 acres; they established the Jewell Post Office in their home for the small group of families in the area.
As postmaster, Morris Benson Lyman chose the name of Lantana for a post office established in 1892, for the plant that grew in abundance locally. Although Edwin Bradley settled in what became Lantana in 1877, Lyman is considered the city’s founder. Lyman arrived from Canada in 1884 and after his family followed in 1887, they filed a homestead and started several businesses. Their home, built in 1889 of durable Dade County pine, still stands at 300 East Ocean Avenue as a restaurant.
© Historical Society of Palm Beach County.