BY KEN R. JOHNSON
The establishment and ongoing operation of a number of the post offices in the smaller northern Ontario communities usually occurred without too many administrative ups and downs. The Empire Post Office (which was established near Beardmore, Ont., at mileage 19.5 of the Dorion Subdivision, Canadian National Railways) serves as an exception to the norm.
In early June 1933, the Northern Empire Mines Co. Ltd. was in the process of applying to the Post Office Department for an on-site postal outlet. The intent was to have more frequent mail deliveries from such locales as Sudbury and Port Arthur. At that date, the mail was being deposited at Jellicoe and then forwarded by rail to Empire three times a week. The need for better service was driven by the planned expansion of the gold mine; it was estimated that the number of men at the camp would rise from 50 to more than a hundred.
Empire -- the name of the company's oldest mine in California -- was chosen for the new office. To make the application more acceptable, the Mine management stated that they would "operate the postal outlet and pick up and transport the mail to the mine" from the Empire Railway Station at no cost to the POD.
The application was successful and the outlet went into operation on August 31, 1933, with Earle Kirkwood Currie (accountant) the appointed acting postmaster. At the same time, the number of mail drop-offs and pick-ups at the mine site, was increased.
It did not take long however, before issues surfaced that affected the smooth operation of the Empire Post Office. Mr. Currie's salary had been set at $50.00 yearly, but out of that amount, he was required to furnish supplies such as stationery, twine, etc. Perhaps the remuneration aspect of the position didn't sit well with him, as he resigned after only four months on the job.
Harry Carl Walker (clerk) was then installed as the "fulltime Postmaster," but he too resigned in late September of 1934.
The third person to take on the role was Caroline (Carrie) Mary Jones, the proprietress of "the only centrally-located General Store in Empire." The POD, wanting to fill the position quickly, appointed her Acting Postmistress as at Oct 2, 1934, and Permanent as at Dec. 8 that same year. The Mine's postal outlet was opened in her store and by way of a lease she was paid an "annual rental fee."
Operations ran smoothly at Empire until early December of 1935, when the PO was burglarized. On-site security at the store became a concern. Shortly after, Mrs. Jones became unwell and, for a time, sought medical attention away from the community.
C.D. Howe, then Minister of Railways and Canals, entered the scene and, in May of 1936, wrote to the Postmaster General, requesting that the Empire post office be closed in favour of a "new post office to be established at Beardmore." Beardmore had a population that was growing steadily and could easily service the Empire Mine which was about one mile away. Howe's suggestion was not acted upon in the short term and the outlet remained operational.
In early 1938, Mrs. Jones notified the POD that the Mine was moving the postal outlet out of her store and into the mine's own store "which was nearing completion." Although she contemplated resigning, an Aug. 27, 1942 post office inspection report indicates that she remained as the Postmistress. By Sept. 1, 1942, however, the PO Department had to deal with reality and it issued an official notice that the post office was to be closed on Sept. 15, 1942.
The reasons given included: "the mine had closed and would not re-open; the school had been torn down; the post office was being under-used; the population was to continue to decrease and all lived within one mile of the Beardmore Post Office."
Basically, what C.D. Howe had recommended back in 1936 was being implemented, and "all" mail that was addressed to Empire, was "to be forwarded to Beardmore, for delivery." Thus ended the short life of the Empire Post Office.
Looking Back is written weekly by one of various writers for the Thunder Bay Museum. For further information visit the museum at 425 Donald St. E., or view its website at www.thunderbaymuseum.com. This article was published in the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal, Feb. 23, 2019. It is re-printed courtesy of the Thunder Bay Museum.
Many thanks to who sent me a scan of the above article which he wrote for the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal in 2019.
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