The Post Offices at Princeton,
Woodbury, and Gobles, Ontario

by Edward B. Kipp, 1980

Canada's Postal system originated in Great Britain and remained under British control until 1851, when the united Provinces of Canada East and Canada West took over control. In 1851, the Honorable James Morris, a member of the Tache- MacDonald Government, was appointed the first Canadian Postmaster General. In August 1763, Benjamin Franklin, postmaster at Philadelphia, and William Hunter, postmaster at Williamsburg, were appointed joint deputy postmasters of all His Majesty's colonies in North America. Hunter was in poor health and was succeeded in 1761 by John Foxcroft who held the joint post with Franklin until 1774. Franklin was removed from this office due to his sympathy with the rebellious colonists. When Canada came under British rule by the Treaty of Paris in 1763, Franklin was instrumental in opening a post office at Quebec, with branch offices at Montreal and Trois Riviers. With the movement of people into Canada after the American Revolution, a need for expansion of postal facilities was created. However, it was not until 1827, when Thomas Allen Stayner was appointed deputy to Canada, that action was taken. In 1830, permission was granted to extend the postal system to new villages and towns as justified.

Princeton Post Office

The first village of Princeton, Ontario grew up on the Governor's Road, concession 1 lot 14 of Blenheim Township, Oxford County, around where the present Princeton Cemetery is located on Highway No. 2. This occurred shortly after Thomas Hornor started to build his mills in 1795. This settlement was known then as the Governor's Road Settlement. Until 1819, residents had to travel as far as Ancaster and Dundas for their mail. In 1819, a post office was opened at Burford (then part of Oxford County), with Colonel W. D. Bowen as unofficial postmaster. The first official appointment was George W. Whitehead in 1824. In 1821 the first official post office was opened at Oxford (Ingersoll) with Charles Ingersoll as postmaster.

Of interest regarding the establishment of new post offices in the area is a letter in the possession of Mrs. G. Greig of Brantford. This letter, dated July 12, 1832, is from John Lesslie at the Dundas post office to Thomas Hornor. It concerns the proposed new post office along the Governor's Road from Dundas to Oxford. In it, John Lesslie is requesting information, on behalf of Mr. Stayner, concerning exact distances, what offices are required beyond Paris (established January 1832), and who would be suitable postmasters and conveyers. In 1832 Jed Jackson had the contract for carrying mail from Brantford to London twice a week along the Old Stage Road. On October 6, 1835, a post office was established at Woodstock, Ontario, with Princeton following within two years.

According to the Legislative Council Sessional Papers for 1846, a post office was established at Princeton on May 6, 1836 and Jeremiah Cowin was appointed postmaster on May 9, 1837. The sureties were George Beamer and Silas Martin to the amount of £200. The assistant was John Charles. The Christian Guardian of May 24, 1837 indicated that the post office was opened on April 6, 1837 with Jeremiah Cowin as postmaster. He held the position of postmaster until April 23, 1839 when the office was closed. At the same time, he carried on his shoemaking trade. He was a former native of Borrisokane, County Tipperary, Ireland, and a very versatile citizen of the area. He settled in Blenheim Township in 1818, as agent for the western lands of Hon. Peter McGill of Montreal. He was one of the first assessors and clerks of the township. The Town Book for Blenheim 1882-1844 lists him as being the Town Clerk from 1828-1830, and assessor in 1829 and 1830. The net revenues for the years ending July 5, 1838 and 1839 were £3 15s 1d and £12 2s 5d respectively.

In 1839, the following instructions for sending letters were given in the Toronto Almanac. "Persons in addressing letters to their friends should be very particular to ascertain the name of the Post Office nearest to where they live and address them simply by the name of the office thus - 'Mr. James Dobs, New Market, Upper Canada' or any other post office as the case may be as in consequence of letters not being properly addressed they are frequently lost to the writer and the one to whom they are addressed."

The Act of Union, an Act to re-unite the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, sanctioned by Queen Victoria July 23rd, 1840, became effective February 10, 1841. The designations were changed from Upper and Lower Canada to Canada West and Canada East respectively.

The Princeton post office was reopened on July 6, 1841 with William Grinton as postmaster. He must have been one of the first merchants in Princeton and was located on concession 1 lot 14 of Blenheim township, Oxford County, on one acre of land which is now part of the south east corner of the cemetery. He purchased this land from Wheeler Douglas Smith on August 10, 1833. The site of this store is thought to be marked by a tall cedar tree in the south east corner of the cemetery. The first post office may also have been located here.

William Grinton acquired further land from Elijah Jones and his wife Jane, the former Jane Thompson, on March 20, 1841. On January 1, 1844 he sold two and one half acres to John Thompson (signed), gentleman. John Thompson was a merchant and also postmaster from 1844 to 1853. On October 16, 1852, he sold to Thomas Ryall of the village of Paris, County of Wentworth, merchant. Thomas Ryall was postmaster from 1853 to September 16, 1854, when he resigned.

Salaries and commissions for the Princeton postmaster for the years ending March 31, 1852 and March 31, 1854 were £12 12 1/2d and £22 1s 5d respectively. The stationary allowance was 15s. About this time post offices were established at Canning, June 6, 1852, with Thomas Allchin as postmaster, Drumbo, February 1, 1854, with George Hicks as postmaster, and Gobles, July 1, 1855, with William L. Goble as postmaster.

For the year ending April 5, 1852, George Babcock was the mail conveyer, by coach, from Brantford to Paris six trips per week and from Paris to Princeton three trips per week. He received £93 15s for nine months. He had this route for the following year for which he received £123 5s 3d and continued it until March 31, 1854.

The building of the Great Western Railway (G.W.R.), whose whistle was first heard in Princeton in 1853, caused the village to move a half mile to the north on the Middle Town Line, where a period of amazing growth and activity took place. Other events of note in the postal system were the use of postage stamps beginning in 1851 and the adoption of a money order system four years later. The use of travelling post offices with mail clerks sorting and distributing the mail from the G.W.R. was introduced in 1854 on the line from Niagara Falls to London. Transfer of mail from the railway station to the Princeton post office was accomplished by three different persons in 1854 and 1855. The conveyers were Thomas Ryall from April to September 1854, Thomas Rapson for 28 days and Alex Milmine from January to March 1855. The number of trips per week was twelve. Thomas Ryall won the contract for the mail route between Paris and Princeton commencing on September 1, 1854, for four years. The distance was nine miles, with three trips per week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. This trip was made by horseback, waggon or cutter.

Alex Milmine was postmaster from January 1, 1855 to March 6, 1857. He ran the post office in conjunction with his general store. According to Tremain's map of Oxford County for 1857, the store and post office were located on the south east corner of Railway Street and the Middle Town Line. For the year ending on March 31, 1856, Alex Milmine carried the mail from the post office to the railway station by horse or vehicle. For four months he received £3 15s. He continued this route until January 1857. From January 1857 to December 1858 the route from the post office to the station was looked after by P. C. Bastedo. Twelve to twenty-four trips per week were made either on foot or by horse back. From January 1859 to September 1859, S. Yale had this route, with the intended contract being for four years. He actually continued until September 1868. The pay was $100.16 for a twelve month period in 1861-2. In 1859, it is worthwhile noting that the currency changed from pounds sterling to dollars.

Postal routes between Gobles and Princeton, and Woodbury and Princeton are discussed under that post office. Another route was attempted between Cathcart and Princeton. This began on July 1, 1869 and continued until June 30, 1874. The conveyer was Alexander Kennedy, who was also the postmaster of Cathcart after April 1, 1872. The distance was six miles with three trips per week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The trip was made by horse and he received $85.00 per year.

When Alex Milmine resigned as postmaster, John G. Lindsay, a farmer, took over as postmaster from April 1, 1857 to February 27, 1871. The office was located in his residence. In 1862, the deputy postmaster was a lumber merchant, Sanford Yale. G.J. Giles a dealer in dry goods and groceries etc., was assistant postmaster in 1867. A money order office was opened October 10, 1864 and has been in operation since.

After the resignation of John Lindsay, the position of postmaster was taken over by Hezekiah C. Forsyth. He held the position from April 1, 1871 until his dismissal in 1884. He had the post office in his residence on the north west corner of Main and Victoria Streets where he also ran a boot and shoemaking business. In an 1881 Gazetteer, Hezekiah was listed as having a number of other jobs. He also acted as conveyancer, commissioner for taking affidavits, issuer of marriage licences and life insurance agent. He seems to have been a busy man.

On January 1, 1885, Francis Galbraith became postmaster and he held the position until his death in 1901. His salary in 1885 was $200.00. He had the post office in his general store on the south west corner of Main and Railway Streets where Anderson's store stands. He lived in the present hardware section and in rooms on the second floor. The post office boxes were cubby holes on the south wall near the hardware section. A picture of Lord Kitchener, Earl of Khartoum, hung on the wall and this is now kept by Ross Anderson. Fire damaged the store and living quarters about 1889 and he moved next door to the present Ernie Wise building.

Frederick Vickert became postmaster on April 1, 1901. He had owned the mill which would later become the H. L Kipp mill. The post office was in his residence on Railway Street (former Clarence Swarts residence), where he also looked after the library. He remained postmaster until April 25, 1912, when he was dismissed as a political partisan. In the Parliamentary Election of 1911 he had been quite active in his campaigning for the Liberal party. The Conservative candidate for Oxford North riding Edward Walter Nesbitt won the election. The story goes that on the night of the election when it was known that the Liberals had lost in the riding, a group from the opposition gave Vickert a rough time.

John Horner Crosby was postmaster from May 8, 1912 to October 19, 1930 on his death. He owned a farm on the north corner of the second concession of Blenheim Township and the middle town line. He was also a Justice of the Peace for several years. When he took over, the post office was located in a small frame building just west of the corner of Main and Victoria Streets, next to the former Roy Carson garage. The Postmaster's salary in 1916 was $567.00.

A new brown brick building was built on the same corner and was opened on January 1, 1922 as a post office. This building was owned by Percy Blackmore, Jim Force, Roy Meggs and then Roy Carson, and was leased as a post office. Assistants who worked in the office with John Crosby were Mrs. Glenn Anderson, Mrs. Jean Hall, Mrs. Myrtle Kipp and Mrs. Ed Brown.

The Sessional Papers contain little information on mail routes involving Princeton after 1875. Routes must have existed and perhaps mail conveyance to and from the railway was part of the postmaster's job. For the years March 31, 1914 to March 31, 1917, J. H. Crosby is listed as the conveyer of mail from the post office to the railway station. Twenty four trips per week were made over a distance of 290 yards for $170.00 per year.

In 1921, Gerald Roy Carson moved to Princeton from Oakland. He worked as a Raleigh salesman, at the mill and then in Anderson's store before becoming postmaster on May 19, 1931. The post office was still on the corner of Main and Victoria Streets. During the Second World War, he was granted military leave and spent a term in the Engineers core. His daughter Margaret Edith Carson served as acting postmaster from May 27, 1940 to June 6, 1945, when he was discharged from the armed forces. He retired from this position on June 1, 1963. Assistants were Mrs. Lola Howes and Mrs. Betty Miller. Princeton became a semi-staff office on April 1, 1953.

Alfred David Beamer was appointed postmaster on May 24, 1963. Assistants included Mrs. Violet Maycock, Mrs. Jessie Barker (postmaster of St. George Brant in 1973), Mrs. Mary Doumouchel, and Mrs. Betty Miller. On July 27, 1964, a new post office was opened for service. This building is on the north west corner of Main and Railway Streets, across from Anderson's store. Clarence Barber of Paris became postmaster on the retirement of Alf Beamer, effective February 6, 1976.

Rural Routes

Rural mail delivery in Canada first began on October 10, 1908, between Hamilton and Ancaster, after about a three year campaign by George Wilcox of Springford, Ontario. Rural mail delivery began in the Princeton area in 1913. R.R. No. 1 was established on May 15, 1913 with D. Woods on a twenty and one half mile run six times per week. R.R. No. 2 was established on May 15, 1913, with Burleigh H. Wilson on a seventeen and three quarter mile run six times per week. R.R. No. 3 was established on December 1, 1913, with E.O. Whittington on a twenty mile run six times per week. From 1914 to 1916, the carriers were the same. In 1916, W. Bamford took over R.R. No.1.

When Roy Carson arrived in Princeton in 1921, the three routes were looked after by Clarence Swarts, Gordon Maycock and Abe Moss. Other mail carriers since then have been Ivan Grover, Burleigh Wilson, Mrs. Ken Bell, Herby Howes and Headley Price. In 1973 the rural route carriers were Herby Howes, Mrs. Ken Bell and Mrs. Ralph Crosby. Mrs. Ken Bell started on the rural routes in 1945.

Woodbury Post Office

Force's Corners was situated on the 4th concession of Burford Township and the middle town line. A post office was established as Woodbury on April 1, 1869 with Lionel Shepherd as postmaster. He also carried mail to Princeton. This continued for three months until June 30, 1869, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. He travelled by horse and received $0.75 per mile. The trip was three miles one way. At the same time a route to Cathcart was attempted for three months. Lionel Shepherd resigned on April 4, 1872. Hy H. Force took over as postmaster and on his death the office was closed on June 1, 1872. The post office department decided the office was no longer necessary. In 1875 the population was 60.

Gobles Post Office

Gobles is located on concession 1 of Blenheim Township about 2 miles west of Princeton. It was formerly called Arnold's. This office was established as Gobles Corners on July 1, 1855 with William L. Goble as postmaster. William was the son of Jacob Goble, who came to Canada from New York in 1811 and settled in concession 1 of Blenheim Township about 1816. He was elected first Deacon of the Blenheim Free Communion Church (Baptist) in 1822. He kept the office in his general store on the west side of the Blenheim Township three quarter town line near the G.W.R. tracks at Gobles. He held the position until December 19, 1873 when he resigned. A mail route was begun between Gobles Corners and Princeton in 1855. Alex Milmine made one trip per week for two months between July and September 1855 for which he received £1 15s. This route was continued by W. L. Goble until September 30, 1858. Two trips per week were made by horse or vehicle for which the pay was £3 2s 6d per quarter. Between September 30, 1858 and September 30, 1863, the pay was $50.00 per year for two trips per week. William L. Goble also had the contract for mail conveying from Gobles Corners post office to the railway station. Twelve trips per week were made for two months in 1859 and 1860 and again in September 1863 in connection with the travelling post office.

For nine months commencing October 1, 1863, Jasper G. Goble carried mail on foot six times per week from the Gobles Corners post office to the railway station for which he received $37.00. He continued this for four years until 1867. Jasper G. Goble was the son of William L. Goble. He became postmaster on April 1, 1874 and resigned on August 15, 1896. The population in 1875 was 50. The name of the post office was changed to Gobles on November 1, 1895.

All of the postmasters kept the post office in the same general store started by W. L. Goble. J. O. Trotter was appointed postmaster on October 1, 1896 and resigned on February 23, 1899. James B. Broderick was postmaster from April 1, 1899 to April 3, 1907. The next postmaster was E. H. Webber from May 1, 1907 to March 16, 1912, when he resigned. The last postmaster at Gobles was B. J. Force, farmer, thresher, storekeeper and District Deputy of Wilson District of the Masonic Lodge 1944-45, from April 23, 1912 to May 1, 1940, when the office was closed. Gobles then became part of the rural mail delivery on R.R. No. 1 Princeton.

Reference Sources

  1. Jean Waldie Collection, Weldon Library, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.
  2. The Postal History of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick 1754-1867, by C. M. Jephcott, V. G. Greene, and J. H. M. Young, Sissons Publications Ltd., Toronto, 1964.
  3. The Early Political and Military History of Burford, by Major R. Cuthbertson Muir, Quebec, 1913, p. 106-8.
  4. July 1832 letter from John Lesslie, P.O. Dundas to Thomas Hornor Esq. Photocopy of original, Hornor Collection, Weldon Library, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.
  5. Journals of the Legislative Assembly for Upper Canada 1836-1862.
  6. Sessional Papers of the Province or Dominion of Canada 1863-1919.
  7. The Oxford Gazetteer 1852, by Thomas S. Shenston, reprinted 1968, Woodstock, Ontario.
  8. Mrs. Canfield's People, Oxford Historical Society, 1986, p. 9.
  9. Canada Post: postmaster lists for Princeton, Gobles Corners, Gobles, and Woodbury.
  10. The Christian Guardian, May 24, 1837, p. 3, c. 3.
  11. Oxford County Registry Office, Woodstock, Ontario.
  12. Town Book for Blenheim Township 1822-1844. Original at the Public Archives of Ontario. Photographic copy in Princeton Public Library, Princeton, Ontario.
  13. Toronto Almanac 1839.
  14. Canadian Parliamentary Guide, 1912.
  15. Tremain's Map of Oxford County, 1857.
  16. Canfield Collection, Weldon Library, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario.
  17. Personal interviews.
  18. Kingston Almanac 1836, 1838, 1839, 1840.
  19. Canada Post Offices 1755-1895, by Frank W. Campbell, Quarterman Publications Inc., Boston, 1972.
  20. History of Rural Mail in Canada, by George Wilcox, Canada Post, 1975.
  21. Place Names of Ontario, by F.E. Carter, Phelps Publishing Co., London, Ontario, 1984.
  22. Pioneer Baptist Work in Oxford County, by Zella M. Hotson, 1939.
  23. The History of the First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ont., for the first seventy years - from April 22, 1822 to April 22, 1892, by R.W. Sawtell, The Woodstock Times, Woodstock, 1892.
  24. Various Gazetteers and newspapers.

Names mentioned in this article

Allchin, Thomas
Anderson, Glenn Mrs.
Anderson, Ross

Babcock, George
Bamford, W.
Barber, Clarence
Barker, Jessie
Bastedo. P. C.
Beamer, Alfred D.
Beamer, George
Bell, Ken Mrs.
Blackmore, Percy
Bowen, W. D. Colonel
Broderick, James B.
Brown, Ed Mrs.

Carson, G. Roy
Carson, Margaret E.
Carson, Roy
Charles, John
Cowan, Jeremiah
Cowin, Jeremiah
Crosby, J. H.
Crosby, John H.
Crosby, Ralph Mrs.

Dobs, James Mr.
Doumouchel, Mary

Force's Corners
Force, B. J.
Force, Hy H.
Force, Jim
Forsyth, Hezekiah C.
Foxcroft, John
Franklin, Benjamin

Galbraith, Francis
Giles, G. J.
Goble, Jacob
Goble, Jasper G.
Goble, William L.
Gobles Corners
Governor's Road Settlement
Great Britain
Greig, G. Mrs.
Grinton, William
Grover, Ivan

Hall, Jean
Hicks, George
Hornor, Thomas
Howes, Herby
Howes, Lola
Hunter, William

Ingersoll, Charles

Jackson, Jed
Jones, Elijah

Kennedy, Alexander
Kipp, H. L.
Kipp, Myrtle
Kitchener, Lord

Lesslie, John
Lindsay, John
Lindsay, John G.

Martin, Silas
Maycock, Gordon
Maycock, Violet
McGill, Peter Hon.
Meggs, Roy
Miller, Betty
Milmine, Alex
Morris, James Honorable
Moss, Abe

Nesbitt, Edward W.
Niagara Falls

Old Stage Road

Price, Headley


Rapson, Thomas
Ryall, Thomas

Shepherd, Lionel
Smith, Wheeler D.
St. George Brant
Stayner, Mr.
Stayner, Thomas A.
Swarts, Clarence

Thompson, Jane
Thompson, John
Thomson, John
Trois Riviers
Trotter, J. O.

Vickert, Frederick
Victoria, Queen

Webber, E. H.
Whitehead, George W.
Whittington, E.O.
Wilcox, George
Wilson, Burleigh
Wilson, Burleigh H.
Wise, Ernie
Woods, D.

Yale, S.
Yale, Sanford

Updated May 29, 2009