CHAZY — Had it not been for a Westport stamp collector, Chazy Post Office's bicentennial would have slipped by unnoticed.
"I collect postal history," said Glenn Estus, who tracks the anniversary dates of Clinton and Essex counties post offices in a book called "First Postmasters and Post Offices in New York State."
"I sort of thought it would be interesting to get a postmark on the 200th birthday."
The Chazy Post Office was created on April 21, 1806, and Postmaster Sue Haskins did a double take when she saw why Estus wanted five envelopes canceled with that date.
"I dove into the filing cabinet," she said. "Then I made a couple phone calls."
Luckily, past Postmaster Audrey Douglas had requested the facility's history from the National Archives, so that made Haskins's job easier.
"I've got a list of every single postmaster," she said, "from 1806 to the present."
The facts confirmed, Haskins planned a birthday party for noon to 2 p.m. today, inviting the community to enjoy grilled hot dogs, cake and punch.
"I have a great staff here," she said. "They all pitched in."
While there wasn't enough time to have a special stamp cancellation made, there will be cachets for sale that feature an old photograph of Hearts Delight Farm, a Chazy landmark.
Ronald G. Brown, postmaster from 1969 to October 1987, will attend, as will his successor from 1988 to 1992, Audrey Douglas, and Jan Davis, who was officer in charge in 1992 and 1993. Dennis Mooney, who followed Davis and stayed until August 2003, has been invited as well.
Present Sales and Service Associate Julie Anctil was officer in charge upon Mooney's departure until Haskins was given that job in October 2003. She donned the hat of postmaster on April 3, 2004.
"I think a birthday party is a good way to celebrate the day," Haskins said.
While the Post Office on Route 9 in Chazy is a venerable institution, its present location is just 20 years old. And it's one of many, many buildings to house it.
"The Post Office just jumped from one place to another," Haskins laughed.
The position of postmaster, for many years, was a political appointment. And many of those who got the job moved the facilities for their own convenience.
Chazy's first Post Office was in the home of first Postmaster Dr. Nathan Carver, where his wife, sworn in as deputy, handled postal duties as he visited patients.
At one time, the Post Office was situated in the stone building that now houses Chazy Public Library. It has been in the building that is now Plattsburgh Health Center, and, twice, among other places, next door in what is now Hairstyles Unlimited.
The Alice T. Miner Colonial Collection museum was once a store owned by Ebenezer A. Scott, who was named postmaster in 1833 and performed his postal duties there.
According to "A History of Chazy," by Nell Jane Barnett Sullivan and David Kendall Martin, when Leslie A. Childs was named to succeed Henry J. Hinman as postmaster in 1910, a local newspaper ran a poem that included the following lines:
"Twas whispered one morning in Chazy,
How the Post Office was all on the Bum, That a change in the administration would be fully enjoyed by some ...
The Boss of the political party, Said "Oh, Mr. H. (Hinman) you're too old: A little Child shall lead them, Until they're safe in the fold ..."
NEW STAMP CLUB
Estus was surprised to learn his cancellation request prompted today's festivities, especially considering how little time Haskins had to make arrangements.
"Wow," Estus said, "she did something really fast."
Editor of the Empire State Postal History Society's bulletin and president of the Vermont Philatelic Society, Estus has recently drummed up interest for another stamp-collecting organization.
"We used to have a Plattsburgh Stamp Club, and it sort of went by the wayside," he said.
"I took our old mailing list and contacted those people" and others he thought might be interested.
A dozen people showed up for an organizational meeting recently. The new North Country Stamp Club next meets at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 13, at Plattsburgh Public Library.
Wednesday, Estus noted, "was the 150th anniversary of the Post Office Ellenburg Center."
In the mail on Thursday, he received the five envelopes he'd sent there for cancellation on that date."
Haskins is very glad Estus made her aware of the bicentennial.
"To be 200 years old," she said, "you have to mark the event."