The Cornwall Post Office

The Cornwall Post Office

The Cornwall post office opened in 1859.1  Fortunately, the records of postmasters/mistress’s are fairly well kept.  The list of postmasters/mistresses can be found on the following page.  It seems in the early days of postal services business was conducted by means of a small window through which the postmaster would deliver mail to someone outside.  There is an interesting story that seems to have been passed down through oral tradition which tells of a Mrs. Corbett, who was supposedly the postmistress in 1872.  The story goes that Mrs. Corbett owned many cats and the post office became known as "Cats Cottage".2   This story could very well be true, assuming that the proposed ‘Mrs. Corbett’ was actually ‘Mrs. Corbin’ the wife of John Corbin who, according to provincial records was the actual postmaster from 1872-76 (with the exception of one year in which Mr. John Frizzle was postmaster). 

The first small house that acted as the post office in 1859 was kept by William Pethick.  It was located close to the road on the opposite side and slightly east of the current post office.

Lake Map

Photo taken of 1863 Lake map - UPEI map, Art Inventory #2008.AI.0021

The second post office, ‘Cat Cottage’ apparently became a forge for Mr. MacPhail.3  The third post office was run by Miss Hannah Walsh, the location of this post office can be found on the 1880 Meacham Atlas


Altered photo of Lot 32 from the Meacham Atlas, 1880

Rural delivery began in Cornwall in 1911.  The first mail carrier was Mr. Donald MacPhail and by 1915 he carried the mail along Rural Route #1 and was paid seventy-five cents a trip.4  Until that time, the residents were required to collect their mail at the post office.  Many life-time residents of Cornwall have vivid memories of the post office and rural delivery which can be found on the Personal Accounts page.  Many can recall the pigeon hole slots and mail coming through the Howard’s store which was located in the centre of (the then) Village of Cornwall.  This ‘store’ is still standing and now houses Abegewit Outfitting Co. The mail came to the store/post office from Charlottetown early in the morning by Mr. Billy McManus, whom many of the older residents still remember. The mail was then sorted.  Some mail was put in the pigeon holes while the majority was picked up by rural carries who would then deliver the mail along their local routes, by means of a horse and buggy.  Almost all residents that were interviewed remember Billy MacManus. Other local delivery drivers included Seymour Scott, whose son’s Hector and Harold often drove for him; Mr. MacNevin, and Jack MacPhail in the later years.

Post Office Desk Pigeon holes Mail bag
The Post Office Desk The Pigeon Holes The Mail Bag

Part of the old general store and post office were re-created by Arthur Howard.

The Guardian newspaper was always included with the mail.  If you had a letter it would be wrapped inside The Guardian, tied with a string and put in your mail-box.  If you had a letter you wanted to send and did not want to go to the post office you simply left the letter in your mail box with the appropriate postage which would be about 2 or 3 cents and the mail carrier would pick it up, take it to the post office purchase the stamp and send the letter for you.  In the afternoon Billy MacManus would do the return route and take all the outgoing mail to Charlottetown.5  Residents of the area all boasted about the efficiency of this system. 

After the mid 1950’s the person who ran the general store also took on the responsibility of running the post office.  After the Howards, several different proprietors ran the store/post office until 1968 when the post office moved into its own building.6  This building which is still standing but no longer operates as the post office, is located very close to the store, at the end of the Cornwall road.  It is now the Cornwall Dental Office.

 Dental office

Photo of Cornwall Dental Clinic, Summer 2011

In an interview with the former post mistress, Audrey Godfrey, she indicated that there were roughly 30 locked boxes and approximately 100 general delivery boxes at that time.  Residents were given keys and were able to pick up their mail at their leisure. This was before the population of Cornwall really took off. 

There were also two main delivery routes, one that went through Cornwall, continued down through the West River area and Cumberland and up back to Cornwall via Clyde River; this was known as Cornwall RR2.  Some of the delivery men responsible for this area included Lloyd Murray and Russell Blackett.  The other included New Haven up towards Kingston, which was known as Cornwall RR3, and was not as large.  Bill Waller and Warren MacKinnon were delivery men for this area.  This system continued for several years, but as Cornwall continued to grow, so did the post office.  Extensions were added onto the building until it was not large enough to accommodate the population.7  The current Cornwall post office was constructed in 1983.  At that time there were approximately 500 locked boxes, today there are 1410.  As of spring 2011, the Cornwall Post Office serves approximately 3479 households.8  Joan MacInnis is the current post mistress and has been since 1991.

Post Office

Current Cornwall Post Office, Summer 2011

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