|Scotch Grove Has Historic Post Office
by Esther A. Sinclair
Picture of the Balster's Store at Scotch Grove, probably around 1914, judging from the Model T and the brass radiator. Eventually this would become the Balster Implement and Parts Store. After Arend Balster bought out many supplies of parts and close outs during the depression when many businesses folded. To this day, there are thousands of antique parts found in the numerous warehouses that bear the Balster name.
|SCOTCH GROVE—The Scotch Grove post office, one of the oldest in the state, has a new temporary postmaster.
He is Leslie M. Balster, appointed acting postmaster to succeed his father, Arend Balster. Arend Balster has retired after serving as postmaster since 1920.
Leslie Balster will serve as postmaster until examinations for a permanent appointment are completed. The office now has 26 boxholders and a rural route of 39 and one-half miles.
The office was established 103 years ago, in 1851. John E. Lovejoy, a colorful figure of Scotch Grove, was appointed the first postmaster in August of that year.
From The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Sunday, July 4, 1954, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and submitted by Sharon Oltmanns
|Post Office at Scotch Grove|
Is Back at Old Site
|SCOTCH GROVE—The post office opened for business at a new but old location Wednesday morning. The post office was originally at this same site in 1900.
Prior to 1900, post offices were located in the postmasters' homes. The first of record was around 1850 when John E. Lovejoy was named the first postmaster.
Before that records are scarce but in Scotch Grove, which was settled in 1837, one resident has saved a letter addressed only to "Jones or Johnson County, Dubuque Territory."
Only twelve men have served as postmaster here. From the first location in the corner of a grocery store, the office was moved across the street to what is now the office of the Balster stores; from there to a brick building on the east edge of Scotch Grove in October 1855, and now to the present location again at the rear of a grocery store, but in a much more modern setting.
There is no inner connection between the store and office, and considerable remodeling and painting has been done. Irvin Hussman is present acting postmaster. The building formerly housing the post office has been sold to Milton Rieken, operator of the tavern in Scotch Grove.
From The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Thursday, May 2, 1963, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and submitted by Sharon Oltmanns
|Scotch Grove's Final Postmark
Delivers Place in History
by Dave Rasdal; Gazette staff writer
|SCOTCH GROVE—Nine years before Pony Express riders climbed into the saddle, Scotch Grove was put on the map with its own post office.
That was 1851, five years after Iowa became a state. But now, like the Pony Express, the Scotch Grove post office is fading into the sunset. The small white-frame office with an elevated boardwalk out front and 32 postal boxes inside closes for good Friday.
"We've lost our ZIP code," laments David Naylor. "We've lost our identity."
That a community like Scotch Grove has held onto its post office this long can be credited to David, 37, and Naylor Seed Co., the largest business in this unincorporated village along Highway 38 in central Jones County.
For one thing, Scotch Grove has never had a mayor or a town council. The railroad and one-room school houses are long gone. There isn't even an official population, although about 60 people call Scotch Grove home.
But, it has had Naylor Seed Co. since 1920. And even this week, David, now president, will mail 55-pound sacks of seed through the post office to customers in Iowa and surrounding states. Naylor Seed could have used other carriers, but preferred the U. S. Postal Service for its good rates and excellent service. David also felt using the postal service would keep the post office open.
It worked for a while. But a year and a half ago, the postal service began a study for discontinuance, says Cheryl Wernimont, manager of post office operations for the area. Since then a postmaster has not been assigned to the post office. It has been operated by an officer-in-charge, a term used for employees training to become postmasters.
When the study concluded the post office should be closed, David continued his fight. Opening a file folder in his office, he points to letters he wrote last summer in a last-ditch attempt to save the post office.
"At a time when the United States is purportedly committed to encouraging economic revitalization in rural areas, the closing of a post office in a small community which has fought hard to buck the trend of rural decline is inconsistent at best, if not downright discouraging," David wrote.
In addition to Naylor Seed, he added, Scotch Grove has Balster Implement Co. with more than a dozen warehouses. It has several smaller businesses including a nursery, two bed-and-breakfasts, a tavern and Bohlken Automotive.
George Bohlken, 86, who built his garage in 1950 and turned it over to son, Ken, in 1994, remembers his part-time work in the post office more than 60 years ago. It was located in the back of Balster's Grocery while Arend Balster Jr. was postmaster, from 1920 to 1954.
"I shipped out as high as 100 packages a day out of there," George says.
The post office later moved to Plueger's Garage, the building now housing R & J Station tavern. In 1963, it moved to the present location, a small building at the rear of the closed grocery store.
The last postmaster, Steven Bahnsen, left in 1995 to become a carrier in Chicago. But David says he plans to return Friday for the final hours, when the Iowa Postal History Society issues a special envelope with a photograph of the post office and a Scotch Grove cancellation on an Iowa Statehood stamp. The envelopes will sell for $1.25 each or five for $5, beginning at 10 a.m.
When the normal 2 p.m. closing time arrives, officer-in-charge Janita Fisher of Lowden will lock the door one last time. Scotch Grove will join Luzerne and Toddville as the third Eastern Iowa town to lose its post office since 1994. ZIP code 52331 will no longer exist. The addresses will change to rural Monticello.
Yet, local customers will now receive rural delivery at curbside boxes. A big blue mailbox will still accept drop off mail. And David Naylor will mail his bags of seed by leaving them for late afternoon collection by a rural carrier.
"I understand the post office, they're losing money," David says.
So, even though he's sad to see the post office close and the town's identity go with it, he is not bitter.
"Maybe," he adds, "it'll work out for the best."
David Naylor, president of Naylor Seed Co., strolls across the street to the Scotch Grove post office. Naylor has fought the closing of the post office because his company still uses it to mail 55-pound bags of seed. The post office will close Friday.
From The Gazette (Cedar Rapids-Iowa City), Tuesday, November 18, 1997 and submitted by Sharon Oltmanns
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