by Emmett R Smith
MISS Anna Wiecking, a teacher at Mankato State College, in 1957 in her children's history of old Mankato, wrote that Mr P K Johnson (together with Mr Jackson, one of the two town-founders in 1852) was the first Postmaster. He had a sort of portable leather case with pockets in it. Whenever anyone brought in some mail on foot, horseback or by canoe, Johnson would sort and carry it in this case, and wherever he happened to be people could saunter up and ask chummily if they'd gotten any letters.
This was an enormous load of fun and made everybody feel that perhaps they weren't so badly lost out back of behind in the wilderness, and not stuck quite so badly in this Mankato Hell-hole after all. Even people who couldn't read or write, and who didn't have any reason to suppose anyone should be writing to them in the first place, would pester Mr Johnson with nudges and big grins all over their faces–to know if they had received any mail!
According to the story my Great-Aunt Leona Magly (b 1901) told me in the 1950's, her Grandfather Jakob Maegli (b 1827), from Bern, Switzerland, and who first arrived in Blue Earth county in 1866, said that he'd heard that P K Johnson had gotten pretty sick of it all after awhile, but it made the people so happy that he just gritted his teeth and put up with the nuisance.
Only it was said that he got awful sore if anyone asked him for mail twice in the same day!
That was our first Post Office, that case of P K Johnson's, and we can still see it today at the Blue Earth County Historical Society Museum in the Summit Center building.
(And it wasn't very long until there was a weekly mail stage that sometimes carried a few passengers as well.)
[Emmett R Smith
[All rights to Wiecking mss-revision reserved
[18 April 2006]