Part of the argument for keeping the North Canton Post Office open centers around its role as a hub of that community. And, history bears this out.
The first Post Offices in North Canton operated out of private homes owned by some of Canton’s founding families.
The Adams and Weed clans were among the first settlers in the North East District of West Simsbury; an area that would eventually become North Canton.
In 1760, David Adams Jr. built a rambling, center chimney, Colonial farmhouse and barn on West Simsbury Road; just around the bend from the current Cherry Brook Road Post Office. The Weed property was due west and less than a mile away from the Adams place.
In 1806, David’s grandson Ezra Adams Jr. would be one of many prominent citizens to sign a petition, presented to the Connecticut General Assembly, advocating Canton’s independence from Simsbury.
Twenty years later, the New Canton Post Office — the first in town — would open for business with Dr. Benjamin Weed, Jr as its Postmaster. Stanley Weed would follow in 1837, as Postmaster of the now North Canton Post Office.
In 1842 Ezra’s son Oliver, would be the first in a long line of Adams Postmasters to distribute mail from the West Simsbury Road homestead. For generations, the Adams and Weeds families shared the duty of North Canton Postmaster; with the Post Office switching between family homes.
The Post Office would eventually be run out of the Adams’ property for a total of 77 years; first in a general store at the front of the residence, then in the main house, where hand crafted Georgian paneled walls were warmed by multiple fireplaces on the first floor.
Outside, a gambrel roof with a long, wooden overhang welcomed horse drawn stagecoaches carrying the mail, supplies and travelers. There was also a barn outback where the coach horses could be cared for or swapped out.
About once per week, neighbors gathered at the Adams place to pick up their mail, from family post boxes set up against a wall, or to drop off outgoing packages. The Adams property, which housed a tavern/general store/school house and the post office, was the community center of its day where neighbors met and could catch up on the latest news about town.
In 1842, Oliver Adams reported North Canton Post Office earnings of about $8 — every three months.
By the 1890s, mail for North Canton was no longer delivered by stagecoach, but by the Central New England Railroad instead. The mail would be dropped off at the Cherry Brook Rail Station twice a week, as the train made its way to Hartland and Barkhamsted. A local carrier would pick up the mailbag and bring it back to the Post Office.
The same mail carrier was also responsible for bringing the outgoing mailbag to the Station and hanging it on a post for the train to pick up with a large hook – as it drove past the station, never stopping.
When the Cherry Brook Road Post Office opened in June 1958, Ruth Vining Gracy, (the niece of Mary Vining Adams, Postmaster from 1923 to 1937), was at the helm. Until that point, Ruth had run the North Canton postal service out of her own residence, just south of the Adams place.
So while the physical location of the North Canton Post Office has moved many times and the P.O. boxes could eventually be relocated to Canton Center, the history created through generations of family ties and connection to the neighborhood will always define how this post office fits into this community.
Post Script: in 1953, Mary and Whitney Jennison purchased the Adams property. Over the years, they raised five children in a home that they carefully and meticulously renovated as a beautiful homage to its historic roots.
Here’s the Deal
Thank you to Mary Ellen Cosker for the always invaluable look through her collections of the Lure of the Litchfield Hills.
Addition research assistance was provided by the able staffs of the Canton Historical Museum & Canton Public Library.