Friday, February 24, 2012

Genealogy Seremdipity Moment - Ridgefield, Connecticut Post Office Ledger Books

When I began working in the Sherwood Historic Center, in their collection of Post Office Ledger Books for the town, the wealth of information for genealogical research astounded me. Lately, I have been reading the book, "Ridgefield in Review" by The Ridgefield 250th Anniversary Committee, Inc., published in 1958, 396 pages; about Ridgefield, Connecticut. I am about halfway through the book, as I am occupied with other projects. Imagine my surprise when, on page 206, I came across the following paragraphs in relation to their post office.



"The First Federal Post Office in Ridgefield was established by an Act of the Second Congress of 24 October 1791, by authority of the first Federal Postmaster General, Timothy Pickering. A copy of the Act, handbooks of regulations for the guidance of the postmasters, and circulars signed by Pickering are preserved among the papers found in the Keeler Tavern.
The first United States Postmaster in Ridgefield was Colonel Philip Burr Bradley, who served from 1792 until 1805. Colonel Timothy Pickering visited Ridgefield and stayed at the Keeler Tavern, according to contemporary accounts, and it is possible that the visit was official, for the purpose of inspecting the post office, which was maintained in the front room of the Keeler Tavern from 1792 until about 1830."
"A comprehensive collection of the records of the first Ridgefield Post Office was recently presented to the Ridgefield Library and Historical Association by Miss Emily Gilbert. Among these are the record books listing persons indebted for postage, and records showing the volume of mail for the period during which the post office was maintained in the tavern."

In checking the online catalog of the Connecticut Historical Society they have the following post office books:
Hartford 1767-1777 and 1781-1788
Chesterfield 1801-1904 and 1898-1904
Warren 1887-1892
Montville 1898-1904

Tonight I sent an email to the Keeler Tavern Museum, asking for information about the post office books:
"I am researching currently for a family who lived in Ridgefield and read that at one time the old post office ledger books were donated to the Library and Historical Association. Would you have any idea if these still exist and where they might be found?
The family we are researching is of Samuel Gates, who lived there from about 1734 to 1793. I find old Post Office Books to be very valuable research tools. I appreciate any help you may be able to provide."
The next two places I need to contact are the local public library and the historical society. I chose the Keeler Tavern Museum first, as they maintain a collection of records related to the earliest time period of the town. All of these groups have very impressive web sites.

The book continues to be a fascinating read, even though Samuel Gates is only mentioned on pages 57-58. He was among a group of citizens who were pledging loyalty to the King on January 30, 1775 and later reversing their pledge of loyalty to the Continental Congress on December 17, 1775. Then on April 4, 1777 he was appointed by the Committee of Safety, to be a member of, "a committee to provide for families of such soldiers as shall enlist into the Continental Army with the necessaries at the prices stated by law." There are three generations of Samuel Gates in this family and this could refer to the father born in 1716 or his son born in 1736. The father had six sons who may have fought in the Revolutionary War. The youngest son is David, the father of Ardil Gates that I have written about in previous blog posts.

The serendipity moment was reading the information on the Post Office Ledger Books. As you might imagine, I would love to get my hands on those. They will not definitively provide me much information, if any, on the Gates family, but just to feel the richness of the history of the town within the covers and pages brings a sense of euphoria. These are priceless treasures found uniquely in the collections of few places. If you know of other locations that have collections of old Post Office Ledger Books, please share that information with us.

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