We take for granted home delivered mail service but that has not always been available. The Second Continental Congress formed a colony wide mail system in 1775 and selected Benjamin Franklin as the first Postmaster General. By the 1850s post offices (many in stores or homes) were established in every state but in most rural communities individuals had to go to the post office to get their mail.
In Fitchburg, the first post office was established in 1842 where there was a stage coach stop at Quivey’s Grove inn (not to be confused with the current Quivey’s Grove; Mann House) at which they could change horses and/or stay overnight. This inn was on the west side of what would be Fish Hatchery Road by Swan pond just north of what is now the Oregon township and was called the Fitchburg post office. This name was suggested by Ebenezer Brigham of Blue Mounds who was the first permanent settler in Dane County. He had come from Shrewsbury, MA and the area reminded him of Fitchburg, MA which was in the same county as Shrewsbury. It must be noted that in 1846, a three-township area, including what would eventually be Fitchburg, was established and called the Town of Rome. Fitchburg was separated from the other two townships and called Greenfield in 1847. Because there was another Greenfield township in Wisconsin, the township was again renamed, this time to Fitchburg in 1853. For a general history of the early years of Fitchburg click here.
As the road to Madison became less traveled and the Quivey’s Grove owners had moved away, the post office was moved north a half mile to the Oak Hall business area (now the junction of Fish Hatchery Rd and County Highway M). The post office kept its Fitchburg name until at least 1861. Oak Hall was also a stage coach stop and small business district. The stage coach brought the mail two times a week. People would find out if they had mail by either going to the store or a neighbor who had visited the store would mention it to the person. This was not the end of the ordeal as a letter was free to send but it cost 25 cents to receive it. In those days that was a lot of money and it sometimes took quite a while to earn enough money to pay for the letter.
Lake View on the southeast quadrant of Fitchburg now on the corner of County Highways MM and B, was another stagecoach stop and post office. The Lake View post office was started in 1848 as the route through Lake View became more prominent than the route through Oak Hall.
Three other early post offices existed at one time or another. By 1861 Stoner’s Prairie on the west side of Fitchburg had a post office. The site of the post office moved southwest two thirds of a mile by 1873 and was replaced by the Fitchburg Village post office by 1890 three fourths of a mile to the southeast. This post office and the Syene post office located in the northeast quadrant part of Fitchburg were selected because they both had train stops (trains were the new mode of distance travelling) and were centers of small communities. To read about the importance of railroads to Fitchburg click here.
The Fitchburg Post Office was housed in William Lappley’s business office just south of the train depot. In 1926, a fire broke out in the Lappley office. The post office was moved to Wendt’s store which was across the street from the depot. The mural of Fitchburg Village in the Fitchburg Room of the Fitchburg Library shows the large white Wendt’s store on the left, the train depot on the right and Lappley’s tan colored mill by the tracks behind the depot. The post office remained in the Wendt store until 1952 when the United States Postal Service decreed the post office closed. Home delivery of mail for the southern part of Fitchburg was then handled by the Oregon post office.
There is one interesting story about the naming of the Oak Hall post office. The Oak Hall post office was in existence since the 1850s after moving from Quivey’s Grove (called Fitchburg post office originally but was called Oak Hall by 1873). In the 1890s the Postal Service asked Oak Hall residents to change the name because of confusion with Oakhill, another post office in Wisconsin. Hec Clapp, the post master at Oak Hall Post Office, submitted several names. The Postal Service selected Floyd for the name of the post office which was the first name of Floyd Gurnee, a local farmer.
In 1896, Congress appropriated money to experiment with rural delivery of mail. Sun Prairie was selected for home delivery in 1896 and by 1900 most rural places were getting free home delivery. Fitchburg was not on the list for home delivery although Fitchburg residents could have received home delivery from Madison, Oregon and Verona post offices.
In 2020, Fitchburg, a city with close to 30,000 people containing over 34 square miles, has only one post office, a small space in Sue’s Hallmark Store across the street from the Nevin Fish Hatchery. This post office does not provide home deliveries. However, with this big area, larger than the city of Madison, Fitchburg has 5 different zip codes. Of these 5 zip codes, the post offices only allow Fitchburg to be used on the address in the 53711 zip code. Mail from this zip code is processed at the Madison west side post office at 733 Struck St.