Postmasters Beware!

By Cecelia McKeig


The Nebish post office opened in 1898 and had eight different postmasters in the first ten years. The post office then had a relatively quiet period under Bert Smyth, the agent for the Minneapolis, Red Lake & Manitoba Railway at Nebish. In addition to his railroad duties, he managed the company’s general merchandise store, was the justice of the peace and a member of the school board. He was recommended by his town folk and county committeeman, A. R. Erickson, for postmaster at Nebish in January 1908.


Peter Rustvold was appointed postmaster on January 28, 1911. Mr. Rustvold had purchased the store in which the post office was located. Rustvold was an early resident of the Nebish area.

It seems strange that his wife was the postmaster, but he was the one taken to jail...

Mabel Tschoepe was appointed postmaster Feb 5,1913. Yet, her husband, E. M. Tschoepe, was always referred to as the Nebish merchant and postmaster. When a postal inspector reviewed the Tschoepe postal accounts in February 1915, he found that Mr. Tschoepe had failed to make proper returns on his money order collections in the amount of $888. He was brought to Bemidji by Deputy U.S. Marshal Tufts and then taken to jail at Fergus Falls until spring term of the district court. It seems strange that his wife was the postmaster, but he was the one taken to jail and to trial. He served a relatively short prison term for appropriating post office money for personal use.


Hilda E. Thompson was appointed as the next postmaster in August 1915. No sooner was she appointed, than the Nebish post office safe was blown open. According to the Bemidji Pioneer, “Mystery surrounds the robbery of the Neblsh post office, about $240 being taken from the safe when it was blown open some time since Saturday night. Acting postmaster Thompson in a message to James Cahill, deputy sheriff, gave what information he could of the affair.”


Three months later, her husband, acting postmaster Christ N. Thompson, was arrested for the deed on a charge of embezzlement. He pleaded not guilty before Judge Hiram A. Simons, United States commissioner and was bound over to the Federal Grand Jury at Fergus Falls. Over $269 in funds at the Nebish post office was missing. Thompson reported to the inspectors that the safe had been "plugged" and the money taken by robbers. He posted $1,000 in bonds and was released. He was mentioned in the newspaper in 1917 and returned to farming in Nebish so he was apparently cleared on the charge.


One of the pioneer women at Nebish about 1910.

When Peter M. Leonard was appointed postmaster on Dec 16, 1915, he was going through a nasty divorce from his wife Martha whom he accused of adultery. He probably was not in a good frame of mind, and neither were the women of Nebish. One thing led to another and while the women were standing in the post office chatting, Mr. Leonard told them to move on and stop gossiping. It escalated and they claim he used abusive language toward them. The women met in the evening and concluded that the postmaster needed a lesson. It was decided to horsewhip the postmaster. Whips were secured and Leonard was attacked. He was badly beaten and bruised. When released, he went to his house and later returned to the store of F.C. Cook with a revolver. He was disarmed by Mr. Cook.

The women met in the evening and concluded that the postmaster needed a lesson...Whips were secured...

Naturally, feelings at Nebish ran strong for awhile and federal authorities were asked to investigate. Mr. Leonard was removed from office, but it took two years and repeated postal examinations at Bemidji before another postmaster was officially appointed. Carl Durand, popular depot agent, accepted the appointment in 1918 and things settled down. The post office was closed in 1959.


70 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All