When the U.S. Constitution was ratified in l789, there were only 75 post offices in the entire nation. During the next 50 years, however, the postal service experienced a rapid expansion both in terms of areas serviced and volume of mail. By l845 there were 14,183 post offices in the United States.
Postal charges in those days were based on mileage and the number of sheets per letter rather than weight. In l830, for example, for distances over 400 miles the rate was 25 cents per sheet. Moreover, mail usually was sent unpaid, with the recipient expected to pay the postage only when the letter arrived at his post office, usually a general store or inn. Home delivery was the exception rather than the rule until much later.
In l845, following the lead of British reforms, the U.S. Post Office lowered its rates to 5 cents per half-ounce under 300 miles, then in l847 introduced the first postage stamps. On January 1, l856, prepayment of postage by means of postage stamps became compulsory.
Presidential appointment as a postmaster was a choice politcal plum during the l9th century. Moreover, a local post office was a mark of pride to any town or village so honored for it meant Federal recognition and--literally--put its name on the map.
Warren's first post office was established February 23, l828, at Union Village when Elam Genung was appointed postmaster by President John Quincy Adams. Genung, a founder of Union Village and the owner of the general store at the corner of Mountain Ave. and Hillcrest Rd., was only 32 when appointed. The Union Village post office was discontinued on December 6, l834.
Between l834 and l851, mail for Warren residents had to be picked up in person either at Plainfield or Somerville.
The Warrenville post office was established on January 6, l851 and discontinued April 30, l918. Warrenville's first postmaster was Daniel Cory, the son of an early settler and an active township resident. Before he died in l895, Cory served as tax assessor, tax collector, superintendent of schools and member of the township committee.
The Warrenville post office was housed in a two-story frame building at Warrenville center built sometime prior to l847 and torn down about l916. Owned at one time by the Bornmann family, the building served as a residence and general store as well as post office. In l880, when Snell published his history of Somerset Co., the Warrenville post office was "the only one in the township." Daniel Bornmann was postmaster "and keeper of the general store." Miss A. E. Bornmann served as Warrenville's postmistress in l914.
Additional post offices serving Warren during the l9th and early 20th centuries were located in Springdale, Mt. Horeb, So. Stirling, Union Village and Gallia. The Gallia Post Office was established on July 29, l895, Nichlous H. Heideloff, postmaster. It was discontinued February 15, l905, but some years later a postal station opened in the Mount Bethel General Store.
"On entering the [Mt. Bethel] store," recalls Mrs. Arline Ralph Freehauf in her Reminiscences, "on the left side was...a large window saying Post Office on the outside. The Post Office with its numerous little pigeon holes for mail only had a few letters in it. Next to the post office part was a showcase of candy...."
Mrs. Freehauf also writes of the day rural free delivery began: "One day a man came to our house and introduced himself as our new mailman for Route No. 2 delivery. He was a Mr. Peterson. He had mail boxes for sale. My father bought one. I felt terrible when I went to the store and saw all the pigeon holes that had held mail for years were not in the grocery store anymore but outside on the ground. The mailman Peterson was delivering our mail from Plainfield. Our mailing address was - Name - Mt. Bethel, Plainfield, NJ, Route No. 2.... Our next mailman was Bert Glenzer of West Front Street, Plainfield. Next we had Mr. Schmidt of Watchung as our mailman. He also sold bread on the route. His daughter Daisy would assist him."
When rural free delivery was established in Warren, mailmen delivered the mail from post offices in five adjacent towns, Martinville, Bound Brook, Plainfield, Stirling and Berkeley Heights. As late as the l950s, "outdoor post offices" were a common sight in Warren. Clusters of mailboxes, often as many as 30, nailed to fences and trees helped rural postmen make their rounds more quickly. In a l953 Star-Ledger article, William Merighi is pictured at the corner of King George and Ferguson Roads stuffing mail into nearly a score of boxes. Merighi, who served RFD 2 out of Plainfield, delivered mail over a 29-mile route that had just recently been reduced from 36 miles due to the growing number of patrons. The Taxpayers Handbook of Warren for l950-51, issued by the Warren Township Taxpayer Association, described Warren's mail routes of that time. Millington R.D. #2 included Mountainview Rd. from Round Top to Liberty Corner Rd. Martinsville R.D. was the address of residents living on Liberty Corner and Dock Watch Hollow Roads and Mt. Horeb Rd. from Round Top Rd. west. Bound Brook R.F.D. #1 serviced Morning Glory Rd., Washington Valley Rd. from Freiday's Dairy on North Rd. to Dock Watch and King George Rd. north to but not including Coontown Corner. Union Village and Smalleytown were serviced by Plainfield R.F.D. #3 while the remainder of the township was included within R.F.D. #2. Residents "living on side roads" were instructed to "place mail box at most convenient intersection and use address of that intersection for mail deliveries" -- hence, the "outdoor post offices" of the Star-Ledger article.
Warren did not have its own post office again until October l, l962, when the Warren substation was established as the 5th branch of the Plainfield post office. Thomas Castronovo, owner of the Edgewood Pharmacy in the Bardy Farms Shopping Center, was the branch manager. Warren's modern postal substation, located behind the Pheasant Run Shpping Plaza, was built in the l970s.
(Ref: John L. Kay & Chester M. Smith, Jr., New Jersey Postal History (l977); Carl H. Scheele, A Short History of the Mail Service (l970); Arline R. Freehauf, Reminiscences (l986), used with permission; add'l material by George Bebbington)