Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A history of the Ripton Post Office

Many thanks to Charles Billings for compiling this!

The Ripton Post Office--A Sense of History, Community Identity and Fairness

Ripton was organized as a town in 1828, the same year that Daniel Chipman moved into his new home in the village. Shortly thereafter, on January 27, 1830, Ripton got its first post office in the home of Daniel Chipman. Ripton’s first postmaster held that position until his death in 1850. Some letters personally “stamped” by Daniel Chipman still exist at the Sheldon Museum, like the one marked free in Chipman’s penmanship and sent to Messrs Aldis & Davis to St. Albans,
VT, dated May 26, 1834.

In succession Ripton postmasters and their appointment dates are as follows: Daniel Chipman 1/27/1830, Daniel’s son George Chipman 5/11/1850, Frederick Smith 8/2/1852, Samuel Fletcher 4/12/1855, Zerah Porter 12/31/1857, Samuel Damon 4/13/1861, Elias Matteson 6/20/1865, Samuel Damon 4/9/1866, Herman Damon 12/11/1877, Samuel Damon 1/23/1878, Herman Damon 9/23/1878, Julius Baker 9/29/1879, George Baker 3/28/1881, George Hodges 7/21/1886, John Goodro 2/5/1889, Milo Day 11/22/1889, George Hodges 6/10/1893, Edna Day 4/27/1896, Helen Smith Day 5/13/1922, and Hilda Barnard Billings 4/30/1955. Contracted postmasters include Susan Billings 10/1983, Tim Williams 4/1993, Dorothy Smith Gelinas 2006-10/2007, and Bonnie DeGray 10/2007-present.

The location of the post office changed from its original location in the Chipman house a number of times, but from about 1889 until 1955 it remained in the building now known as The Ripton Country Store. In 1955 the post office was relocated to the village residence of Malcolm and Hilda Billings. Hilda, and later her daughter Susan, ran the post office from this location until 1993 when the post office was relocated back to The Ripton Country Store under contract to Tim Williams.

As recently as the 1960’s, or even later, some residents of Ripton would refer to the mail delivery as the stage, a reference to Joseph Battell’s three-passenger surrey and other horse-drawn buggies that made the trip from Middlebury to Ripton. By 1917 the Ford automobile had replaced the stage and mail was delivered by Star Route drivers contracted to the U.S. Postal Service. During Hilda Billings’s tenure Robert Frost would make infrequent visits to the post office. Usually, he would exit the post office into her house and wait at the dining table until she had time to chat. When Frost’s commemorative stamp was issued in 1974 collectors lined up outside to get Ripton’s postmark on the Frost stamp.

Throughout this post office’s 178-year, uninterrupted service it has continued to provide Ripton with a unique identity and a vital connection to friends, family, businesses, schools and government for social interaction, commerce and legal transactions. The post office is more than the place that mail gets dropped off, sorted and shipped out. It is a community center where people’s interactions help to form the very identity of the town. It is the one place that citizens come together on a daily and weekly basis to personally acknowledge each other, and to discuss issues of local and national interest.

Moving the post office out of Ripton makes little financial sense, either. The 8 mile round trip from Ripton to East Middlebury to pick up or drop off a forty-two cent first class letter will cost the average postal patron about $2.00 in gas alone, not considering depreciation or the hazards of winter driving. Cumulatively, the cost for Ripton’s 210 postal residents could amount to about $100,000 and 25,000 gallons of fuel. This is hardly the best way to improve economy, and
certainly not a good approach for being green. Full time residents of Ripton have the reasonable expectation that good and efficient mail service should be on par with that of the summer residents at Breadloaf Campus.

I join other Ripton residents in requesting that the post office remain in Ripton.

Charles Billings, P.O. Box 119, Ripton, VT 05766

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