Orange Post Office
(September 1, 1873 – )
Orange was founded as Richland in 1871, but when they applied for a post office two years later it turned out there was already a Richland, California in Sacramento County. The new name was selected not in a poker game, but to reflect Southern California’s image as a semi-tropical agricultural paradise, and so Richland became Orange.
Besides adding the former Olive and El Modena post offices as stations in the 1960s, the Orange Post Office also had a station in West Orange from 1961-1974.
Dr. George H. Beach, 1873
George Beach (1840-1924) came to Richland with his family in May 1873. He was second doctor in the area. He served as Postmaster just three months, with the office located in his home. He soon moved to Los Angeles where he practiced medicine well into his 80s.
Nathan D. Harwood, 1873-1881
Nathan Harwood came to Richland in 1872, and was a pioneer grape and orange grower. He also served on the local school board in the early days. During the years he was postmaster he also had a small notions store on Glassell Street. He later moved to Escondido, where he died in 1899.
Albert B. Clark, 1881-1882
A.B. Clark (1842-1883) was a pioneer citrus grower and served as the first president of the Santa Ana Valley Irrigation Company. His wife, Mary T. Clark’s memoirs have been published as Pioneer Ranch Life in Orange. Orange and its post office were still quite small in the early 1880s; Clark’s sales for December 1881 totaled just $76.23 (including just 91¢ worth on December 11th).
Isaac W. Tener, 1882-1884
Isaac Tener (1808-1898) was born in Ireland, naturalized in Pennsylvania, and was a minister in San Francisco before coming to Orange around 1880.
Robert E. Tener, 1884-1892
Robert Tener (1850-1931) was the son of Rev. Isaac Tener. He was quite active in civic affairs in Orange in the 1880s, including the creation of the Plaza Park and the founding of the Orange Public Library in 1885, which operated out of the post office building. Tener had the reputation for being rather strict in enforcing the postal department rules, which may have eventually cost him his job. “The Associated Press dispatch in Friday’s issue of the Times stating that Walter M. Scott had been appointed postmaster of Orange to succeed Mr. Tener was a complete surprise to Mr. Tener as well as to the greater portion of the residents of the town. There was an effort made a year or so ago to make a change in the office, but since that time Mr. Tener and his friends were not aware that there was anything being done to effect a change. Mr. Scott, the new appointee, disclaims all knowledge of how the appointment came to be made and, to say the least, the whole affair seems to be involved in a mystery.” (L.A. Times, 4-24-1892) Tener’s wife, Emilie, served as his assistant postmaster. They moved to Compton soon after he lost the post office job.
Walter M. Scott, 1892-1894
Walter Scott (1842-1910) held many elected offices in Orange County over the years. A Civil War veteran, he came to Orange in 1883 and bought an orange grove. During the great real estate boom of the 1880s he got into selling real estate. In 1888 he was elected Orange’s first city marshal (police chief), serving until 1892 when he was appointed to the city council. During the next two years, he also served as postmaster. “Mr. Scott is cordial and gentlemanly in his bearing, always winning the confidence and esteem of those with whom he comes in contact,” the Orange Post noted. He ran successfully for County Recorder in 1894, moved to Santa Ana and served until 1902. In 1906 he was elected County Assessor and served until he died in office in 1910.
Fred M. Robinson, 1894-1898
Fred Robinson (1865-1938) later served on the Orange City Council (1898-1900) and as Orange County Tax Collector (1899-1907). A Democrat, he was one of the few county officials re-elected in 1902 (which was rather a ‘turn the rascals out’ year). He later went into banking.
Nellie B. Towne, 1898-1906
Nellie Towne had been working in the Orange Post Office since at least 1892, and was chief clerk under Postmaster Scott. Her first name is sometimes listed as Mellie. She died in 1960 at age 101.
Nelson T. Edwards, 1906-1915
“Nels” Edwards (1872-1951) was Orange’s most prominent politician in the first half of the 20th century. A staunch Republican, he served as an Orange city councilman (1898-1900), Orange County Clerk (1917-18), a County Supervisor (1919-23), a member of both the Orange County and California highway commissions, and a State Senator (1929-37) – quite a long way, as his wife used to say, for a man who started out as a butcher. For many years, he also served as president of the First National Bank of Orange. During his tenure as postmaster Orange introduced city delivery in 1912.
James Fullerton, 1915-1920
James (1843-1920) was the founding editor and publisher of the Orange News (1888-1906). He served as justice of the peace for the Orange Township from 1911-14 but did not run for re-election as he already hoped to receive the appointment as postmaster. There were concerns about his age when he was appointed (he was 72 then) and in fact he died in office in May 1920.
Lelah M. Fernald, 1920-1921
Lelah Fernald (1883-1974) served as deputy postmaster under James Fullerton and was made acting postmaster upon his death; but she never received a full appointment.
William O. Hart, 1921-1934
Following the death of James Fullerton, President Wilson nominated Harry Upham as his replacement, but the Senate had not confirmed him by the time Wilson’s term ran out in 1921, and President Harding nominated W.O. Hart in his place. As a young man, he had worked in the post office of his hometown of Fort Dodge, Iowa. As editor of the Orange Daily News from 1909 until his death in 1942, Bill Hart was a major force in Republican politics in Orange County. He served a single term in the State Legislature (1920-21) just before becoming postmaster. Hart Park in Orange is named in his honor.
Vera Wettlin, 1934-1954
Vera Wettlin (1890-1965) became acting postmaster when Bill Hart’s term was up and managed to win the full appointment over at least ten other candidates in a hotly contested battle that dragged into 1935. Her husband, David G. Wettlin, had previously served in the Orange County District Attorney’s office. She was president of the Orange Women’s Club and active in Toastmasters. Though eligible for retirement in 1951, she stayed on three more years so she could complete two decades as postmaster – the longest tenure in Orange’s history.
Elwood Case, 1954-1964
Before becoming postmaster, Elwood Case (1899-1964) ran a laundry business, sold real estate, and served as secretary of the Orange Chamber of Commerce, but was probably best known around town as the manager of the Orange Lionettes, Orange’s famed women’s softball team.
Harold J. Mahar, 1964-1981
A World War II veteran who came to Southern California after the war, Harold Mahar (ca 1920-1998) sold insurance in Orange before being appointed postmaster. A Democrat, he was the last political appointee to serve as postmaster in Orange. During his long tenure, the local postal business grew from about 15,000 households to over 40,000.
(You can find more about Orange County’s post offices and postmasters here)