Placentia Post Office
(December 5, 1893 – May 15, 1903; February 17, 1911 – )
Following the usual procedure, the movement for a Placentia Post Office began with a petition to Washington: “Over forty enterprising citizens of Placentia have signed a petition to have a post office opened in that prosperous locality. Peter Hansen will probably be postmaster.” (L.A. Times, 11/20/93) As was also often typical, the post office didn’t open until two months after it was approved: “The Placentia post office was opened on Wednesday and Postmaster Hansen received his first mail on that date.” (L.A. Herald, 2/18/1894) The post office was discontinued in 1903 as rural free delivery began to come in, but re-established in 1911 after the modern townsite of Placentia was laid out along the railroad tracks. Once again, there was a two-month delay between authorizing and opening the post office.
Peter Hansen, 1893-1898
Peter Hansen (1839-1922), “one of the best-known residents of Orange county and a pioneer settler in the Placentia district” (Register, 2/2/1910) was born in Denmark and came to Placentia in 1871. “One of the first wineries in this section was built by Mr. Hansen who at that time had engaged extensively in the cultivation of grapes. Later he turned to citrus production.” (Register, 1/21/1922) Hansen seems to have run the post office out of his home.
Clara Wetzel, 1898-1902
Placentia historian Virginia Carpenter credits Huge Wetzel with opening the first store in Placentia at the end of 1897. His wife, Clara (d 1934), then became the postmaster. “She was a pioneer of the district, having resided in [the] Fullerton and Placentia regions more than 48 years.” (Register, 12/24/1934) She left the post office after she divorced her husband in 1902.
Cuthbert W. West, 1902-1903
Jesse B. Payne, 1911-1913
Jesse Payne established one of the first stores on the new Placentia townsite, so Albert S. Bradford, one of the promoters, encouraged him to re-open the post office in his store. According to Virginia Carpenter, “Payne said afterward that he was too busy to make out all the reports and answer the letters from the main office, so he just bundled them up and returned them.” He sold (or perhaps traded) his store to Edward Manchester towards the end of 1912, and Manchester got the post office in the deal. Payne moved to Escondido and Manchester moved in over the store
Edward P. Manchester, 1913-1918
Where previous Placentia postmasters probably ran the post office themselves, the town had grown enough by 1913 for Edward Manchester to add a clerk: “Mr. Manchester intends removing the post office to the front of the store, installing lock boxes and other improvements and [will] place a competent clerk in sole charge of the office. The business of the local office has been steadily increasing, making such a step necessary.” (Register, 4/19/1913) When Manchester decided to give up the office in 1917, at least three other men applied for the job. By then, Fourth Class post offices were under civil service rules, “The appointment, therefore, will be made after a competitive examination, and, if the law is observed, without preference to the politics of any of the applicants.” (Register, 9/10/1917)
Charles R. Farrar, 1918-1922
The successful applicant was Charles Farrar, who had a hardware store downtown. He was a booster, who worked actively for the incorporation of Placentia in 1926. A year later he sold his store and retired. He died in 1929 at age 65.
Sula D. Abbott, 1922-1936
Sula Abbott moved the post office out of Farrar Hardware to its own rooms. During her tenure the office was advanced to Second Class, which included an increase in office hours. But Abbott was opposed to home delivery due to the expense and potential liability. She was active in Republican politics and was one of the last four GOP postmasters in Orange County to go out during the Roosevelt Administration. She was appointed to the Placentia City Council in 1937 and later served on the Placentia school board and as City Treasurer.
Talbot Bielefeldt, 1936-1940
Talbot Bielefeldt was the son of William Bielefeldt, a prominent local Democrat (in fact, the papers several times reported that it was his father who got the appointment). Talbot graduated from Placentia Elementary and Fullerton Union High School before going off to Stanford in the early 1930s. When his term was up as postmaster he enlisted in the Navy.
Mark E. Geeting, 1940-1954
An active Democrat, Geeting managed a building and loan association in Santa Ana and sold real estate before moving to Placentia. During the 1930s he ran unsuccessfully for both Santa Ana City Treasurer and Orange County Recorder. In 1937-38 he had an appointment as a clerk in the California State Senate. His wife was secretary of the Orange County Democratic Association and later served on the Placentia City Council. Mark Geeting retired as postmaster in 1954 due to ill health.
Owen J. Underwood, 1954-1972
Owen Underwood had lived in Placentia since the 1930s, and served as a postal clerk there for 14 years before being appointed postmaster. By 1954, the Placentia Post Office had completely outgrown its old location, with several families forced to share a single post office box. In 1955 they got a new building and began home delivery. The post office was advanced to first class in 1962.
(You can find more about Orange County’s post offices and postmasters here)