The Westminster Post Office, 1952; perhaps with postmaster La Verna Strawbridge in the doorway (courtesy the Orange County Archives).

The Westminster Post Office, 1952; perhaps with postmaster La Verna Strawbridge in the doorway (courtesy the Orange County Archives).

Westminster Post Office

(October 22, 1874 –        )

Though the Westminster Post Office opened soon after it was authorized, it took several years to convince the Post Office Department to establish a regular mail route to carry letters in and out of town.

Postmasters:

John Torrey, Jr., 1874-1875

John Torrey was the first manager of the Westminster Cooperative Store. He later worked for several years in the Los Angeles County Recorder’s Office – a political appointment in its own way. 

Thomas C. Hull, 1875-1888  

Thomas Hull served as the second manager of the Westminster Cooperative Store. In 1878, an addition was built to house the post office. A year later, Hull and F.A. Lund bought out the store. Later Lund left and Hull’s brother, George Hull joined him. Thomas Hull served as the local justice of the peace in the late 1880s and was active in the creation of Orange County in 1889. He later lived in Santa Ana, where he worked for the Sheriff’s Department, and moved to Los Angeles in 1895. He died in about 1940 in Santa Monica. 

Irene M. (Musselman) Mack, 1888-1895

Miss Musselman came to Westminster in 1886 and in 1895 married George Wilson Mack “one of the business piers of the town.” She resigned as Postmaster after her marriage. She died in 1947. 

John F. Patterson, 1895-1897

Patterson (1851-1925) opened a grocery store in Westminster in 1889 and remained in business there until his death. He was “ranked as one of the best known men in the county.” (Santa Ana Register, 4-25-1925). After he left the post office it moved to the E.J. Mercereau Store. 

Foster E. Wilson, 1897-1901

Dr. F.E. Wilson (1853-1924) came to Westminster in 1892 where he practiced medicine for several years. Soon after he left the post office he moved to the new town of Huntington Beach where he continued his practice. 

Frances M. Watson, 1901-1905

Frances Watson chose not to apply for re-appointment as postmaster when his four-year term was up. The Los Angeles Times (7-5-1904) mentioned that he “is badly crippled,” making it hard for him to provide for his family. 

George W. Hare, 1905-1906

“G.W. Hare yesterday assumed charge of the post office at Westminster, succeeding F.M. Watson, resigned. Miss Nellie Hare will be in active charge of the office.” (L.A. Times, 5-28-1905) He had been in Westminster barely a year then, and sold his ranch and moved to Los Angeles in 1906. 

George C. Abbott, 1906-1928

( Santa Ana Register , 10-2-1928)

(Santa Ana Register, 10-2-1928)

George Abbott (1858-1935) came to Westminster in 1895. “In April of 1906 Mr. Abbott took over the local post office … when the office was but a miniature affair with compensation comparing with its size. Without one vacation, Mr. Abbott has been at his window continuously during the time, and as he points out, with the closing day of his service, the floor boards back of this are worn thin with the years of continuous service. Mr. Abbott has held the position of postmaster long enough to see it reach the mark of a third-class office, having changed over from fourth class last June, and he now retires to attend to private business affairs, feeling he has served his time with Uncle Sam…. With his retirement Mr. Abbott holds the record of being the oldest postmaster in point of years of continuous service in Orange County, and perhaps in Southern California. The Westminster post office holds a record, being the third or fourth post office given a permit in what is now Orange county territory. Mail, up to the time of the establishment of the office, came from Anaheim, being brought in by mule team by Charles Turner, one of the early day settlers on the Westminster colony.” (Register, 10-2-1928) “When he first took the office there were no lock boxes in the office and the post office served less than 200 persons. Today, Abbott has more than 220 lock boxes in the office and serves more than 1400 persons. During the 20-year period the office has more than tripled its business, according to Abbott, but it has not reached the volume of business which will raise it from a fourth class to a third class office. Abbott predicts that the office will receive its third class qualification within another year.” (Register, 2-9-1927) 

Clyde A. Day, 1928-1934

“The new postmaster, Clyde Day, might … be termed an old resident, having as a boy arrived in Westminster in 1905 from Kansas. He completed his grammar school education in the local school and completed his education at U.S.C., Los Angles, and has since taken an active part in civic affairs of the community.” (Santa Ana Register, 10-2-1928) He moved the post office into his own two-story commercial building. “The best of the lock boxes formerly used at the old office have been put in and a section of new lock boxes have been installed. Postmaster Day intends putting in another line of business in the other store room of the building, it is understood. The post office for 18 years was located in the George Abbott building.” (Register, 12-13-1928) Day served on the local school board, was a crack archer, and an amateur magician. In 1934 he was “released” from his appointment so that he “might take another government position” as “storekeeper and alcohol gauger in a distillery.” (Register, 10-19-1934) He continued to live in Westminster until 1936, when he moved to Midway City. 

Myrtle M. (Knouse) Sitzer, 1934-1945

Myrtle (Knouse) Sitzer ( Santa Ana Register , 5-25-1939)

Myrtle (Knouse) Sitzer (Santa Ana Register, 5-25-1939)

Myrtle Knouse began her postal career in Maricopa, CA, in 1918 and continued with the Post Office Department until her retirement as Westminster postmaster. In 1944 she married Allen Sitzer. “Mrs. Sitzer is well known in the Westminster vicinity and her many friends realize the important part she has played in keeping the bond between local families and member of their families in the armed forces by her conscientious service. She was considerate of the foreign-born residents and the newly made citizens of this country and realized that she could be of real help to them in their efforts to achieve American citizenship and ‘uphold the traditions of Uncle Sam as the good neighbor.’ Mrs. Sitzer stated ‘I have always considered myself, as postmaster, the official representative in Westminster of the United States government.’” (Register, 11-28-1944) In her later years she worked in the San Bernardino Community Hospital. In 1960 she married Edmond Pinard. 

La Verna N. Strawbridge, 1945-1954

La Verna Strawbridge had been living in the area since at least 1930 and worked for the Westminster Post Office before becoming postmaster. She filled in for Myrtle Sitzer during her honeymoon and again while she was ill near the end of her tenure. 

Walter Lewin, 1954-1969

Walter Lewin ran a shoe store in Santa Ana in the 1930s. In 1945 he went to work for the Westminster Post Office. During his tenure the post office was advanced to 1st class (1956), the City of Westminster incorporated, and the post office got a new building (1957).           

Paul A. Burtner, 1970-1971

Paul Burtner came to Westminster shortly after service in the Navy during World War II and in 1948 began with the post office as a rural route carrier. His career came to a brutal end in 1971 when a part-time mail carrier named Philip Alleman shot and killed him in the post office lobby. Burtner had reprimanded Alleman for being late to work. Alleman originally pled not guilty by reason of insanity, then changed his plea to guilty and got five years to life, but he was paroled after just five years. 

(You can find more about Orange County’s post offices and postmasters here)