Post Office History


The following is from: A History of Lincoln County Post Offices, Chronological Index, by C. W. Barnum <>

[Probably originally written in the late 1970s, ed]


Lincoln Post Office

By Mary (Hattie) Phillips, Conclusion by Fay Womack


Colorful, historic Lincoln was known until 1869 as "Las Placitas del Rio Bonito". An old census shows that there were about a thousand people in and around Lincoln in those days but the beginning of mail service is obscure. The Murphy Store which was built in 1874 and later used as a Court House probably housed the first official Post Office in Lincoln County. However, 24 years earlier part of the Tunstall-McSween store was built and a slot in the door was evidently used for mail. Old post office boxes used in the Tunstall-McSween Store were used later in the Murphy Store. History can be recreated by reading the labels still on the boxes today. They read:

[1] Probate Clerk

[2] Sheriff

[3] Barber and Richardson (Attorneys). (George Barber married Alexander McSween's widow, Susan.)

[4] Independent (The newspaper published in Lincoln County in the 1880's by James Kibbee, father of actor, Guy Kibbee.)

[5] Wyley and Dells

[6] Cockrell--(John J. Cockrell was an attorney in partnership with Thomas B. Catron and W. T. Thornton of Santa Fe.)

[7] Whelan and Company (Managers of the Lincoln Hotel.) 

[8] Judge Ryan.

[9] Thornton and Curry (Bank Exchange Saloon). George Curry was a Lincoln County Sheriff and Territorial Governor.

[10] Old Man Cronin. (Col. Mickey Cronin ran a general store in the old court house when John Poe was sheriff in the 1880's)

[11] Montano and Sons. (The Montano store was famed as a strong hold of the McSween faction during the Lincoln County War.)

[12] B. J. Baca. (Son of Capt. Saturnino Baca who created old Lincoln County.) 

[13] Lea Cattle Company. (C. S. Thurber, partner of Capt. J. S. Lea, one of Roswell's earliest settlers.)

[14] Tomlinson, Druggist.

[15] Michealas Company Merchandising and ranching. (Including the Sunset ranch in the valley established by Michealas, a wealthy Australian.)


The first mail was brought from Las Vegas, New Mexico -- perhaps by pony express -- and later from San Antonio, New Mexico. The post Office Officially established in 1873 with John R. Bolton as the first Postmaster. The office was moved from building to building as postmasters changed but most often it was found in some part of the Tunstall-McSween building where it is now. Lloyd Hulbert, who came to Lincoln in 1898, remembers that his family stayed at the Serrano Hotel where the Gipson House is now and that Sophia Serrano was Postmaster. In 1904 it was in the west end of the Tunstall-McSween Store and through J. W. Walters was postmaster his daughter, Mary, took care of the mail. This part of the building was later torn down and Mary kept office in the Norman Store building. 1908 saw the office in the Frank Hulbert house, in 1912 in the place which is now known as La Paloma bar and later that same year in the Aragon building. Sometime in the 20's Emily Miranda became postmaster and moved the office to its present location in the east end of the Tunstall-McSween Building.


A story taken from the Roswell record reflects some of the stormy past of the Lincoln Post Office. Under the caption ‘Even Uncle Sugar went in for curb service way back in the 70s’, the Roswell Record published the following.

"Once in Lincoln, Alexander McSween instructed Marshall A. Upton, postmaster at the hamlet of Roswell, to put his mail in a private pouch at Roswell and have the mail coach drop it at McSween's office in Lincoln. He liked that better than having it processed at the Lincoln post office. For that extra service Uncle Sam wanted more cash. Upton made postal history on Jan. 15, 1879 when he filed claim against the estate of Alexander McSween, Shields, Law Office, Lincoln County building, Lincoln, N. Mex. Upton asked for $68.89 to be paid the post office "for attending private mail sack between Roswell and Lincoln, August 20, 1877 to August 27 1878 at $1.50 per week, and for 400 postage stamps and like items." No mention is made of the outcome of the suit. The first eight postmasters of Roswell served their terms while Roswell was still a part of Lincoln County.”


In the late 1800's until about 1912 the mail was carried by buckboard for Roswell east from White Oaks via fort Stanton west. To and from Roswell the driver stopped at Picacho and also at a place near where the Diamond A Ranch is now to change horses. At one time Porfirio Chavez, one time the sheriff, had the mail contract. Mattie Porter was the first diver by automobile.


In recent years Lincoln has been restoring the old buildings as they were in the early days. It has an excellent museum and is a lovely little community snuggling in the foothills dreaming of the roaring days of the old west of the past. In the old Tunstall-McSween building the present postmaster, Mary H. Phillips, will sell you a four cent stamp near the place the first Postmaster set up his office in 1873.


Mary H. Phillips retired August 31, 1972 and Ellen Fay Womack received her appointment September 16, 1972, only 16 days after she became the Officer-in-Charge.

The First weekend in August of every year, Lincoln relives some of its old excitement, with the presentation of a "Billy the Kid" pageant, and a forty-one mile "pony express" race. The riders actually carry a sack of mail apiece, from old White Oaks to Lincoln. From the 1,000 letters carried the first year, it has grown to over 2,500 letters in 1975. The Lincoln postmaster meets the riders, receives their sacks of mail, return to her post office, where each letter is given the Lincoln postmark. They are then dispatched to all parts of the United States, and many foreign countries.


These have been the Postmasters of Lincoln:

John R. Bolton Sept. 19, 1873

James J. Dolan Feb. 5, 1884

Clara S. B. Holstead Aug. 24, 1906

James A. Dolan April 10, 1876

Michael Cronin Oct. 18, 1888

Mary Walters Jan. 9, 1909

Edgar A. Waltz July 23, 1878

William Rosenthal April 10, 1889

William O. Norman Apr. 14, 1912

Samuel R. Corbett Jan. 10, 1879

Manuel A. Sisnerso July 3, 1893

Frank S. Hulbert Apr. 14, 1914

Bonefacio J. Baca April 29, 1880

Zenobia Serrano may 3, 1898

Emilio H. Miranda June 18, 1927

Benjamin Ellis Nov. 8, 1880

Minnie Friedrich Oct. 3, 1900

Ruth T. Martin 1943

Thomas C. Tillotsen May 26, 1882

Demetrio Perea June 12, 1901

Mrs. B. D. Garner 1950

Jose Montano Jan. 29, 1883

Liberty B. Walters Jan. 20, 1902

Mary H. Phillips March 15, 1951

Ben H. Ellis Aug. 22, 1883

Charles G. Weidman Jan. 24, 1905

Ellen Fay Womack Sept. 16, 1972