My aunt Hattie Jones...Post Mistress and Librarian
This bucolic scene is Windham, Vermont, circa 1920. It was the hometown of my great aunt Hattie. She was the sister of my grandfather who lived in Brattleboro, Vt. with his wife and two daughters...the youngest of these being my mother.
My memories of her are vague, to say the least, but she was a remarkable woman from all the stories that have been handed down in our family. She was the Windham Post Mistress for many years and the office was in her home. I don’t have the actual dates but she must have started her career around 1890.
My oldest sister, who is 81, remembers staying with Aunt Hattie and her son Paul when she was 12. That would make it 1938. She remembers the old white farmhouse that sat close to the road and the portion of the “parlor” reserved for postal needs.
Often, during her stay, meal times would be interrupted by patrons picking up their mail, buying stamps, sending packages or simply passing along the latest news. All the stamps were hand-cancelled then and, although the volume of mail must have been low enough that Aunt Hattie could handle it by herself, it was still a full time job.
However, it didn’t take all of her time because early in her days as post mistress she added a new dimension. She was a great reader and had an extensive personal library. She conceived the idea to catalogue and display her books with the idea of setting up a lending library so that her neighbors and friends could enjoy them too. Our family has been told that it was the first public library in Vermont, although I haven’t been able to confirm that.
I love the picture of the small library as my sister described it to me. She said that Aunt Hattie had hand-made wooden step ladders propped against the wall. The steps of the ladders made perfect shelves for her books and they were displayed in alphabetical order by author.
Aunt Hattie’s house must have been a busy and vital place and I can imagine my sister, at age 12, loving every minute of it.