Built in 1879, the Wetmore Post Office building was originally the office, store, and home of Dr. John W. Walters and his wife, Margaret A. Walters. In 1896 Margaret Walters became the town’s postmistress and began to operate the post office out of the building’s store. The post office has occupied the building ever since. The building was recently renovated and now also houses the Wetmore Historical Center.
Drug Store and Post Office
In 1880 the town of Wetmore was established along Hardscrabble Creek on a 160-acre homestead owned by William and Francis Wetmore, who offered free lots to anyone who would build on the property. The town received a post office the following April, with S. H. Callen as postmaster. In small towns like Wetmore, the post office served as a crucial sign of stability and was often located in the postmaster’s residence or retail store. The Wetmore Post Office’s location varied with the postmaster for much of the next fifteen years.
In 1896 Margaret Walters became postmistress of Wetmore. From then on, the post office operated out of the L-shaped wood-frame building that her husband, Dr. John Walters, had constructed in 1879 as a combined residence and office. Soon the couple also opened a store in the building, selling drugs and sundries. John saw patients in one part of the building, while Margaret operated the store and post office in another. The building became an important place for picking up mail, exchanging news with neighbors, and posting notices and other information. After John died in 1899, Margaret continued to serve as postmistress for many years before the position passed on to her son, Fred Walters, and his wife, Lela.
From 1910 to 1961 the Siloam Telephone Company operated out of the Wetmore Post Office, expanding the building’s role as the local communications hub. The company served several dozen families in a five-square-mile area by stringing telephone lines along fence posts. Lela Walters worked the switchboard. The rise of the telephone made communications easier for local residents but reduced the importance of the post office as a place for face-to-face meetings. In 1961 Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph acquired Siloam, and the Wetmore switchboard was no longer needed.
The post office building has received several additions and renovations over the years, the most notable being an interior remodel when the building was electrified in 1940 and the application of stucco over most of the exterior walls in 1953. In 1962 the United States Postal Service renovated the post office portion of the building. The telephone switchboard and a candy counter were removed, and the post office was sealed off from the building’s residential section.
In 2005 Wetmore native Jeannie Culpin founded the Wetmore-Hardscrabble Genealogical and Historical Society. Two years later she bought the post office building with the idea of turning it into a local history center. She began extensive renovations and got the property listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. In 2009 the Wetmore Historical Center opened in the renovated building. It includes a library and museum and hosts Wetmore-Hardscrabble Genealogical and Historical Society meetings and events.
The building also continues to house the local post office, which serves more than 200 households. It is one of only three original post offices still in operation in Custer County.