Louis Rivers serves as Marshfield’s first postmaster
By Kris Leonhardt
As the final week of June led into July, the days were growing shorter and shorter as the weather grew warmer and warmer. It was 1872 in the hardwood forest region that would become Marshfield, and the day Louis Rivers had anticipated was quickly approaching.
Rivers, a French-Canadian settler, arrived in the region in April 1871. Having previously settled in the Necedah area, Rivers learned a new portion of the Wisconsin Central railroad was to be constructed between Stevens Point and Superior.
Encouraged by railroad officials and stimulated by the guaranteed patronage of railroad workers, Rivers sought land in north Wood County to provide respite for the laborers as well as a location for further development.
In addition to its proximity to the developing railroad, the land around Marshfield also offered a plethora of lumber for new construction and a steady supply to the man interested in harvesting it.
After purchasing a tract of land from Samuel Marsh, Louis and his brother, Frank, constructed a log building on what is now the northeast corner of North Chestnut Avenue and West Depot Street. The building would become a hotel, store, and tavern to service the railroad laborers, pioneers, and travelers that came through the area.
As the final days of June 1872 arrived, Rivers was preparing for an entirely new type of service. When the first train rolled into the fledgling community days later, Louis Rivers opened his doors to receive the first shipment of United States mail as the first appointed postmaster of the new mail stop.
Rivers served as the Marshfield postmaster for five years before E.S. Renne, owner of the local drugstore, took over in official capacity and moved the post office to his own facilities.
In the early days of Marshfield, postmasters were appointed by the political party seated in the White House through recommendations by local political officials. Changes in postmasters occurred often and coincided with newly elected presidents.
In addition, post office locations bounced around the city as facilities were continuously moved to accommodate the appointed official. The post office did not find a permanent home until the early 1930s, when construction was completed at the current location of the post office on the corner of South Chestnut Avenue and West Second Street.
When the post office was reorganized in the early 1970s, appointed postmasters also found a permanent home as they could become career professionals.
Today, a historical marker stands in Founder’s Square, marking the location of the Rivers Hotel as well as the first official post office in the city of Marshfield.
Kris Leonhardt may be contacted by mail at P.O. Box 51, Marshfield, WI 54449 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.