Reader Scott Stump, as well as Marty Emery from the Smithsonian's postal museum wing, contacted me last week with some big "small town" news about the tiny stop-in-the road Hoosier town of Denham, which isn't too far from our family farm.
"My grandfather Orvel 'Mike' Podell was the postmaster of the Denham Post Office in Pulaski County between 1933 and 1973," Stump told and Emery confirmed.
"Our family has donated several history-rich artifacts from the post office, well over 100 years old, to the Smithsonian's Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. Items included are the original Post Office Boxes, the original metal sign that says 'U.S. Post Office Denham, Indiana,' as well as a series of hand cancellation stamps of various styles which are VERY old as well. My family, including my 83-year-old mom who lives in South Bend and who grew up working in the post office in its heyday, were invited for a reception to celebrate the Smithsonian taking these items into their collection whereby MILLIONS of visitors will be able to see items from Denham, Pulaski County, and Northern Indiana."
This reception in Washington D.C. was held on Wednesday and Scott shared the following history with me:
"The small Northern Indiana town of Denham was established much like many other towns that dot the rural landscape of America's heartland. In 1860 the railroad came through the area and the town of 'Gundrum' was founded in Pulaski County and named in honor of the area's first merchant Mr. Paul Gundrum. In 1868, the post office was established making Gundrum an 'official' incorporated town. Later on sometime in the 1880s, the town of Gundrum's name was officially changed by officials of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The town was renamed 'Denham' which was the name of the railroad employee in charge of the area. Orvel 'Mike' Podell assumed the role of acting Postmaster in Denham in the Fall 1933. The Post Office at that time was located some 200 yards east at one of the several general stores located in Denham. Mike along with his wife Nellie 'James' Podell had the Post Office officially moved to the site of their own store where an addition was added to the side of the existing store. Mr. Podell was officially appointed Postmaster of Denham, Indiana on Aug. 3, 1934 with wife Nellie as his assistant for the next 35 years. In 1968 they sold their store, while at the same time, building a new Post Office in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of mail service in Denham. The new Post Office was state of the art for a 4th Class Post Office at the time. Mr. Podell retired June 30, 1973. The Post Office closed in 1993. At the height of service, the Denham Post Office served 60 patrons. Back in 1933, when Mike and Nellie first took over, mail was picked-up and delivered four times a day 'by train.' Raising or taking down the flag, cancelling letters with the hand stamp, or collecting letters from the heavy cast iron mail box out front of the Post Office became the dream job for a 7-year-old boy like myself, and removing the outdated 'Wanted Posters' located on the wall in the lobby area. When the Post Office closed, much of the town died, although the building is still standing."