Coyote Post Office, Historic Landmark 10-193

Coyote Post Office at History Park
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This building was located on Monterey Road, between San José and Morgan Hill. It served as the Coyote Post Office from 1907 to 1974, when it was moved to History Park. The post office began as the Burnett Post Office in 1862, named after the surrounding township. It was part of the Twelve Mile House, one of many lodges along Monterey Road when it served as a cattle trail and stage route. In the 1860s, the post office served as a way station for the Overland Mail (later Wells Fargo Express). John Barry, the inn-keeper, is listed in government records as the first Postmaster.

On March 13, 1882, the name “Coyote” officially replaced “Burnett.” A dispute erupted between Postmaster Frank S. Dassel and U.S. Postal Inspectors over a $1.00 financial discrepancy. Since only a wall separated the Post Office from the Twelve Mile House, the inspectors enacted an archaic postal regulation prohibiting a postal office in or near proximity to a saloon. The Post Office moved next door to this building, built by Fiacro Fisher, the building’s first Postmaster.

In this once rural area, the Coyote Post Office was more than a mail depot; it also served as a community meeting place. By 1973, the Coyote Post Office had outgrown this building and moved again to a new building, still in operation, on Monterey Road.

The Coyote Post Office was refurbished in 2010/2011 through a generous grant by the Santa Clara County Historical Heritage Commission.

Development of Postal Service in the West and San Jose

  • 1794 Postal Act passed by Congress gave the Federal government responsibility for establishing postal routes where needed.
  • During the Spanish-Mexican era in California (1769-1848), mail service was by mule-back courier and provided mainly for the benefit of missions, presidios, and local authorities.
  • Beginning February 28, 1849, California was linked to the United States mail service via ocean going steamers. Mail left twice a month for the east and usually took a month or more to arrive. Postage was 40 cents per 1/2 ounce letter between the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and 12 1/2 cents on the Pacific coast.
  • San Jose’s first official postmaster, Jacob Hoppee, was appointed in November 1849, and initially operated the Post Office out of is business at 66-68 South Market Street. He had been serving as the “unofficial postmaster” since 1847 when the military began the first reliable mail service between San Jose and Monterey.
  • By 1856, San Jose was the mail distribution center for all points south.
  • Because of the monopoly held by the ocean mail service company and the slow service by steamer or clipper, Californians pushed for an overland mail route. In March, 1857, Congress passed the great overland mail bill.
  • The contract was given to John Butterfield. On September 16, 1858, his Overland Mail Service began the first official mail service to the west via a land route. Delivery was over a 2800 mile southerly route from St. Louis to San Francisco. Average service time was twenty-four days, semi-weekly. Twelve-Mile House, next to coyote Post Office, was one of the 139 relay stations for the Overland Mail Stage on the Butterfield route as was the Abe Beatty Hotel on North Second Street in San Jose. This land route significantly accelerated the opening of the West along its route. The Company was absorbed in 1866 by Wells Fargo Company. In 1869 all overland mail contracts ended when the Union Pacific transcontinental railroad was finished.
  • The Pony Express was established by the Russell, Majors and Waddell Express Company and operated from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento from April 3, 1860, through October 24, 1861. From Sacramento, the mail was sent by steamer to San Francisco. Based on a system of relays, each Pony Express rider rode 35 to 75 miles and in total the Pony Express carried over 34,000 pieces of mail. Mail cost $5.00 per 1/2 ounce for the ten day delivery service. The Pony Express officially ended when the transcontinental telegraph was completed in October, 1861, although short runs continued through November 20, 1861.
  • In 1894, the nation-wide strike by the American Railway Union brought a halt to mail service in California To meet the crises, Arthur Banta of Fresno (later San Jose) began a bicycle relay from Fresno to San Francisco to deliver the mail. The 210 mile relay took eighteen hours and lasted 12 days. Eighty cyclists were used with eight relay stations. The route went from Fresno to White Bride and Los Banos, through Pacheco Pass to Gilroy, Morgan Hill and San Jose, and up to San Francisco, via Redwood City and San Mateo. Since Banta was a private courier, and to conform with law, all mail still had to bear United States postage and was delivered to Post Offices. For his service, Banta charged an additional 25 cents and issued a special private stamp.

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