SD_Remembering Suwannee Photo - Live Oak - Ethel Hotel - 1908 - Conner Street.jpg

The Hotel Ethel was home to the post office in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Until the advent of the digital age, post offices were the primary means of receiving and sending messages to locations outside of Suwannee County. Since email, the internet and other related digital applications, post offices have had to redesign themselves within the confines of the Federal government’s laws. Beginning with today’s article, we’ll talk about the simpler times when sending letters or postcards was the main method of distant communication.

Although Live Oak was founded before May 1, 1861, (when existing records show that it was known as the No. 7 or Live Oak Station), its first post office was not established until June 26, 1866. Moses L. Stebbins was the first postmaster; he later became the Clerk of the Court. According to Helen Parshley, daughter-in-law of early pioneers John and Nancy Parshley, this original location was on the southeast corner of Houston and Conner Streets, near the railroad and John Parshley’s sawmill. At the time, Conner Street was about the only real street in the small community, and the business center of Live Oak was located at the railroad intersection of Houston and Conner Streets.

Records are scant for how long the post office remained at the corner of Houston and Conner Streets. What is known is that shortly thereafter, “downtown” Live Oak moved from Houston Street to Ohio Avenue and Howard Street as John Parshley laid out the area around his store and home (on the northwest corner of Howard Street and Ohio Avenue, and the Ameris Bank parking lot, respectively). Stores and government buildings were erected, and downtown Live Oak as we know it was born. It is possible that the post office moved around this time as well. As Suwannee County, and particularly Live Oak, grew during the late 1800s and early 1900s, additional commercial space was necessary. Brick buildings replaced the original wooden structures. With the growth in population came a growth in duties of the post office. By 1890, the post office had moved into the popular Hotel Ethel (at other times known as the Railroad Hotel or Hotel Oakes) fronting Conner Street and the railroad, about where North Florida Printing Company is located now (the hotel burned in 1915). The space allotted, however, was too small for a growing population, and the search for a more appropriate site was undertaken.

In July 1906, a suitable location for a new post office had been selected on the northeast corner of Block I, just south of the Courthouse on the southwest corner of Ohio Avenue and Wilbur Street. M. A. (Margaret Anna) Williams (formerly Bryson) purchased the property in 1901 from the Board of County Commissioners, but sold the northeast quarter of the lot to J. W. Bryson and the other three-quarters to A. Lee Humphries in 1904. A small brick office had been constructed there after 1903, probably by Mr. Bryson, but was unsuitable for the upcoming task. It is probable that this small brick office was the same one noted in County Commission minutes as a condition for Conner Bryson to take possession of the old Courthouse vault for use by the Clerk of Circuit Court until the 1904 Courthouse was completed. Mr. Bryson and Mr. Humphries entered into a contract in July 1906 to build a larger, two-story brick structure that could be used for general office space, as well as a post office.

More on post offices in Live Oak next week…

Eric Musgrove can be reached at ericm@suwgov.org or 386-362-0564.

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