Carson’s Post Office

Compiled by Pat Kirk with edits by Gerald Boxberger

In 1979 Carson finally got its own post office building. Harold Lillard built the 10’x 14’ shack, which served as the post office for many years, and he was the postmaster for two years until his family moved away from Carson.

It was in 1912 that William K Shupe moved with his family from Colorado to this high desert country southwest of Taos. Several other families, many of them large, also settled in this area. Mr Shupe named the community Carson because of the nearby Kit Carson Trail.

Carson had no post office in its early years, so Verde Shupe, 10, and Charlie Baumgardner, 11, carried the mail on horseback to Cenegilla (now called Pilar). Incoming mail would be dropped off at Verde’s house and at Charlie’s house, where folks would go to pick up their mail

In 1913, W.K. Shupe was appointed postmaster and the office was established in his house. He was paid only the amount of the stamps he canceled If he sent a two-cent letter, he was paid two cents.

Guy Shupe, Verde’s brother, took the mail weekly on horseback to a place on the “Chili Line” railroad about seven miles west of Carson. There he tossed the mail through the open door of a moving train, and the sack of incoming mail would be thrown off. He did this for several years without pay. The railroad ran from Antonito, Colorado, to Santa Fe, roughly paralleling Highway 285 until it snaked eastward toward Barranca on the west side of the Rio Grande where it crossed the river to Embudo Station.

The next mail carrier was Floyd Shupe, a cousin. But when he was hired to cook for the men working on the Carson Reservoir and irrigation ditch, Verde was once again involved in transporting the mail. Floyd would pick up the incoming mail at the train, but Verde would take it from his father’s house to the work site. Frank Templeton was next awarded the mail-carrying job, and much of the time Amanda Templeton (this couple were Don Kirk’s grandparents) carried the mail in a buggy to the Stong Post Office at Taos Junction, subsequently the former Susie’s Cafe. Then Guy Shupe again carried the mail-this time in a buggy or a Model-T Ford.

The next carrier was Will Pope, then Verde again from: 1927 to 1939. He carried the mail three times a week for $35 a month. Old timers here tell of feuds between families and individuals, undercutting and underbidding, to get one of the few paying jobs in the area. At least three people wanted the contract in 1940. When Frank Templeton’s contract expired, he and Verde both bid on the route. But they were underbid by Frank Graves who had been told the amount of the others’ bids. After doing the job for a short time, he found he really didn’t want to be tied down three days a week on a mail run, so the Boxbergers did it for three months. John and Frona (“Babe”) Graves also helped out. Also, in 1940, W K Shupe, the founder of Carson, moved away and Marie Mealor was appointed Postmaster.

In 1941, the Denver & Rio Grande shut down its narrow-gauge railroad from Antonito to Santa Fe So the mail had to be brought in by other means When Henry Boxberger began carrying the mail in 1946, it was delivered by bus from Colorado to Taos Junction Henry or his wife, Martha, went to Taos Junction three times a week to pick up and deliver the mail, and their family has held the mail contract for more than sixty years. The mail route was changed in 1970 and the terminus for pickup and delivery became Ojo Caliente. After Henrys death in 1982, his son, Gerald, was awarded the contract. He and his wife Karen continue to perform this service timely and dependably to this day.

Vera Rogers was the Carson Postmistress until 1947. Then Dalford and Mary Stover took the job. In 1953 Babe Graves accepted the position and held it until her retirement in 1978. The Post Office was in her home, as it had been in other homes since 1913.

Kathy Martin was the postmistress for a few months but having the post office a mile up a muddy, rutted, sometimes impassable road was a bad situation. Many times, Kathy’s husband Ed had to ride his horse to deliver the mail down to the highway.

In 1979 Carson finally got its own post office building. Harold Lillard built the 10’x 14’ shack, which served as the post office for many years, and he was the postmaster for two years until his family moved away from Carson.

Carson’s Post Office in 1996. Photo by Elisabeth Maier.

Irene ‘Pat’ Kirk was appointed to the job in 1982. During her 15 years tenure as postmistress our population grew, which brought about an increase in revenues. This allowed the Carson Post Office to upgrade from three days a week, four hours a day, schedule to six days a week.

When Pat retired in 1997, the U.S. Postal Service was considering closing the Carson post office. But her determined efforts along with strong community support and the growth in the community saved our postal service.

Postmistress Trudy Drake got a gift in her first year in 1998. The U.S.P.S. authorized the building of a modern, heated and lighted building with paved parking and outdoor lighting. With the new building, service was tended to eight hours a day Monday through Friday with three hours on Saturday and 24-hour access to the lobby.

In October 2012 Trudy Drake was transferred to Questa as their Postmistress, from which she retired in 2017. The hours at the Carson Post Office were reduced to four hours Monday thru Friday, and to three hours on a Saturday so that Trudy could still be employed full time in Questa.

Vonnie Mallon took over from Trudy until November 2013 when Elizabeth Halley was appointed to the position until she too was transferred to the Ranchos de Taos Post Office. Eventually Isabel Kalish became Carson Postmistress until 2019. Since the administration of Carson Post Office was transferred to the postal service in Ranchose de Taos it has become a training location for new staff, so we should become too attached to our postal staff in the future.

Since 1913 the Carson Post Office has delivered the mail, through thunder-storms, floods, drought, and plague. The post office, being the only building in downtown Carson for many years, became the main meeting place for locals until the Poco Loco store first opened in 2005. It is still about the only place to run into some of the more iconoclastic members of our community.

Based on an original article written by Pat Kirk in The Carson Curmudgeon of 2009, some of which had been published in The Carson Sage in 1998. Additional edits by Gerald Boxberger in 2019.