A piece of postal history will soon be receiving a facelift at the Barton County Historical Society Museum in Great Bend, thanks to a family member of its original donor.
Dr. Mary Ann Boyle donated $525 Thursday to the BCHS Museum and Village to help the museum give the exterior of the old Castleton, KS Post Office building, which has been on the museum grounds for a half-century.
The money will be used to help replace deteriorated boards on the exterior of the building, as well as purchase paint and paint supplies including paint scrapers, completely to repaint the exterior of the century-plus old building. Work had already begun on the project when Boyle approached the museum about the donation.
Upon a recent visit to the museum, she was disheartened to see the building her uncle donated falling into disrepair.
She decided to approach the museum’s new director, Richard Lartz II, to see if they would like monetary donation to help restore the exterior of the post office building.
Lartz was grateful for the fortuitous timing of Mary Ann’s visit. Addressing to poor condition of the building’s exterior was already on Lartz’s list of maintenance issues he wanted to address as the new director of the museum.
Melvin Boner, who provides maintenance for the museum, had actually approached Lartz the day prior to her visit expressing interest in repainting the building.
Lartz said he wanted to repair and repaint the building rather than adding more modern siding, because when possible, he said his preference is to preserve the as much of the historical integrity as possible on the historical structures.
And with a family steeped in the area’s postal history, it was an effort Boyle was happy to support.
A family’s postal history
Boyle’s uncle, James U. Boyle, originally purchased the building in February 1971, and had it moved to its current location at the museum soon thereafter.
Mary Ann said she does not know exactly why or how her uncle found out about the post office building. Museum records indicated he purchased it from a Kermit Fischer in 1971 as a memorial to his wife Virgina, who passed away a few months earlier in November 1970.
The family, however, does have deep ties to the mail business in Barton County. James Boyle, at the time he purchased the building was serving as postmaster in Great Bend. He would retire later that year, in July of 1971. At the same time, Mary Ann’s father and James’s brother, Archer H. Boyle, served with him as a mail superintendent in Great Bend.
Prior to that, the two men’s father, Archer A. Boyle, a lifetime area resident and native of Olmitz, served as a rural mail carrier in Barton County, as well.
In fact, Mary Ann recalls her grandfather, Archer, tell stories of rural mail carriers in the 1920’s transitioning from the use of horses to the use of automobiles when delivering the mail. She said her grandfather actually preferred the use of the horse in muddy conditions, considering it superior to early automobiles.
With her own family so rich in postal history, she is happy to see the building get new life to continue sharing their story.
“They’re a big part of the community, the postal people,” she said.