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Out of the blue

Old certificate surprises Postmaster’s descendants

Woman stands over large certificate on table
Shawn Culpepper displays the certificate that her great-great-great-grandmother, Susan McGinnis, received upon becoming the Laird, CO, Postmaster in 1907.

A Texas family recently learned they have postal ties from generations ago, thanks to some historical detective work.

It began when Justin, TX, Postmaster Alicia Winn was contacted by Eric Wilder, a local business owner who discovered a Postmaster appointment certificate issued in 1907 to Susan McGinnis of Laird, CO.

The Post Office Department issued the certificates to people who were appointed to Postmaster positions. McGinnis’s document featured an embossed gold seal and the signature of Postmaster General George von Lengerke Meyer, who served during President Theodore Roosevelt’s administration.

Wilder told Winn that he found the relic behind a framed portrait he purchased and dismantled for cleaning.

“Mr. Wilder brought it to me to see if I could do something with it after we marveled at it,” said Winn, who took a photograph of the certificate and sent it to USPS headquarters in Washington, DC.

Steve Kochersperger, a senior research analyst in the historian’s office, received the image and determined that McGinnis had served as Laird’s Postmaster until 1911 and that she was married and had several children.

Using and census records, he then located her great-great-great-granddaughter: Shawn Culpepper, a Texas resident who works for the University of Houston.

“It took some detective work to find living descendants, but within a couple weeks we had confirmation,” Kochersperger said.

Culpepper said she is “blown away by the steps taken by USPS to find and send it to me.” She shared the news with her relatives, including her mother, who didn’t know there had been a Postmaster in the family.

Culpepper, who is having the 21-by-16-inch certificate framed so she can display it, was also proud to learn that her ancestor was a “woman holding a leadership position within her community back in 1907.”

Winn said she hopes the story of the certificate holds a lesson for postal employees: You never know where history might be hiding.

“I hope this would encourage employees to take the time and contact the historian’s office with any old artifacts from the Post Office,” she said. “They have quite the collection and can advise us about preserving any items that might be of historical value to USPS.”

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