Closure of Hardenville post office seems likely
An Ozark County post office closure that was hinted at in 2011 seems likely to happen this month in Hardenville, where service will be suspended Saturday, Feb. 22, as the U.S. Postal Service’s lease on space in the old Hardenville general store building expires.
Gainesville postmaster Jeff Elliott told the Times last week that he had received no information from USPS about the Hardenville situation since September 2019, when former building owner Mike Dines notified USPS that he would not be renewing the post office’s lease when it expires Feb. 22. Elliott said he serves as official postmaster for the Hardenville facility, which is categorized as a “remotely managed post office” with Cindy Anderson serving there as a “non-career USPS employee” working as “postmaster relief.”
Hardenville’s 32 “route” patrons will continue to have their mail delivered to their roadside mailboxes, Elliott said, adding that its eight general delivery patrons will be the most directly impacted. “I’m assuming they will be coming into Gainesville to pick up their mail,” he said. “But I haven’t had any official notification.”
Elliott said he also assumes the Hardenville patrons’ addresses will not change. “But, again, I haven’t heard anything official,” he said.
The Hardenville building’s new owners asked that their names and plans not be published at this time. However, they said in a fax sent to the Times that they had tried to negotiate with USPS’s Denver-based real estate personnel about keeping the post office in the building but “a contract could not be agreed upon,” in part due to “9/11 requirements and square footage” the new owners will need.
Hardenville post office hours are currently 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Saturdays. Elliott said he does not know if USPS will offer Anderson another job elsewhere, but after some other post office closings, the employee has been offered a similar job within 50 miles. It’s not known how many employees accept the offer of making up to a 100-mile daily round trip to work two hours on weekdays and four hours on Saturday.
A Times email to the designated USPS communications specialist had not been answered at press time.
The last of three studied for closure in 2011
The Hardenville post office was one of three Ozark County post offices USPS said it was studying for possible closure in late July 2011, along with approximately 3,700 other post offices nationwide. The other two Ozark County post offices studied – Rockbridge and Zanoni – have since closed. (At times, USPS has used the term “emergency suspended” to describe what happened to these post offices, but in effect, the post offices closed.)
USPS held community meetings about the possible closings. The meetings drew 19 people in Rockbridge, 21 in Zanoni and 24 in Hardenville.
Rockbridge, the county’s first and oldest post office, dating from 1842, closed Jan. 9, 2015. Zanoni, dating from 1898, closed Feb. 29, 2016. Like Hardenville, both of those post office closed after USPS introduced costly facility requirements that made renewing leases impractical, if not impossible, for building owners.
Surprisingly, two years after the Zanoni post office closed in 2016, USPS announced in February 2018 that it was looking for a site where it could construct a $270,000 modular building that would serve as a new Zanoni post office. The announcement sparked a flurry of criticism over what many considered an outrageous cost for a post office that would serve 40 residents with Zanoni mailing addresses – most of whom by then received their mail in roadside mailboxes delivered out of the Gainesville post office. After the negative attention, USPS backed off the idea, and spokesperson Stacy St. John told the Times during multiple phone calls in the following months that the issue is still being studied, and no decision has been made.
Hardenville post office history
The book A History of Ozark County, 1841-1991 says George S. Harden opened the Hardenville post office in 1921, and the community and post office were named for his family. Harden’s grandson Don Harden of Gainesville told the Times in 2011, when the closure study was announced, that the original post office was inside Harden’s store on the north side of Highway 160 at the top of Tecumseh hill west of what is now Norfork Lake.
It’s not known when Lue and Gail Crawford bought out Harden and moved the post office to its present location inside the old Hardenville store building on the south side of Highway 160 about 4 miles east of the Gainesville square. However, it is known that Crawford became postmaster in 1935 and held the job until they sold the store to Henry and Gertie Huse. The Huses were relocating after their farm near Liner had to be sold in advance of Norfork Lake coming in. Henry Huse became postmaster in 1943.
Huse’s daughter-in-law, Ida Mae Huse, told the Times in 2011 that Henry continued as postmaster after he sold the store to her and her husband, Robert Huse, in the early 1950s. In 1950, Ida Mae started teaching in area one-room schools, and she and Robert traded the store to her parents, Fred and Mamie Rackley, in exchange for their farm on the current site of East Wind Community.
Mamie Rackley became postmaster in 1953 and continued until her unexpected death in 1970. In July 1970, shortly before Mamie’s death in August 1970, the Rackleys sold the store to Joe and Ernestine Gaddy. After Mamie died, Ernestine was appointed officer in charge, and in 1973 she was appointed postmaster.
Shortly after Ernestine’s appointment, the postal service tried to close some of the nation’s small post offices, but before the Hardenville office could be closed, Congress put a moratorium on post office closings, Ernestine said.
When the postmaster at Theodosia retired, Ernestine became officer in charge there, and her husband, the late Joe Gaddy, was appointed Hardenville officer in charge. He served a short time and was followed by Bruce Hamilton, Jo Stehle and Denice Walker. Robert Huse was appointed officer in charge next and then became postmaster, a job he held until his retirement in 1992.
Ida Mae Huse recalled in 2011 that Shirley Sisney was the next postmaster; she served until retiring in February 2007. Connie Dines, who owned the store at that time with her husband, Mike, became officer in charge until Debbie Delp was appointed postmaster in September 2007; Delp left in 2015 and now works in the Wasola post office.
Since then, USPS “non-career” employees, including Sandra Shipman and Cindy Anderson, have operated the facility. No other Hardenville postmasters were appointed.