The Appleton Mail Man Who Always Got Things Straightened Away

The Appleton Mail Man Who Always Got Things Straightened Away


Photo-The Ottawa Journal Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Sat, Dec 22, 1956

There used to be a time when only a horse and buggy brought mail to Appleton via Carleton Place.  In the 1950s James Edward Dowdall and his sweet grey mare Daisy (3rd horse) had been doing the 4 mile trip for at least 2 decades and only missed 3 days when one of his sons had to cover for him. Then there was the time a mare before Daisy got rattled at some pasteboard boxes on the side of the road and the cutter was upset and Dairy went trotting off in no obvious direction, but as Dowdall said in typical Lanark fashion: “We got it straightened away”.

Appleton postmaster  Mr. Gamble and Harry Menzies from the Carleton Place unit had never known him to be late or lose any of the precious mail. The days of hauling the mail on a cutter in the winter was limited after they began to plow the roads and it usually took 20 minutes to a half an hour for a one way trip. Storms, blizzards you name it, Dowdall never got cold as he was manned to the hilt with warm clothing,  a buffalo robe, and felt boots up to the knee and then rubber boots as a topper.


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Photo by Linda Seccaspina-Post Office in Appleton Ontario 1871 displayed in the North Lanark Regional Museum, Appleton Ontario.

Each day he would leave Appleton for Carleton Place to pick up the mail. After he dropped off the mail at the post office he would wander over to the post office lobby to swap stories with anyone who would listen. That was his favourite part of the day Dowdall said as they talked his kind of language in that waiting  room. At Six o’clock he would head back to Appleton where some were waiting for him to collect their mail.

One would think maybe a truck would have been better for him, but like a lot of us aging folks his eyes were not the best, and night driving would not have been too safe for him. He actually got into the postal business as his doctor told him to find a “light job” as he had health issues and had retired from being a farmer. So along with some plowing and gardening jobs he made out just fine. Life was simple for Mr. Dowdall only having to change his buggy twice in his duration delivering the mail, but in Carleton Place it was another story.  Postmaster Harry Menzie’s offices were jammed everywhere storing mail. The staff worked Sundays and late into the evening and no one really complained as you did what you had to do.



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Photos–Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum

The Carleton Place Post Office used to handle mail for Innisville, Appleton and also sent out three rural route deliveries a day. Not only that, but they handled larger packages and with only two wickets open the lobby was always jammed. Of course Menzies  wanted another wicket but there wasn’t an ounce of space to spare in that building with boxes lined up everywhere against the walls.


March 1968

In December of 1956 the Carleton Place post office sold over 130,000 stamps that month and  James Edward Dowdall would have so much mail he would have to tie bags on the back with just a little ‘sittin’ room for himself– but all was good. Unlike some his fellow mail delivery  men he wasn’t buying gasoline or paying for repairs–Daisy wouldn’t hear of it. That old gal was never going to stop when she was tired- she was only going to stop when the mail was done. No hour of life was ever wasted between James and his horse Daisy and Appleton and Carleton Place were grateful.



The community was first known as Teskeyville after early settlers Joseph Teskey and his brother Robert who built a saw and grist mill. For a time the place was called Appletree Falls because of a riverside orchard. When the post office opened in 1857, Appleton was chosen as its name

In 1869 the population was 250 and the Appleton Post office was a money order office-The Province of Ontario Gazetteer and Directory 1869


Anita Dowdall-I married grandpa Dowdall’s grandson in 1961, his dad was Kenneth Irwin Dowdall, the eldest of James Edward Dowdall sons, he had 6 boys,my husband is the eldest of 4 kids, 3 boys & 1 girl. His name is (Borden) my oldest son Bruce has his name Edward for his middle name. Thanks for sharing a great story about grandpa Dowdall.


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun


Related reading

Inspector Coolican and His Rural Mail Delivery

You’ve Got Mail — The First Post Offices of Lanark County

The Hidden Postcard Gallery in Carleton Place

Who Worked for the Post Office the Longest in Lanark County?

How Much Did the Old Post Office Perth Sell For?

Take a Letter Maria– Carleton Place Post Office

As Time Goes By — The Old Post Office Clock

My Baby, Just-a Wrote Me a Letter– The Carleton Place Post Office

Memories of Carleton Place — The Roxy and Marilyn Monroe

Crime and Punishment? –Tales from the Almonte Post Office

About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

4 responses »

  1. As a young boy living on Rochester Street in the late 40’s, our neighbor, Tom New, provided rural mail service for RR #1, to the west of Carleton Place with the route ending at the general store in Innisville. He used a Model A two door Ford and on occasion I was invited to accompany him on his route. We would leave the main street post office shortly after 8:00 and be at Innisville about noon, eating our lunch along the way. I sat in the back because the front passenger seat was taken by a cardboard box in which the mail was carried, sorted in order of the delivery sequence to the mail boxes at the end of the lanes. It was quite an adventure for a young boy and a pleasant summer memory of my childhood.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I married grandpa Dowdall’s grandson in 1961, his dad was Kenneth Irwin Dowdall, the eldest of James Edward Dowdall sons, he had 6 boys,my husband is the eldest of 4 kids, 3 boys & 1 girl. His name is (Borden) my oldest son Bruce has his name Edward for his middle name. Thanks for sharing a great story about grandpa Dowdall.

    Liked by 1 person

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