Lamplighter turned mail carrier, Weyand well known in Palmyra
P.A. (Pete) Weyand (1872-1959) is perhaps best remembered in Palmyra as a mail carrier for Rural Route 4 from 1904-1934. But as a boy, he and his brothers were lamp lighters along Main Street in Palmyra for 5 1/2 years, beginning in 1880. This undated clipping is from the Hannibal Courier-Post likely from the mid to late 1950s. He is standing in front of the last post at the time standing in Palmyra, in front of Palmyra’s Presbyterian Church. Photo contributed by Archie Hayden.
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
Pete Weyand, newly appointed rural mail carrier for Route 4, out of Palmyra, had a brush with near death in the spring of 1904, while leading a team of horses down Seymour hill, about two miles northwest of Palmyra.
The wagon, if it was standard to others of the era, was a box-like structure, made of wood, with room for the driver and the mail inside the wagon.
The hill was likely located near the farm of W.I. Seymour, in Sections 15 and 15, Township 58 North, Range 6 West, Marion County, Mo.
The Palmyra Spectator reported on April 20, 1904: “(Weyand) was making his first trip with his new wagon, and in coming down the Seymour hill west of Palmyra the neck yoke gave way and the horses started to run.
“The doors of the box-like vehicle were of course closed, and he could not get out and the animals had their own way and ran to the bottom of the hill.”
It was there that the wagon, containing Weyand and the mail he was to deliver, overturned. It “smashed into kindling wood.”
According to the newspaper article, what saved Weyand was the fact that the “traces” came loose, allowing the horses to gallop ahead.
“How the occupant escaped serious injury is a mystery, but beyond a few scratches and bruises he was not hurt,” the newspaper reported.
The following year, he had another narrow escape on Fountain hill. “All that saved him was having heavy weights tied to his horses’ tails and the hind wheels locked with a rail.”
In 1912, Pete Weyand and another rural mail carrier, Henry Mooter, were forced to turn back on their routes, due to flooding in the North River bottoms. The North River runs to the north and west of Palmyra.
In August of 1915, Weyand lost his gold watch somewhere along his route, between Smileyville, in Fabius Township, and Palmyra.
Then a year later, in August 1916, the Palmyra Spectator told of Weyand’s heroics when saving the mail and his team from flood waters. The newspaper reported on Aug. 23, 1916, “The incident … occurred Tuesday of last week when the water was so high and he saved his mail and his team only with greatest difficulty, and was nearly washed into the river when he was crossing Gebhardt’s* flats, north of town. … he deserves much credit for the plucky fight he made to save the mail sacks.”
* Note: At the time, Andrew Gephart owned farmland in Section 13, Township 58 North, Range 6W.
In January 1918, Marion County, Mo., experienced a cold spell that was the most severe on record. The Palmyra Spectator reported that, “Pete Weyand got over part of his route the first day of the blizzard, but the other carriers barely reached the city limits. In some places the snow is said to have drifted as high as the fence posts and packed as hard as if it had been tamped.”
Pete Weyand spent most of his life in and around Palmyra. He was born Sept. 12, 1872, at Warsaw, Ill. He came to Palmyra with his parents, August Sebastian Weyand (1834-1897) and Mary Anna Hausen Weyand (1842-1916).
He was married to Jessie Maude Tate on Sept. 24, 1895, and together they had one son, Russell, born in 1899.
Rural Mail Delivery, established by the U.S. Postal Service, was still in it infancy when Pete Weyand circulated a petition among mail patrons north of Palmyra. When the route was established at the beginning in 1904, he was hired as carrier for the route. He would continue on this route for 30 years, until his retirement in 1934.
In March 1918, Pete Weyand and wife purchased the former Thos. Fitzgerald property at 332 West Main Cross Street, to the west of the Court House, consideration, $1,900.
Upon his retirement, the Palmyra Spectator published a feature article on Weyand and his postal career in its April 25, 1934 edition.
“When he first began carrying the mail there were times that the roads were next to impassable and often it was necessary to make at least a part of the trip by foot. Some times he traveled on horseback, but usually in a cart. Later he used a small enclosed road wagon and with the advent of graveled roads an automobile.”
Beginning in 1880, Pete Weyand, 8, along with his brother, Joe, lit and extinguished the street lamps along Main Street in Palmyra, for 50 cents per day.
A mid-1950s news clipping from the Hannibal Courier-Post, supplied by Archie Hayden, reported:
They filled “the huge fuel bowls with kerosene, trimming the wicks, cleaning up the panes of glass in the latticed iron globes, lighting the lamps at dusk and putting them out at midnight. That is, (they) got fifty cents if it wasn’t moonlight.
“According to an edict by the mayor and city council, moonlight was good enough for citizens to see their way about the city streets, So, no lamps were lit on moonlight schedule and the lamplighter collected no pay.”
Weyand told the Courier-Post that there were 40 lamps, located from the J.W. King residence on North Main street, to the old Hannibal and St. Joe depot on South Main Street.
“They were towering iron posts with a cross arms at the top and just above the cross arms sat the huge kerosene bowl and the lamp,” Weyand told the newspaper.
“The old fashioned sulphur matches were used to light the lamps. It was characteristic of these matches to put out a billow of smoke before flame came through. Along toward the end of his street lamp lighting career, the well-remembered striking matches came into use and these lit the street lamps. Remember them? You struck one and the fire flew around like it was coming off of a Fourth of July sparkler.”
Before Pete Weyand “retired” from lamp lighting at the age of 13 1/2, another brother, Sebastian August Weyand, (1877-1963) had joined the lamp lighting business.
Bess was a nickname given to Pete Weyand’s brother, Sebastian August Weyand, (1877-1963) a well known Palmyra cafe owner.
Joe Weyand was Joseph A. Weyand (1869-1891). He was married to Lydia M. Quest in 1890 and died the following year, at the age of 21.
Pete August Weyand died Sept. 7, 1959, at the age of 86.
His wife, Jessie Maude Tate Weyand, died in 1964.
Their son, Russell Weyand, was for a time a Palmyra police officer. He died in September 1952.
Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on Amazon.com by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870,” “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’ and the newest book, “Oakwood: West of Hannibal.” Montgomery can be reached at Montgomery.firstname.lastname@example.org Her collective works can be found at www.maryloumontgomery.com