Discover Delmarva: Sussex County’s Post-Mistress

Sussex County’s very first free-standing post office was built in 1889, in Ocean View.

But the most interesting thing about the building is who ran it.

“She was a young woman who had lost her husband in a shipwreck. He had been the captain of a ship and he went down with his ship near North Carolina” ,says Barbara Slavin.

Barbara is talking about her great aunt Annie West Betts.

She became the county’s first postmistress.

“Certainly a woman postmistress was unusual. So not only did she have her job, but she has a second job in that she made hats for more money”, says Carol Psaros.

In fact, Annie’s milliner business was so popular, people would come from all over the region to buy a hat.

Annie’s hybrid post office/ hat shop was a big draw for residents in the area.

Before the free-standing post office was built, people had to pick their mail up from Hall’s General Store so the area was called Hall’s Store.

With an actual post office, that all changed.

“The post office was instrumental in creating Ocean View as a specific town. Because once you get a post office , people recognize”, says Psaros.

Town residents knew when it was time to pick up their mail because Annie developed a system.

“As soon as the mail was sorted and put in boxes, Annie would run up the flag. and people would then know it was okay to come get their mail”, beams Psaros.

She flourished in her post office/hat shop from 1889 until 1919 when she retired and married her brother-in-law.

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