Residents Bring First Post Office to Clawson in 1880
After using Royal Oak's mail service for many years, Clawson got its own post office in 1880.
In the late 1870s, residents near the crossroads of Town Line Road (now 14 Mile) and Niles Road (now Main Street) were living in a village known unofficially as Bower’s Mill — so called because of the grist mill Henry Bowers operated near the northeast corner of that intersection.
Around 1879, residents wrote letters to Washington, D. C., requesting a post office. In order to have a post office, they had to choose an official name for their community. According to tales passed on by residents, the name of "Lawson" (for the Lawson family) was submitted. However, because the handwriting on the petition was illegible, it was misread — and the name "Clawson" came back from Washington.
The Lawson family maintains that James Lawson was the first postmaster, but Library of Congress records show it was Andrew Bean and that Lawson never held that position.
Another common tale passed on by residents was that “Clawson” was submitted as a joke.
This version was related by Frances Bowers, who told the following story at the Golden Jubilee of the Clawson Post Office in 1930:
“The committee has requested me, being the oldest living resident of Clawson (82 years old), to recall as many of the events in the history of the town as possible. Many of us received our mail from Royal Oak, traveling there to fetch it ourselves or getting it from neighbors who fetched it for us when they traveled there. Three times a week, a stagecoach carried mail and passengers from Royal Oak to Rochester via the plank toll road (now Rochester Road), leaving mail at Big Beaver, a village at 16 Mile and Rochester Road. After a time, George Hickey began carrying mail three times a week from Royal Oak to Troy via Niles Road (now Main Street). My husband made a hinge-covered box, nailed it on the fence and hired Hickey to bring our mail. So Clawson — even though it wasn't named yet — was getting rural delivery before any other state in the union. Feeling the need of more efficient mail service, John Lawson, Burnett Grow and Henry Bowers began sending in names to Washington. Many names were rejected. At last, in desperation and partly as a joke, the name of Clawson — the name an old lady from the village (Mrs. Codner) always called the Lawson family — was sent. To our surprise, the name was accepted."
The name of the Clawson Post Office became official Aug. 18, 1880. The first post office was in the home of Andrew Bean. His house stood at the north corner of Jefferson and South Main. In 1881, Bean and James Lawson built a general store on the southwest corner of what is now 14 Mile and North Main, and the post office was moved into the store.
Bean died of smallpox in 1889 and Elbert L. Buell was appointed postmaster in his place, according to the Library of Congress. The post office remained in the general store until 1919.
Editor's note: History Columnist Deloris Kumler was unable to locate official records in the Library of Congress on the story of where the name Clawson originated. The document of Frances Bowers' speech is in the Clawson Historical Museum. The writer also used the book "Pummychug, The Foundation of the Village of Clawson" by Maurice Blair for information on the Clawson Post office history and Bower's Mill.