Walter Treutel’s 240,000-mile Journey Through Wood County, Wisconsin

It would be hard not to respect a man who worked diligently at his job six days a week for 30 years. For Walter Treutel, the job record was even more impressive. His career as a rural letter carrier took him on a nearly 240,000-mile journey making sure the people of Vesper, Wisconsin received their mail and packages from 1904 to 1934.

Walter Treutel of Vesper, Wisconsin.
Walter Treutel of Vesper, Wisconsin.

“The new rural mail carriers who will begin carrying mail on the 10 new routes on December 1st received their appointment from Washington last week,” the local Grand Rapids, Wis., newspaper announced in November 1904. “These carriers all took the competitive examination in this city four weeks ago and those fortunate to receive an appointment will now only have to file their bond for the faithful performance of their duty.” Walter’s first day as a letter carrier was Dec. 1, 1904. He was just two years married to the former Mary Ladick, and their firstborn child, Ruby, was just six months old.

His first trip over Rural Route 1 was made in an open buggy pulled by two ponies. He and his sister, Emma Carlin, rode that first 26.5-mile run together to deliver just 35 pieces of mail. At the time, the Vesper postal station was located inside the Treutel Bros. store, run by Walter’s brothers, Charles and Henry Treutel. Walter’s official postal substitute was his wife, Mary.

Walter Treutel picnics with children Nina, Elaine and Marvin, circa 1925. Behind the camera is Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman.
Walter Treutel picnics with children Nina, Elaine and Marvin, circa 1925. Behind the camera is Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman.

The dirt roads were rough and filled with chuckholes. The buggy rode over corduroy — soft or swampy sections that were shored up by placing logs  across the path. Roads were so punishing in those early days that horses typically lasted only two years in service.

The first open postal buggy was eventually replaced by a covered postal wagon. Walter used a dozen horses on his  route over the years. One of the toughest, “Old Baldy,” served for seven years in all sorts of weather. His first automobile, a two-cylinder Buick roadster, was nicknamed “The Little Red Devil.” Three other postal vehicles served on the route during his tenure.

He served under five postmasters during his 30 years, including his sister Emma Carlin, who was Vesper postmistress for nine years starting in 1906. In November 1934, Walter took his overdue two-week vacation, then returned for one final route on Dec. 1 — thirty years to the day after his first day on the job.

Walter Treutel with second wife Vera (at left), sister Emma Carlin, daughter Ruby Hanneman and grandchildren Lavonne and David D. Hanneman.
Walter Treutel with second wife Vera (at left), sister Emma Carlin, daughter Ruby Hanneman and grandchildren Lavonne and David D. Hanneman.

Walter was born July 23, 1879 in Mukwonago, Wisconsin, the son of Philipp and Henrietta (Krosch) Treutel. Walter’s wife, the former Mary Helen Ladick, died in 1925 after suffering a post-operative infection. She was just 41. They had five children, four of whom (Ruby, Nina, Marvin and Elaine) survived into adulthood. Walter died Feb. 15, 1948 of lingering heart disease. He was 68.

The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune wrote about Walter Treutel's last day on the job in 1934.
The Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune wrote about Walter Treutel’s last day on the job in 1934.

FAMILY LINE: Johann Adam Treutel >> Philipp Treutel >> Walter Treutel >> Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman >> Donn, David and Lavonne Hanneman.

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