Presenting the Past: The Alamo Post Office: Who were all those Bells? ***TWO PHOTOS***
Alamo's post office was the first established in the San Ramon Valley and is remembered as a community gathering place from the beginning. John M. Jones was the first postmaster and, in the 20th century, Bell family members were postmasters for more than 50 years.
At the start the post office was run by a remarkable pioneer pair: John and Mary Ann Jones. They came through the valley in 1847, lived in San Jose, and moved to Alamo in 1851. On May 18, 1852, he became the first postmaster. This post office was the only one between Martinez and San Jose.
In those days the post office was the place people picked up mail and stayed to visit. Mary's autobiography described the post office: "When his (her husband's) business called him away from home, I took care of the office. Many times men would come and get their mail and sit and read and talk until I felt like saying, 'Do go, I have to work.' We had no stamps then, nor envelopes. We wrote our letters, folded and sealed them with sealing wax, and then paid ten cents for delivery. We had mail twice a week."
There were six other postmasters before the Bell family came to prominence at the start of the 20th century. David Crockett Bell served first, from 1905 to 1923, followed by son Roy D. Bell from 1923-1936, and daughter Harriett Bell Hunt (1936-1944). There was a short break, then daughter Bertha Bell Linhares served from 1947-1960.
During the Bell Postmaster years, the location and the service changed. David Bell's post office was across Highway 21 from his grocery store on the west side of the street. For a time it was called Bell's Post Office Store. In 1910 a two-story building on the northwest corner of Las Trampas at the highway became the office. Then, in July of 1936, Mrs. Hunt built a small place for the post office on the southwest corner of Las Trampas and the highway, right in front of her house.
Not until 1958 when Mrs. Linhares was postmaster did neighborhood service begin, although patrons could continue to go to the post office for mail if they chose. Bertha Bell Linhares was born in 1905 and remembered the days when an Alamo population sign read "400."
She recalled growing up at the post office. "There were two mails a day. The big thing was to gather at the post office when the mail came in the evening. Father had a stove and chairs where the men would sit around and talk. Sometimes the wives would come too. They'd come sit in our living room, and I was always interested in what they said." She married Anthony Linhares when she was 16, settling on Las Trampas Road. Later a road cut through their property and was named Linhares Road.
In October 1964 a building which the U.S. Postal Service constructed as a modern post office was built in the western part of Alamo Market Plaza. Of course, this was after the devoted Bells had retired from their watch.
Sources: Virgie V. Jones, Remembering Alamo p. 53, 63-4; USPS Web site; SRV Times, Feb. 14, 1985; museum archives
Beverly Lane is curator of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley and co-author of "San Ramon Valley: Alamo, Danville, and San Ramon" and "Vintage Danville: 150 Years of Memories."