This article appears in the Spring 2021 issue of The Peninsular Philatelist, the journal of the Peninsular State Philatelic Society. To learn more about the society, visit their website.
by Robert Beasecker
A collection of over 500 stampless folded letters dating from 1835 to 1841 was recently acquired by the Grand Valley State University Libraries. The letters are addressed to Dr. Charles Osgood (1808-1881), a young physician from Lebanon, Connecticut, who decided to travel west and establish his professional medical practice in Monroe, Michigan Territory. In addition to medicine, he soon became quite involved with speculation in Michigan lands, collaborating with friends and relations back east, as well as with a number of Monroe and Wayne counties acquaintances.
None of the letters are dated on the day of Michigan’s statehood, 26 January 1837. Interestingly, no mention is made of that event, nor of the disputed lands in the Toledo Strip, even though Osgood was engaged in the buying and selling of land in the counties bordering Ohio.
Among the letters addressed to Osgood from Michigan residents are a few with manuscript and other cancellations that add or revise the information provided by David M. Ellis in his Michigan Postal Markings (2007).
Adams (Hillsdale County) Earliest known use is now 17 June 1840.
Adrian(Lenawee County) Latest known use is now 6 March 1838.
Columbia Lake (Washtenaw County) Latest known use is now 24 June 1838, “Free” endorsed by the then postmaster, Anthony Poucher (1801-1870).
Havre (Monroe County)
The Havre Company, founded about 1835, was composed of a group of stockholders (of whom Dr. Osgood was one). It had hoped to establish a thriving port town on Lake Erie some thirteen miles south of Monroe, but through a combination of financial and political reverses, the venture failed. The Havre Post Office operated only six months. Earliest known use: 15 July 1837; latest known use: 18 August 1837; no examples found by Ellis. There are seven in the collection, three of which bear the “Free” endorsement by the postmaster, Joshua B. Van Deusen (1791-1869).
Straight line cancellation, not listed by Ellis. Of the twenty-six Erie manuscript cancels in the collection, there are only two that use the straight line cancel. All have the “Free” endorsement by the postmaster, Salmon Keeney (1794-1847).
Erie (Monroe County) Earliest known use: 13 October 1836; latest known use: 9 April 1837
Salmon Keeney, postmaster of Erie (see above), used his franking privilege when in Detroit on business. There are ten covers in the collection that he sent from Detroit.
Detroit (Wayne County)
Dr. Osgood left Monroe permanently in 1841. The previous year he had formulated a medicine for bilious fevers and ague that proved quite efficacious, and the concoction, under the name “Dr. Osgood’s India Cholagogue,” began to sell in impressive quantities for at least the next fifty years. He moved to Norwich, Connecticut, where he opened a pharmaceutical establishment to manufacture his remedy and became a very wealthy man. In his later years, he developed financial interests in a few other Norwich businesses and founded a bank.