I don't remember how I stumbled across this tidbit exactly, because I've never been to Detroit, but I knew the second I saw "floating post office" I had to do a blog post on it. When you're a historical author, you stumble across all kinds of fun facts. :)
|J.W. Westcott around 1908|
John Ward Westcott must have been destined to make his mark on the Great Lakes. It is almost eerie how how the waters seem to run through the family, even to the decedents today. David and Mary Jane Westcott, John's parents, were the first couple to be married on a steamship in the Great Lakes. As a fireman and also the founder of the Ward's Central and Pacific Line, the Westcotts were a prominent Michigan family and well known in the shipping industry. However it would be John who made the greatest impression.
As a boy, John Westcott worked in his father's shipyards and also as a cabin boy. In 1869, John Westcott became the youngest man to captain on freshwater. A mere five years later, this enterprising young man founded his own company. His familiarity with the industry caused him to see a need. A reporting agency that could pass docking and destination information to the ships. He used a rowboat to ferry messages to shore and back and became known for his "mail in a pail" method. Since this was before the invention of radios, etc, his business boomed since companies relied on messages for communication and logistics. Westcott would put the messages in a pail that would be raised over the ship's rail.
|John Ward Westcott Circa 1910|
In 1948, the Westcott family signed a contract to become a part of the United States Postal Service. It is now a mail boat that delivers mail, and much more, to sailors in the Great Lakes. It even has its very own zip code, and is the only ship to have one.
Even today, the J.W. Westcott is a lot more than a mail delivery boat. The staff and crew have cultivated relationships for years, and since the business has stayed in the family, it is as much a part of the community as anything could be. A postal worker will drop mail off at the boat, but it isn't their only cargo. They also deliver tobacco products, coffee, toilet paper...almost anything to the ships off shore. There are even tales of a mistress being delivered to a ship, while the unsuspecting wife was ferried back to shore. Other oddities include the delivery of a goat destined for a petting zoo. Today the J.W. Westcott is still in the family. The great-grandson of John Westcott retains presidency of his family's heirloom business.
Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest". Her title, Dawn of Liberty, was awarded the 2017 CSPA Book of the Year award in Historical Fiction. She lives in Colorado and spends half her time volunteering in the Ozarks. Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at www.AmberSchamel.com/ and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!