|From the 1873 map|
Having more than a quarter of all the post offices in Somerset County located in one township was convenient for residents, but certainly didn't help Hillsborough's identity problem. Look through any old local newspaper from the 19th or early 20th centuries and you will realize that no one lived in Hillsborough (until it came to tax time!). People regarded themselves as inhabitants of their local hamlets.
As the town progressed through the 1800s and into the 1900s, the post offices were closed, or incorporated into other jurisdictions - Weston to Manville, Millstone to Millstone. At the same time, the larger housing developments which began to spring up after 1955 belonged to no village in particular. One of the last post offices to close, at the end of the 1970s, was the one which operated out of Amey's General Store in South Branch. This left only the Flagtown Post Office which had been relocated to its current location decades earlier.
As development continued apace through the 1970s and 80s, Hillsborough residents not living in Flagtown were assigned addresses and Zip Codes corresponding to post offices in neighboring municipalities - Somerville, Belle Mead, Neshanic Station, Skillman, or Flemington. For many residents this was just fine, for others the 1980s were now worse, postally speaking, than the 1880s! At least those old post offices were IN Hillsborough.
The 80s became the 90s and Hillsborough residents continued seeking solutions. One proposal that didn't gain a lot of traction was for the municipality to be divided into four postal zones each with an address containing the word "Hillsborough". There had to be a better idea than that.
|The Courier News 19 September 1995|
By the summer of 1995 the township committee was still undecided about which course to pursue. Township Committeewoman Helen "Chickie" Haines told the Courier News that having one post office "would unite the community".
"I think it would be terrific. I think it will give us a sense of community. Besides that I think it's neat to have a centrally located post office of a proper size for this community."
Committeeman George Ostergren wasn't so sure, telling the Courier News, "I haven't seen any gung-ho activity in Hillsborough Township for the change."
Once the US Postal Service was on board with the idea of a centrally located Hilsborough post office, a USPS district manager explained that the people of Hillsborough would also need to hop on. At least 85% of residents would need to return a mailed survey - and at least 50% of those would have to be in favor of the post office. And, of course, the township committee would have to endorse the plan.
|Courier News 16 December 1995|
To help gauge public opinion, the township committee commissioned a two-day telephone poll conducted over the weekend of December 16th and 17th 1995. Although there were only 135 responses, 111 were in favor of the plan, and the township committee dutifully gave their endorsement at their December 19th meeting.
All that was left was for the USPS to send out their survey, and wait for the mail to come in.
We will continue with that part of the story next week.