In the early 1950s, a man named Harry Brock moved to Maricopa to begin work as a rural mail carrier. He roomed in the two-story Maricopa Hotel, the largest building in town.
BY THE NUMBERS
Today’s Maricopa Post Office
Daily deliveries: 21,400
Inside, it once held a grocery store and the post office. The post office had already moved to another location, which was lucky for the young mailman, because one month into his tenancy, the grand hotel burned to the ground.
It wasn’t the first time flames would destroy a building in old Maricopa. Years later in 1972, fire would consume the post office itself, this time from inside the old Honeycutt Shopping Center, which was located northeast of the present-day Maricopa High School baseball fields.
The genesis of Maricopa’s post office is chronicled by Brock’s wife, and longtime Maricopa Elementary School teacher, Patricia Brock in her book “Reflections of a Desert Town.”
“Nothing stops the mail service!” Patricia Brock wrote in her history book, published first in the 1990s and then revised in 2007.
The phrase depicts the persevering attitude of Maricopa postal workers who often faced natural disasters like flood and flame.
Immediately after the ’72 fire, Postmaster Fred Cole rose the operation from its ashes and sorted envelopes on his front porch after the mail was delivered from Phoenix. That same March morning, Brock is seen in a black-and-white photo with Cole and others as they sift through the mail and prepare it for Harry’s route.
Eventually, the post office was rebuilt on the same site where the shopping center stood. It wouldn’t be until 1990 when construction on the current post office building would finish on Hathaway Avenue. The operation expanded 20 years later to include an annex building on Honeycutt Road, which serves as home base for mail carriers.
The modern-day Maricopa Post Office boasts a large operation in what is still considered a rural community.
USPS spokesman Peter Hass said it employs 37 workers and serves 30 mail routes with a total of 21,400 deliveries daily.
Despite its expansion, the growth of the Maricopa Post Office was not delivered overnight.
Its earliest location dates back to the pre-civil war era when the town was located northwest of the Pima Butte “M” mountain and south of the Gila River.
Back then, the pre-territorial community was referred to as Maricopa Wells. Records show the post office was in operation for 20 years before relocating approximately eight miles south to Maricopaville.
Mail was delivered there for eight years, until the post office was discontinued and local mail was forwarded to Phoenix.
One year later, in 1888, the revived post office moved to the location of present-day Maricopa, referred to then as Maricopa Junction.
The nomadic nature of the Maricopa Post Office was due in large part to the town’s richest resource: The location of the Southern Pacific Railroad. In fact, trains delivered mail to Maricopa until 1957.
Patricia Brock wrote that after the town settled in its current location, the post office bounced around to various temporary sites. It is theorized it was first housed within the Hotel Williams, whose owner was also the postmaster. It is reported that Postmaster Perry Williams’ pet bobcat was kept outside of the post office for nine years, and was a favorite tourist attraction.
After statehood in 1912, the post office functioned inside a grocery store, then later within Postmaster Arthur DeHart’s home, and finally inside the doomed Maricopa Hotel by 1936.
The rest is history.
Harry Brock’s career as mail carrier at the Post Office would span 40 years. He received awards for his service including the U.S. Postal Service Pride Excellence Award for Outstanding Customer Service for the western region of the United States. In 2008, Patricia wrote in Harry’s biography he later became part of the “Million Mile Club” of USPS for outstanding performance, which included driving 1 million miles over 30 years without a preventable accident.
Patricia Brock said despite various weather roadblocks, Harry “always got his mail delivered.” He passed away in 2012.
In the biography, Harry Brock recounts his opportunity to become postmaster before deciding that it was not his dream.
For him, the appeal of independence delivering mail as he drove down desert roads outweighed a position indoors.
“I enjoyed the freedom and open air,” Harry Brock said. “I enjoyed talking to the people, the few that I met every day.”
Once, Patricia Brock said, she accompanied Harry on his route, which included trekking as far as Bon, Stanfield and Hidden Valley. At the time, he was the only mail carrier in Maricopa. She was dazzled by the desert’s beauty and at the warm relationship her husband had with the rural inhabitants to whom he delivered mail.
“To a few of these people, Harry was the only human contact they had for weeks and sometimes, months,” she said.
He traveled 60 miles a day to deliver mail to 70 boxes when he first started in 1954. His route grew to 160 miles and 400 mailboxes by the time he retired in 1994.
Those figures continue to grow as Maricopa’s population booms. It seems the post office has finally found its permanent home after its harrowing past. Despite the city’s growth, USPS officials said there are no plans to expand its current retail location.
This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.