Just after dusk on Monday, Sept. 21, Mamady “Wadaba” Kourouma of Kaweah heard the distinctive creaking, cracking, and crashing sounds of another drought-stressed oak. Several large branches had come crashing down near North Fork Drive recently but this one sounded closer.
As he walked over to inspect what surely had to be another downed tree, he saw that the falling timber had struck the Kaweah Post Office.
“I’m a lucky man, I’m a lucky man,” said Wadaba again and again. “I was just in there picking up my mail not more than 15 minutes before. And now look at this.”
It was too dark to see the full extent of the damage but the entrance to the 10-foot-by-12-foot wood-frame building was smashed and the porch was completely covered by a huge branch that had failed and split away from the trunk of the large live oak that has shaded the small post office since it was relocated to this site in 1910.
Within an hour or so, several neighbors came by to see the cause of all the commotion. There was shock and disbelief on the part of all who feared the worst for the iconic Kaweah Country landmark, located three miles up North Fork Drive.
Mark Frick, Three Rivers resident deputy, arrived on scene and determined the mail still in the antique boxes was secure and that no other measures were necessary until the debris could be cleared in the morning. It wasn’t the first time that the future of this country’s smallest continually operating post office was in doubt.
Community response— On several occasions throughout the storied 125-year history of the Kaweah postal charter, locals have rallied to ensure mail service was continued, the most recent being in 2010. The community must mobilize once again to repair the building and restore the mail service.
Kathleen McCleary, who owns and operates the historic post office, said that the dozens of Kaweah postal patrons would, for the time being, retrieve their mail at the Three Rivers Post Office.
A crew from Gene Castro’s Tree Service arrived at 7:45 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 22, to clear the fallen branches. A sign proclaims to the nonstop procession of the curious who have visited the site daily to see the damage: “Do Not Enter Building. Unsafe. We will restore it soon. It will be as good as old.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 23, Tom Warner, a forestry expert from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, said a large part of the old oak trunk could be saved because the portion leaning toward the building is what failed and fell.
“Unfortunately, there won’t be any more shade but it can remain as part of the historic setting,” Warner said.
Historical renovation— Warner also took board and shingle samples for identification so that the restoration materials would be able to match what remains intact. It’s probable, he said, that matching wood material needed for the restoration could be located right here in Three Rivers.
Kathleen McCleary admitted that there was a touch of irony in this latest restoration challenge. There had been a Kaweah Post Office event planned as a part of the annual Living History Day event that will be held Saturday, Oct. 10, at Three Rivers Historical Museum.
“We have been planning for some time to commemorate the 125 years of the Kaweah Post Office along with the 125th anniversary of Sequoia National Park,” Kathleen said. “The fact that now the building must be repaired and funds are needed make this upcoming event an opportunity for a fundraiser.”
Bygone days— In October 1890, the original Kaweah Post Office was established at Advance by the Kaweah Colony, just weeks after Sequoia National Park was created. The first Sequoia entrance until 1926 utilized the North Fork road that was also built by the Kaweah Cooperative Colony.
Accordingto McCleary, the local community and visitors from around the world love the historic post office so more fundraisers are in the works. For the Kaweah Post Office, this will be a chance to receive a much-needed historical restoration.
(2) Visit the Kaweah Post Office booth at Living History Day on Saturday, Oct. 10, at the Three Rivers Historical Museum, or
(3) Call Kathleen McCleary, (559) 561-4055, or email her at email@example.com.