Cramahe Archives Digital Collection
Eliza J. Padginton - "This Great Lady"
Canada's Longest Serving Postmistress
Eliza Padginton was born in Lakeport, into a family of mariners, fishermen and farmers. She grew up in a “thriving village” which was the port of entry for Colborne, two miles away. The port not only exported a considerable amount of lumber, a primary source of wealth, but was a hub of the ship-building industry which flourished on the Great Lakes in the nineteenth century. Fishing for whitefish and salmon trout also contributed to the village’s prosperity.
E. J. Padginton as a young woman
E. J. Padginton as a young woman Details
Though Eliza’s birth date was recorded on her tombstone as 1862, she gave her age in the censuses of 1901 and 1911 as 36 and 46 years, which would suggest she was only 18 when she left Lakeport in 1883 to take up her remarkable career in the service of Her Majesty’s Royal Mail. Perhaps she was described as being “of full age” when she applied for the post of Assistant to the Postmaster of Colborne, Mr. C.R. Ford, and was therefore assumed to be 21. In 1887 she was transferred to Trenton, where her dedication and courtesy were acknowledged by the merchants of the town, who presented her with a gold hunter-case watch, when she returned to Colborne in 1895. Back home, Eliza served as Assistant to Postmaster, Joseph Cochrane, her brother-in-law, until he died in 1918. She was then appointed to be Postmistress in his place and filled that position until 1939, by which time she had worked for the Post Office for 56 years and was well over retirement age. Advised to keep Eliza on to help him, the new Postmaster, Charles S. Rutherford, persuaded her to stay as his assistant. But in August 1940 Rutherford left Colborne to take up his distinguished military career, so Miss E.J., as Rutherford called her, stepped up again to keep the postal service running, working with the Postmaster’s wife, Acting-Postmistress, Helen Rutherford. Together they ran the Post Office all through the war. When Charles Rutherford returned in 1945, she continued to work with him for a few hours a day only retiring in 1953 after an astonishing 70 years of dedication to the mail service.
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