Looking Back: Roseville’s first Postmistress was a trail blazer
As the years go by, some stories from Roseville’s past fade like old photographs, slowly diminishing and erasing details from the community’s memory. Today, few know that the intersection of Lincoln and Atlantic streets was once called “Pitcher’s Corner,” named after Charlotte “Lottie” Pitcher – a largely forgotten woman who once made history in Roseville.
Pitcher’s story starts in New York with her grandfather Nathaniel Pitcher, a lawyer and politician who was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1827. After the sudden death of New York Governor DeWitt Clinton, Nathaniel Pitcher became the state’s eighth governor. The town of Pitcher, New York, is named after him. Nathaniel was married to Anna B. Merritt, who died giving birth to their son Edward.
Edward grew up without a mother, and by the time he was 11 his father had passed away too. What scant documentation survives of Edward’s early life suggests that he had made his way to San Francisco by the time he was 25.
By 1852, Edward and his wife Jane had several children, including Charlotte Pitcher. The family ran a stage stop and hotel called the Star House, located just nine miles outside of Sacramento. Pitcher was only 8 years old in 1860 when her father Edward passed away. Jane Pitcher had no other option but to run the hotel and stage stop alone. It eventually became too much for her to manage and she sold the business, purchasing a ranch where Antelope and Sunrise boulevards meet today.
Episodes in Pitcher’s own life were fairly well-documented by the Roseville Register newspaper and later by historian Leonard Davis in his book, “Profiles: Out of the Past.” Pitcher attended school in Sacramento, graduating from Sacramento High School. She later became a teacher. According to the Roseville Historical Society, at one point Pitcher was planning to wed a gentleman known as “Mr. Patton,” though he passed away from pneumonia before they could exchange vows. An extensive search of official records shows that a young man by the name of Robert Patton died of pneumonia and was buried in the Sacramento City Cemetery around this time. It appears that after losing her beau, Pitcher no longer had any interest in marriage.
Pitcher continued teaching for another 20 years throughout Placer County, but later took a break and moved back to her mother’s ranch. By the 1900 U.S. Census, she was listed as a boarder at the home of Mr. Thomas, who owned the Mercantile Store in downtown Roseville. She was also listed as the city’s “Postmistress.” Pitcher was the very first – and the only – Postmistress in Roseville’s history. She tended to the mail from the corner of Mr. Thomas’ mercantile store. Pitcher’s appointment was an impressive accomplishment, especially since most women at the time chose to marry, have children and tend to household needs.
After the death of Mr. Thomas, Pitcher purchased his store and continued running it. She eventually retired, leaving Roseville to spend the rest of her life in San Francisco, where she rented rooms to boarders in a home that was just down the street from Thomas and Teresa Bell’s infamous “House of Mystery.”
On Jan. 16, 1920, Pitcher passed away in her home from a bout with pneumonia. The Roseville Register noted her death and deemed her a “beautiful character of 67 years,” adding that “a large circle of pioneer and later day friends of this city and county will recall this splendid woman and mourn her passing, but the fragrance of her sweet life will ever remain as a gentle reminder of her presence.”
In a time when most women were married off to the best suitor, and automatically expected to keep house and have kids, Pitcher forged ahead as a spirited and independent woman. She supported herself throughout her entire adult life, setting an example for other young women who followed. She proved at the time that there were options in life, and that women could follow their dreams with hard work and determination.