The United States Post Office has been one of the most important organizations in the history of the country. Although much of the personal letters are now emailed to friends, family and business connections, the Post Office still serves an important function today as we have seen in the recent election.
The person in charge of the Post Office is the Postmaster and that position is an appointed position by the US President. One of the longest serving Postmasters in Stillwater was Paul J. Arndt.
Arndt was born in Stillwater on April 19, 1875 to August and Roseli Arndt. He received his education in local schools and entered into business when he was young.
He started working for his father in his shoe business as a clerk to begin. He continued his association with the shoe business when he took charge of the shoe department at the Bazar Department Store in Stillwater in September 1902. Only a few months later, he left that position to become the manager of the Charles Chase shoe store.
Arndt was a very active person. He excelled in athletics and was the secretary and treasurer of the Columbia Athletic Club, which had a gymnasium in the Marsh block in Stillwater, in 1894. He was also one of the incorporators of the Stillwater Bowling Association in 1904.
He was active in the community civically, politically and fraternally. He served on the Stillwater City Council from 1906 to 1910. Arndt was appointed Surveyor General of Logs and Lumber in April 1909 and was elected to the Lumberman’s Board of Trade as secretary a year later. He was the secretary of the Democratic Party in Washington County for many years and on the Stillwater Park Board.
He served as secretary for 25 years for the local Elks organization and was a trustee of the Minnesota State Elks association. He was also a member of the Knights of Columbus and a past grand knight of that organization. He also belonged to the Rotary and a member of the Catholic Order of Foresters and of St. Michael’s Church. At one time, he was also the county chairperson of the Red Cross.
In the 1890s, he enjoyed bicycling. In July 1897, he, along with Albert Kranz, left on a bicycle trip to Mankato. Then, a little later, the newspapers reported the he, Kranz and Felix Simonet left on their bicycles for “a trip to Little Falls and return.” Arndt and some of his friends would also spend summer vacations on the shores of Lake Elmo, fishing and “enjoying a good time.”
In 1922 at St. Patrick’s Church in Hudson, Wisconsin, Arndt married Agnes Dwyer. The couple had no children. At that time, he was a manager at the Home Trade Shoe Store located at 208 S. Main Street.
On Dec. 27, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Arndt as the Postmaster of the US Post Office in Stillwater. Arndt replaced A.M. Croonquist in that position, Croonquist had been Postmaster since 1927.
On a fishing trip on July 4, 1944 Arndt suddenly became ill. He was taken to Miller Hospital where he would spend nearly two months. While the cause of his illness was unknown, he was getting stronger and looking forward to coming back to Stillwater. On September 1st Arndt passed away in the hospital.
He was a man of great civic duty and a strong will to do the right thing. He was buried at St. Michaels Cemetery in Bayport.
Brent Peterson is the executive director of the Washington County Historical Society.