There once was a post office named Nellie….

No, it’s not the start of a limerick. It’s a true fact that a post office named Nellie was recognized by the US Post Office Department, serving Palomar Mountain. If you don’t believe me, here’s an excerpt from the National Archives’ Record of Appointment of Postmasters indicating its designation in 1883, second line:




Nellie McQueen, whose name appears on the register as the first postmaster, was a rancher on what was then called Smith Mountain. At that time the small community of ranchers on the mountain had to make a long ride down to Warner Springs to get their mail. “Whoever happened to be going, got the mail for everyone,” according to Marion Beckler’s 1958 book, Palomar Mountain: Past and Present. McQueen, an energetic and industrious person, applied on behalf of her community for a local post office and offered herself as postmaster.

It should be noted that she did not request the facility be named for herself when she applied. Energetic and industrious she may have been, but egotistical she was not. She suggested the name “Fern Glen.”

But for their own reasons the Post Office Department preferred single word names. They also said there was another post office with a name similar to “Fern Glen.” So to avoid any confusion they chose the name “Nellie.” McQueen protested that designation but was unsuccessful in getting it changed.

The mail contract was awarded on April 2, 1883. Thereafter, wrote Beckler, “Once a week, ‘Miss Nellie’ (as the old timers called her), saddled her horse, rode down the mountain, up through Mesa Grande to Ramona, returning next day with the mail.”

She did that job until moving off the mountain in 1887. The post office was moved to different locations but kept the name “Nellie” until 1920, when it was re-named “Palomar Mountain.”

In addition to the National Archives and the Beckler book, sources for this post included the 1937 book Palomar: From Tepee to Telescope, by Catherine M. Wood, and historic San Diego newspapers.

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