Editor’s note: Laura Bien’s column this week features two aspects of modern culture that a hundred years from now may have completely disappeared from the landscape: newspapers and the regular mail delivery. The battle she describes – between the press and the postmaster – is ultimately won by the postmaster.
Overnight, he’d become the most hated man in Ypsilanti. A series of editorials in the Ypsilanti Daily Press condemned his actions and character. The paper even published a jeering cartoon, among large headlines detailing his disgrace.
William Lister wasn’t a murderer, rapist, or adulterer. With his wire-rimmed glasses and prim expression he resembled a rural schoolmaster or Sunday School teacher, both of which he had been. But his steady gaze hinted at a steely character with greater ambitions, which was also true. In the fall of 1907, William tangled with one of the most powerful groups in town, risking his reputation and his lucrative government job on a matter of principle.
William Noble Lister was born in a log cabin in Iosco township in Livingston County on the last day of 1868. His cabinetmaker father drowned when William was two. William’s mother Frances remarried and the family moved to Ypsilanti in the spring of 1882.
In 1887 William graduated from Ypsilanti High School. For a year, he taught in a rural school in Livingston County’s Unadilla. He returned to Ypsilanti to obtain his teaching degree from the Normal teacher training college. After another stint as a teacher in the western Upper Peninsula, William became Saline school superintendent from 1891 to 1895 – a first step to greater things.