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Bloomington Mail Carrier Once Guarded the White House

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), a progressive democrat, was the 28th president of the United States serving two terms from 1913 to 1921.  During the course of his administration, the perimeter of the White House was guarded by sixty-six men each night working in three shifts of twenty-two each.  One of those men was Zenos E. Uland of Bloomington.

Zenos was born on August 5, 1900, in Greene County, Indiana, to James and Elizabeth (Robertson) Uland.  After the death of his father in 1902, his mother married William J. Helms in Monroe County and that’s where the blended family settled.

Zenos Uland as shown in a photo at Ancestry.com.

In November 1916, when Zenos was just barely 16 years old and had completed only one year at Bloomington High School, he was visiting his sister, Mrs. William Moffett, in Ft. Scott, Kansas.  It was there that he enlisted in the coast artillery with the hope becoming a fireman.   Much of the world was already at war, although the U. S. had not yet joined its allies.

Soon after Zenos enlisted, he was assigned to guard the White House.  Friends and family in Bloomington heard the news when he came home to visit his brother, Clarence, in November 1917.   Those that might have missed it the first time, learned it from the Bloomington Evening World on March 11, 1918, where  it was reported that Zenos was, in fact, one of ten Hoosiers assigned the task.

After spending four years in the military, including a stint at Ft. Monroe in Virginia, Zenos was discharged and returned to Bloomington.  He worked briefly for the Model Shoe Company where Clarence was also employed.

In March, 1922, Zenos, age 21, married a Bloomington girl, Emma Robertson, which was the termination of a romance begun in Washington, D. C. when Zenos was a White House guard and Emma a government employee.  At the time of the marriage, Emma, age 24 and a former Bloomington High School student, worked as a stenographer for the Hall-Cosler Company and previously was employed six years at the Nurre Mirror Plate Co.  After a brief honeymoon, the couple went to live in an apartment at 314 W. Second St.

Sometime between the time of his marriage and 1930, Zenos went to work as a mail carrier at the post office, a job he held for nearly 30 years.  With the security of a government position and the birth of his only child, a daughter, Nancy, in 1927, Zenos was both motivated and comfortable in purchasing a vacant piece of property at 516 W. Third Street in 1930 to build a home of his own.  This was near where Emma grew up on West Third between Fairview and Maple.  After filling in the front of the lot where a previous home had been destroyed by fire, construction was completed and the young family took occupancy of their new home 1936.

While living at the home where she had spent the majority of her married life, Emma died of a heart attack in April 1951.  In November 1951, Zenos married Olive Fretwell, Emma’s sister and a widow who lived at 720 W. Third.  That marriage lasted until October 1968 when Zenos died.  After his death, Olive moved to Indianapolis where she died in 1973.

Zenos and both wives are buried at Valhalla where they share a single tombstone.  Some years after their death, Michael Wenzler, M. D., a grandson of Zenos and Emma, assisted Bloomington Restorations, Inc. in having a marked placed on the home at 516 W. Third.

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