Athens County Ohio Postal History

At the time of statehood in 1803, there were only 14 post offices in Ohio. The postage rate itself was based on the distance the letter traveled and the number of sheets of paper used, not a uniform rate as it is today. There was no home delivery. People had to go to the post office to pick up all their mail, even if it had been prepaid. A transportation system based on walking or horse drawn carts led to post offices being located in stores, mills, taverns, and even homes every few miles.

Home delivery of mail began in Cleveland and a few other cities in 1863 and spread to over 400 other towns and cities by 1900. Home delivery in rural areas, called Rural FreeDelivery (or RFD), began in 1896 in Jefferson County, West Virginia. The first Ohio RFD routes were established that same year. Because placing a letter into the mail often meant a walk or buggy ride of an hour or more, the postal carriers not only delivered mail but collected it as well. When people had to pick up their mail, there was a need for a post office every few miles or within easy travel distance. With the advent of Rural Free Delivery, this need was greatly reduced. Consequently, a large number of small volume rural offices were quickly closed. Ohio went from 3,376 post offices in 1900 to 1,928 in 1910, a loss of 43% of the operating offices in just 10 years.

Source: Used with permission from Jim Forte at www://

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