Source: "The Story of Our Post Office"
By Marshall Cushing, Published 1893
Submitted by Linda Rodriguez
Oldest Postmasters of Ohio
Postmaster Andrew Smith, of Wegee , Ohio received his commission November 11, 1856. For several years he had but one mail a day at Wegee on the steamboat route between Wheeling and Parkersburgh. In the fall of 1861 Mr. Smith raised a company, became its captain, and went to war in the 77th Regiment of Ohio volunteers, remaining in the service until February, 1863, when he was mustered out for disability. He did not resign his commission. The post office remained under the faithful management of Miss Amanda B. Shaver.
J. H. Keplinger
J.H. Keplinger, postmaster of Winfield , Ohio , took possession of his office in ’56. The year before he had been made a justice of the peace, and two years later he was commissioned notary public for Tuscarawas County , and his latest commission in that capacity is signed by Governor McKinley. Mr. Keplinger remembers the famous campaign of General William Henry Harrison, in 1836, and he listened to a speech made by the general at Massilon. He walked over forty miles to hear it; but being only a little over seventeen, he was more taken up, as any boy would be, with the parade, the banners, and the ox-teams. Mr Keplinger says:
“I remember very distinctly the live coons perched on high poles fasted upright on wagons, on wagon drawn by six yoke of oxen, with a threshing floor on it, and men on top the floor threshing with flails; and women on open vehicles were spinning flax. One wagon had on it a log cabin; one with a printing press, printing papers and scattering them to the crowd; others with nail machines in full operation, and many other things. In the parade were thousands on horse and on foot. General Harrison with his staff was in the parade, tall and erect, but looking careworn and feeble. The procession marched to the grove west of Massilon, where dinner was served upon long tables, with eatables of almost ever description. One item was fine, fat pigs, with feet, ears, and tails on, roasted to a nice brown, and standing on their feet on large plates.”
David Brobst has been postmaster at Marcy , Ohio , since 1857. In that year he had the mail carried from Lithopolis, five miles away, once a week. The Department paid nothing for this service. After a while Mr. Brobst was allowed three dollars a quarter for carrying the mails, and finally he secured a tri-weekly mail from South Bloomfield, eleven miles away; and again, Marcy had a daily mail from Ashville by way of St. Paul . In the thirty-five years of Mr. Brobst’s service he has probably been absent from his office less than two weeks; and during each year of the first eight or ten in which he conducted the postal business of Marcy, it cost him five hundred dollars or more.
Charles Hornung, postmaster at New Bavia, Ohio , was born in Bavaria in Germany in 1828, and came to this country at fourteen. His father entered 160 acres of land, then a part of a wilderness full of wolves and bears. The Wyandotte Indians inhabited the whole region up to 1842, when they were taken to Missouri . In 1844 Mr. Hornung married and went to farming for himself, and ten years later he added merchandising to his pursuits. In ’55 Mr. Hornung began the manufacture of pearlash, and in 1881 he built an elevator, and in 1882 a lumber mill. In 1848 he had a post office established in his neighborhood and named after the birthplace of a majority of his neighbors. Mr. Hornung was at once appointed postmaster. In ’60 he took the stump for Lincoln , and he was appointed postmaster by Lincoln , March 20, 1861. The first mail route which supplied New Bavaria extended from Tiffin to Defiance , a distance of seventy-three miles. The service was a once a week, and the first mail-carrier, a one legged man named Nurbaum, had a hard time of it in the winter with eighteen miles of woods to traverse, and no bridges across the creeks.
Washington Hildreth, who has been postmaster at Lock, Ohio , since 1861, is a dealer in merchandise. Mr. Hildreth’s office was special when it was established, and it was supplied from Horner, the nearest office, which was fifteen miles away, at first twice a week and then three times a week. Much of the pay of the carrier was formerly raised by subscription. Mr. Hildreth is sixty-three.
John Lemmax has served as postmaster at Whigville, Noble County Ohio, since the seventh day of November, 1861. The nearest post office was four miles away, and Mr. Lemmax was accustomed to hire a boy to go there for the mail once a week. Three other citizens had tried the post office and found the work too arduous for the pay; but as Mr. Lemmax had finally secured a regular weekly mail, and as he was merchandising, he accepted the post. In all of his thirty-one years nothing mailed form Whigville has been lost. In the wartime some of the Southern sympathizers used to give the mail carrier by saying that he was very foolish to work for a defunct government with an unconstitional president, as he would never receive any pay. In 1886, Mr. Lemmax received a statement that the audit of his accounts form 1875 to the time showed that the Department was indebted to him in $2.33.
William H. Wallace
The most notable of the veterans whose terms of service in one locality have been for any reason interrupted is William H. Wallace, postmaster at Hammondsville , Ohio . He has seen sixty-twqo years of postal work. In June, 1830, A.G. Richardson was postmaster at Wellsville, Columbiana County , Ohio , and Mr. Wallace was his assistant. The next year Mr. Wallace opened, in partnership with Jacob Groff, a general store at Mouth of Yellow Creek, Jefferson County , Ohio , and upon his application a post office was established there, and Mr. Graff was made postmaster. Mr. Wallace was his assistant, but at the end of three years, on a dissolution of partnership, he was really postmaster. In 1839 Mr. Wallace removed to Port Homer, where he opened another store. In 1841 he was appointed postmaster at Port Homer by Postmaster General Granger. In 1852 he removed his post office to Hammondsville, in Jefferson County , and was appointed postmaster there by Judge Hall. At Hammondsville he was also express agent forty years ago, and this position Mr. Wallace still fills. He says:
“Old time rates of postage were figured thus: for a single letter carried 30 miles, 6 ¼ cents, called then a fip; thence up to 80 miles, 10 cents; thence up to 150 miles, eleven pence (12 ½ cents); thence up to 400 miles, three fips (18 ¾ cents); 400 miles or to any part of the United States, 25 cents. Storekeepers in those early days were in the habit of taking all kinds of country or farm trade for goods, and where a post office was connected with the store, it was as common to take produce for letters and papers as for goods. The prices of produce varied some seasons, but butter and eggs were always low in summer, the prevailing price being 6 ¼ cents a pound for the former and 5 cents per dozen for the later. To illustrate: to pay postage on a 25 cent letter it required the amount of the following articles separately: 4 pounds of butter, 5 dozen of eggs, 2 bushels of oats, 2 bushels of potatoes, 1 1/3 pounds of common coarse wool, a little over 2/3 bushels of wheat, and other articles in proportion. To illustrate further the cost of the expense of correspondence: Suppose a farmer and family communicated with a New York correspondent and had to receive 32 unpaid letters, he must sell a good milch cow to foot the postage bill, for $8 would buy a good cow. It made it obligatory upon the postmaster, as far as it was possible for him to scrutinize rigidly every letter, and if it consisted of two pieces of paper, then double the postage was charge.”
Mr. Wallace goes on:
“I have travelled in the stage when it took three days and three nights to reach Philadelphia from Pittsburg . One newspaper of small dimensions in the county town for the whole county was a rule, and many in the county never scanned its columns; and it they did, the general or far off news did not come under their eye. Then farmers and farmers’ sons were dubbed clodhoppers. Ask them the governor’s name and they could not tell it. I know of families of some prominence in the county when I was a boy, that never saw a newspaper.”
Again Mr. Wallace says:
“Just seventy-three years ago in the city of Baltimore , I witnessed the hanging, for robbing the United States mail, of the noted Haire and his co-worker, then the greatest robbers of mails. Then it was a death penalty to rob the United States mail. Shortly after was another hanging in the same city that I witnessed. Hutton and Hull robbed the mail not far out of the city, and murdered the driver, Heaps. Heaps and his family lived in the city, and his children were my playmates. There were no express lines, the mails being the only public mode to send money. The villains stopped the mail coach in the night with none but the driver aboard. He was ordered to give up the mail. This he did; but it was concluded, fearing detection and arrest, to take the driver’s life by shooting and stabbing, each taking a hand. They then tied the two horses by the lines to a tree, and made off with the mail. They visited the city next day and were arrested. Hutton was an old offender, and young Hull inveighed as an accomplice. He was only about twenty years old; had studied medicine in Utica where his father, who was a druggist, lived.
“My first trip on business to Philadelphia was sixty-one years ago by mail stage, and I returned home via the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad as far as it was built. The road was made to Ellicott’s Mills, thirteen miles, with strap rail; two horses tandem; capacity of coach twelve or fifteen; rate of speed ten miles per hour. This mode was continued until finished to Frederick , when I was again a passenger; next, pony-sized locomotives from Baltimore to Cumberland , thence by mail state to Brownsville , Pa. I crossed the Alleghenies twenty-six times before the railroad traversed them. The robbery of the miles while en route by stage was common, and for safety at times postillions were brought into requisition. The common was of carrying money by person was to encase it in a leathern belt, or silk bandanna handkerchief and placing around the body next to the bare hide. Stockton and Stokes of Balitmore were the first stage owners that I have any recollection of more than seventy years ago; the next Reside and Slaymaker over the Baltimore route. My first trip over the Alleghenies from Baltimore to Brownsville was in the month of August, 1820, just seventy-two years ago the past August, in my bare head and bare feet. The sun was hot, and so was the pike road.
“On March 4, 1829, General Jackson succeeded Mr. Adams as President, and the way the Postmaster General, John McLean, and the postmasters of any note had to fly the track, was a caution. ‘To the victors belong the spoils’ was the ruling motto. I visited Washington fifty-eight years ago; was formally introduced to General Jackson at the White House by a member of Congress, and had a good little talk. He held in his hand a two-cent clay pipe, which he had been smoking. I also had a good talk with Henry Clay. One day when the House was not in session my member of Congress seated me on the speaker’s chair, saying, ‘Now you can say that you have sat in the speaker’s chair.’
“Neither Philadelphia nor New York was flooded then with periodicals. No Tribune, no Herald, no Times, no Ledger. In regard to men of great wealth, they did not flourish, leaving out Stephen Girard. The Ridgeways were spoken of; Cornelius Vanderbilt of New York was then taking in pennies for ferrying with his skiff, ferrying in his teens; John Jacob Astor and his wife cleaned and prepared furs, and she said they must wait till they would get ahead before they could afford to eat a cooky. Large hotels did not abound in either city. Nearly fifty years ago the Washington House on Chestnut Street was opened. On my arrival in Philadelphia in the morning, after a three days’ and three nights’ stage ride from Pittsburg, a friend said to me, ‘A new hotel has just opened on Chestnut Street; try that for a change.’ I accordingly repaired to that place, entered my name, etc. When dinner was announced, I entered the dining room and there was a most sumptuous repast, and a corps of caparisoned waiters. But behold! Not a solitary guest besides myself; and all the waiters wanted to take a hand at serving me. It was really a strange ordeal to pass through, but I finally came out all right.”
Mr. Wallace was born in Frelighsburg, in the Province of Quebec , Dec. 2, 1811. His maternal progenitors originated in Germany and his father’s people in the land of William Wallace . His maternal grandfather laid out the town where William H. Wallace was born, and called it after his own name. He was a surgeon in the British Navy and descended from the same stock as Victoria . Mr. Wallace’s father was a prosperous merchant and manufacturer in Canada , and when the War of 1812 broke out (being an American, born in Massachusetts , and never having sworn allegiance to the Crown) closed up his business at a heavy sacrifice and left for the United States . He finally settled in Baltimore .
Hiram Smith was postmaster of Bashan , Ohio , until August 15. He was first appointed in April. 1858. During his thirty-four years of service Mr. Smith missed but four mails. One was interfered with by snowstorms and two by high water in the river; and the fourth was lost in fording. He resigned at sixty-seven on account of ill-health and old age. Bashan is a small office in a beautiful country three miles from the Ohio River .
Miles A. Beebe
The veteran of the Cleveland office is Miles A. Beebe. He was born in 1843, in Columbia , Ohio , and went to Cleveland in 1858 to learn the printer’s trade. He was a printer until 1865, when Edwin Cowles, postmaster at Cleveland , appointed him a letter carrier. Mr. Beebe was a ninety-day soldier, but, becoming sick, he was discharged. He worked at his trade again, but out-door exercise was necessary. Cleveland had thirteen carriers in 1865, and some used hand satchels and some small baskets. Mr. Beebe was a delegate to the convention of letter carriers that met in 1880 at Cincinnati to form a mutual benefit association; and though this project fell through, he has always been interested in the welfare of his fellows.