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Feature Article on mail delivery. Topic: ORGANIZATION
By Jim Sayre in July, 1999


A decided advantage of Shelby County’s improving road system in the late 19th century was the famous RFD -- Rural Free Delivery. The nation’s first RFD was established in 1896 at Charles Town, West Virginia, where John Brown was imprisoned and hanged.

Shelby County was not far behind in the mail delivery business. Local farmers, beginning in 1898, could receive their mail at home, just like in town, free of charge. According to the Shelby County Democrat, Nov. 25, 1898:  "Shelby county is to have rural mail delivery. Arrangements have been made with the post office department at Washington for one rural mail carrier, with the prospects for three more in the near future. The first route for rural delivery will be to the south through Orange and Green townships. Postmaster Jones said that he hoped that arrangements would be completed so that the first delivery could be made next week."

Rural areas north of Sidney soon came under the rural delivery system:  The first delivery over the new rural mail route will be made July 5. The new route takes in a farming district lying north of Sidney and will accommodate about 200 families. The following is the route: North on Murphy pike to the Swanders pike; west one mile and south to the extension of Union pike; west on Union pike three and one half miles to the St. Marys pike; northeast on St. Marys pike two and one half miles to the Cisco pike; west on the Cisco pike three and one half miles to the Turtle Creek Valley pike; south one mile to the Russell pike; east on the Russell pike to the Wapakoneta pike, thence south to the post office. Charles R. Wells has been appointed carrier. (Shelby County Democrat, Apr. 21, 1899).

The efficient Sidney postmaster, Mr. Jones, moved the first delivery date up to July l as he and Mr. Wells drove over the new route in early June, securing names of persons living along the line (SDN, June 7, 1899).

Postmaster Oldham found that many of the rural residents in 1923 were not keeping up their commitment to good mail delivery. He found less than 5 per cent of the boxes on the rural routes out of Sidney that conformed with the requirements of the department, including post and box painting (white) once a year to improve their appearance (SDN, Apr. 16, 1924). The postmaster also wanted "the name of the head of the family or families receiving mail in the box painted on both sides of the box in neat black letters one inch in height." The article noted that:   ...the carriers have many boxes with deep ruts cut in the approach that makes it very difficult to deliver the mail without leaving the vehicle. Co-operation on the part of the patron would soon eliminate this difficulty. ...a wagon load of good road material will fill these ruts so that the carrier can reach the box quickly and safely.


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