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Historical photo show 100 years ago header

100 Years Ago

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Mail Delivery

While daily mail delivery to your home is taken for granted today, it was a different matter in the early 1800s. James Wells served as Shelby County’s first postmaster for the service established on January 28, 1820, in Hardin. James moved his family to Sidney and handled the mail in addition to his trade as a hatter. John Marshall then assumed the role of postmaster and served Shelby County from April, 1825, until 1841. Mail runs would normally be made once a week and follow a route of selected towns that were established by bids; from Piqua via Hardin, Wapakoneta, Troy, St. Mary’s, etc. By the 1860s, mail sent by Pony Express would take 8 days to travel from St. Louis, Missouri, to California.

A POST OFFICE RETROSPECTIVE as printed in the "Sidney Journal" June 22, 1877

"There are a few persons still living in Sidney who recollect when the United States mail was carried on horseback and arrived once a week. The "post boy" or mail carrier carried along a tin horn slung over his shoulder and, when nearing the town, would urge his horse into a full gallop, coming flying into town, making the hills and dales ring with the echoes from his horn. His horse, foaming with perspiration, would be halted in front of the old courthouse and the mailbag taken into the postoffice. While the mail was being opened the "post boy" would narrate to an interested crowd the number of times his horse had to swim across rivers and creeks and how he had to carry the mailbags on his shoulders to keep the letters from getting wet.

The mail finally being opened the postmaster would take all the letters into his left hand and call off the name to whom the letter was addressed - something after the fashion of an Orderly Sergeant at a militia training. No doubt the first called off would be something like this: "Dr. Ezekiel Thomas." "Here," would be the response.  Then the doctor would step up and get his paper or letter as the case might be. Then would follow such names as Jesse Bryan, John Whitmire, John Blake and of others whose names cling around the early history of Shelby County. This method of disposing of the mail would go on until all the letters had been claimed. As the letters were handed out, postage in coin would be demanded at the following rates from the different cities: Cincinnati, 12 1/2 cents, Pittsburgh, 18 1/2 cents, Philadelphia, 25 cents. The papers then would follow. Only two papers then were taken, the Philadelphia "Weekly Saturday Evening Post" and a monthly paper called "The Casket."

The first mail ever received in Sidney was in the year 1820. It first went from Piqua to Hardin and from Hardin it was then brought to Sidney. The regular mail route from Piqua to Sidney was permanently established in 1824...Ten mails arrive and depart daily, necessitating the handling of about 1,000 letters and 400 postal cards, together with a large and constantly increasing paper mail...The business of the office is such that it keeps almost constantly two persons employed. Every week many tons of mail matter are transferred at the Sidney Postoffice for the different railroads."

'Pioneer' segment written in October, 1997 by Sherrie Casad-Lodge


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