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Most current Blue Mound residents go to their mail boxes every day to see what came. They don’t have to go to the post office. Well, it wasn’t always that easy. In the early days, they had to go to the mail, it didn’t come to their homes! There was no door to door delivery. And, in most instances, there was no post office building. In some small communities, all of the area mail was dropped off at the local store and folks picked it up there. I don’t know for sure when RFD (Rural Free Delivery) came to Blue Mound, but it was likely after 1908 (see information about rural free delivery further down in this article).
Not only did former Blue Mound residents have to go to the postmaster’s house, or to a store, to get their mail; for many years it was only delivered tri-weekly. Evidence shows that to be the case from 1883 until at least 1892 or 1893 when delivery began every day. There is also evidence that the “post office” was likely at a “store” from 1889 to 1900. It appears that it may have been in the general store run by Grace and Haynes (Ruben Haynes is listed as Postmaster from 1888-1890). The same source shows that Drury N. Morris was Postmaster and listed as running a dry goods business from 1891-1900.
So it was that in the “old days” postmasters often operated the “post office” out of their homes or business. There wasn’t a designated building as we have now. This was confirmed by information from several secondary sources. For instance, in the account of the Great Tornado of 1883 by Jim Jones which was published in the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune on 15 June 1983 (a hundred year perspective) is the following,
“Three years before the tornado, Charles McAlear traded farms with his neighbor. The old place was spared, but his new farm was devastated. He had been watching the weather and roused his family just in time for the nine of them to crowd into their 4 x 6 ft. cellar. Charles and a son were barely able to hold the cellar door shut as all the buildings were swept away. The farm wagon, implements, and the orchard disappeared. McAlear had maintained the Blue Mound Post Office in his home. He found one unopened envelope of stamps lodged in a tree. All the other postal business was lost. Nearby the Burner Schoolhouse was also destroyed.”
Another account of the same tornado published in the Chillicothe Crises, (a newspaper) on June 28, 1883 (8 days after the event) by an unknown reporter had it this way,
“McAlear was postmaster of Blue Mound and the office was at his house; the whole outfit is gone. He says the government is very particular about mail locks and he made thorough search for the bags and locks, but can find nothing of anything; all he found connected with the postoffice was an envelope of $15 in postage stamps which he had received from the government and had not yet opened; he found it lodged in a tree.”
The interesting part of this info is that Charles McAlear was shown to have been appointed postmaster beginning April 30, 1884 (see listing at the end of this article) which was almost a full year after the Great Tornado which hit Blue Mound on June 20, 1883! Charles McAlear’s house was just south of what later was the site of the Mount Hope Church.
Another source is from a book, Not Much of Anything: A History of My Life, by Johnny Hoyt. He had this to say on Page 10,
“In the early days there was a post office about a mile southwest of Blue Mound run by two of Dutch Johnson’s daughters...”.
“Dutch” Johnson was undoubtedly Lewis Johnson who was appointed postmaster in 1871 and then again in 1878. The 1878 plat map for Livingston County shows his property with the designation of BLUE MOUND P.O. directly under his name. And, sure enough his property was about a mile southwest of the epicenter of Blue Mound. Harold Maberry sent me the following information about Lewis Johnson:
“Lewis Johnson originally settled east of Dawn when he came to Livingston County. He later traded farms with Isom Groce (about 1 mile southwest of Blue Mound). Isom Groce was likely the postmaster at that time and the postmaster job was likely transferred to Lewis Johnson. Lewis was a German immigrant and not to adept in the English language and allowed his daughters to take care of the day to day operation of the post office which they did until they were married. Amanda married Ben Jones in March 1880. Mary was the last to marry and she married Lorenzo McGrady Haynes in December 1880. However, Mary and Lorenzo (Bud) Haynes took up residence on the Lewis Johnson farm about the time the post office went elsewhere.
Drury Morris (Postmaster from 1890 - 1903) lived east of Blue Mound. I’m not sure where the house was but it may be the same one John Perry lived in.”
All of the above sources of information are considered secondary sources. To date, the only primary sources of historical information that I have found about the post office(s) at Blue Mound are a listing of the 13 postmasters that served the area and three post office site reports. All of this information came from the National Archives and Records Administration, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.
First the appointments.
The register of appointments from the National Archives and Records Administration of the U. S. Postal Service reveals that a post office was established September 8, 1843 at Blue Mound and, with intermittent service, was discontinued March 12, 1908. There were 13 postmasters in and near Blue Mound from 1843 until 1908 (see chronological listing at the end of this article). In alphabetical order they were:
*Mary C. Rockhold was the only female postmaster at Blue Mound. Her appointment was from May 1, 1885 until March 28, 1887. Mary Catharine Knox Rockhold was born Nov 8, 1847 and died June 11, 1887. She is buried in the Blue Mound Cemetery.
Now for the post office site reports.
Post office site reports were forms completed by the postmasters and sent to the Postmaster General in Washington, DC, mostly in the period from 1845 until 1945. The form typically showed the location of their post office in relation to nearby post offices as well as transportation routes and other geographical features. Some site reports included small grid maps of the vicinity of the office to these features.
I requested site reports from all the postmasters of Blue Mound and got only three: William H. Marker dated April 15, 1868, Isom Groce dated February 24, 1871, and Drury N. Morris dated December 10, 1895. The grid maps from Marker, Groce and Morris are linked to below
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William H. Marker’s post office site report of April 15, 1868 showing the Blue Mound post office in relation to Grand River, Shoal Creek, Utica, Dawn, and Coloma
Isom Groce’s post office site report of February 24, 1871 showing the location of the proposed Blue Mound post office, Grand River, Shoal Creek, the road from Carrollton to Utica, and the cities of Chillicothe, Mooresville, Utica, Dawn, Asper, and Coloma.
Drury N. Morris’s post office site report of December 10, 1895 showing Grand River, Mound Creek and the locations of the Blue Mound and Dawn post offices.
Another secondary source of information about Blue Mound post offices is found in A Directory of Towns, Villages and Hamlets, Past and Present of Livingston County, MO by Arthur Paul Moser, March 1981. On Page 3, there are four separate references regarding the post office(s) at Blue Mound as follows:
It is located in Sec. 34, Twp. 56 N, R24W
It was in the residence of Charles McAlear and was thoroughly destroyed by the cyclone of 1883.
Blue Mound (Mound Creek) is a post office ten miles south, south east of Utica.
It is located on Z north of the Carroll County line. Mail via Dawn; population 45.
The first reference to a location above would put the post office about a mile or so to the southwest of Blue Mound. I’m not sure what year this referred to, so have no idea who the postmaster might have been. The last reference obviously refers to sometime after 1908 - the year that all mail service was transferred to Dawn.
There is also a Missouri Post Offices website: http://www.mophil.org/mopo/det/BluD23Li.htm which confirms much of the information above. This website is sponsored by the Missouri Postal History Society. Their purpose is to gather, study, preserve and disseminate information regarding the postal history of the state of Missouri from the pre-territorial era to the present.
What they list for Blue Mound is: “Dates of post office operation: 1843-1848, 1868-1875, 1878-1908" which pretty much corresponds with the other sources.
Rural Free Delivery (RFD)
I got the following information about RFD from the U.S. Postal Service’s website.
“Long after city dwellers began to enjoy free home mail delivery, rural Americans still had to travel to the post office--which was often located in a country store--to pick up their mail. The local post office is a fixture of small-town America. Many post offices also serve as unofficial community centers, home to notice boards and neighborly chats and gossip. Local post offices continued to serve isolated citizens as outposts of the federal government.
When Rural Free Delivery Service began, first as an experiment in 1896 and later as an official service in 1902, patrons looked around their homes and farms for anything they could find to use as a mailbox. As a result, rural letter carriers found themselves face-to-face with a hodgepodge of homemade, semi-functional “mailboxes.” Old coal oil, syrup and food containers were dragged out and slapped on top of poles set out along the road. These homespun mailboxes were often the wrong size for the mail, and rarely placed where letter carriers could easily reach them. Carriers, opening such boxes and finding wet, sticky remnants of the original contents inside, were naturally reluctant to entrust the box with the family’s mail. Mail was never the only thing kept in the boxes, though. Customers did not hesitate to leave stampless letters in their mailbox, sometimes with loose change to cover the postage. Some carriers found eggs and butter left as barter for postage. Local postmasters appealed to the Post Office Department to impose certain requirements for rural mailboxes.
In 1901, after having received a fair share of complaints from rural carriers about the large number of often unsuitable assortment of mailboxes used by their patrons, the Post Office Department appointed a five-man commission to examine commercial rural mailbox designs. Of the 63 mailboxes submitted for consideration, only 14 met the specifications, which meant that patrons who wanted R.F.D. service would have to buy a box from the selected list of manufacturers.
Postal officials had hoped that by selecting 14 companies, the consumer would be able to pick and choose the best mailbox at the best price. Naturally, just about every metal-manufacturing company in the country wanted to be included and the list of selected companies grew quickly. Companies who were not chosen began to complain about a mailbox “monopoly.” The Post Office Department agreed that any company could manufacture rural mailboxes, provided the boxes were made to postal specifications. By 1903, 46 different companies were manufacturing rural delivery mailboxes. Mailboxes that passed scrutiny are still marked “Approved by the Postmaster General.”
Patrons were asked to keep their mailboxes “buggy high” and within easy reach of the carriers. Today, right-hand drive vehicles ensure that carriers can make quick mail exchanges without getting out of their cars or driving on the wrong side of the road. To make it easier for rural carriers to use rural mailboxes, Postmaster General Albert Burleson approved the use of the now-familiar tunnel-shaped mailbox. It was designed in 1915 by a Post Office engineer, Roy J. Joroleman. A signal flag was attached to the mailbox, which the carrier raised once the mail had been placed inside. Customers also raised the signal flag when they placed outgoing mail in the mailbox to make sure the carrier would stop. The signal was appreciated by all, especially on frosty or stormy days.”
Where do you “get” your mail today? I’ve gone from a mail box in Blue Mound, Missouri to a mail box in Columbia, Missouri. The only difference is that now I have to walk a lot further to get to it!
Postmaster Appointments to the Blue Mound Post Office
* Source: United States Postal Service (USPS) in a letter from Jennifer
Lynch (Research Assistant, Postal History) dated May 15, 2000. She stated
in part, “ I am enclosing lists of postmasters and their appointment
dates for the Blue Mound Post Office, which appears in our records as two
separate offices**. Local records or the post office site location reports
(see enclose handout) may help clarify whether or not these offices served
the same community.”
For more information about "Former Blue Mound Postmaster Subpoenaed" click here.
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