Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at the first road systems in Georgia and Bulloch County.
According to the “Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society,” (1838), the first official postal dispatches were established in Britain’s North American colonies in Massachusetts Bay in 1639.
In Stewart Holbrook’s book, “The Old Post Road” (1962), it was revealed that Charles II, King of England, in 1672 "injoined his American subjects to enter into a close correspondency with each other."
The “British Colonial Series, (of State Papers) of the Americas” further relates that “all letters from beyond the seas were to be taken to the tavern kept by Richard Fairbank in Boston.”
According to Holbrook’s book, the new colonial mail route was laid out in 1673 as the “Boston Post Road.” It was, not surprisingly, also referred to as the “King's Highway.”
The official Report No. 103, published in 1835, stated that the Ordinance of July 26, 1775 provided for “a line of posts…from Falmouth, in New England, to Savannah, in Georgia.”
According to William Smith’s “The History of the Post Office in British North America” (1920), the Continental Congress formally established the “Confederation Post Office” on Oct. 18, 1782.
Then, in the U.S. Statutes at Large, on Feb. 20, 1792, Congress passed “An Act to establish the Post-Office and Post Roads within the United States.” It stated, “Be That from and after the first day of June next (1793), the following roads be established as post roads, namely: From Wisscassett in the district of Maine, to Savannah in Georgia.”
Postmaster General Gideon Granger wrote on Nov. 22, 1803 that Congress had authorized paying one-third more to contractors willing to carry the mails from Petersburg, Virginia to Louisville, Georgia.
Not long afterwards, according to the “American State Papers” (1911), Postmaster General Return J. Meigs Jr. addressed the raging controversy over Sunday mail deliveries. Meigs declared, “Transporting the mails on the Sabbath is (essential to carry it) from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Savannah, in Georgia.”
He added that “If the mail was not to move on Sunday…it would be delayed from three to four days in passing from one extreme of the route to the other.” About mail operations on Sunday, he wrote “(local mail) must be opened (taking from) ten to twelve minutes (up to) one hour; and…does not greatly interfere with religious exercises.”
He concluded by declaring “the nation must sometime operate, by a few of its agents, even on the Sabbath… to convey Governmental orders…and to communicate and receive information.”
All letters being carried less than 150 miles cost 12 1/2 cents, those less than 400 miles cost 18 3/4 cents, and those being carried over 400 miles cost 25 cents. A letter with “two pieces of paper (was) double postage; three pieces with triple, and four pieces (was) quadruple. Packets (being mailed) weighing 1 ounce (or more were) quadruple those rates.
Any newspapers being mailed under 100 miles cost 1 cent, over 100 miles cost 1 1/2 cents. If it was being mailed within the State where printed it cost 1 cent no matter the distance.
According to Tom Kelleher’s book “Mail and the Postal System in 1830’s New England” (1997), while in 1790 there were 75 post offices, by 1830 that number had expanded to 8,450 post offices throughout the new country.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at email@example.com.