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Bulloch History with Roger Allen: Nation, Georgia set up Rural Free Delivery mail routes
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Roger Allen

    Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at the establishment of the postal system in the nation, southeast Georgia and Bulloch County.


    A Congressional resolution passed on Dec. 16, 1823 declared that there were to be 48 “Distributing Post Offices” (or DSOs) established. In Georgia, they were opened in Augusta, the Creek Agency and Savannah.

    The ordinance stated that “Postmasters of (the newly-created) distributing post offices are required to open all mails which are directed to (their) the State.” It directed that here, “All letters…are placed in a portmanteau (or) principal mail bag…An account is kept at the distributing offices of all the letters forwarded.”

    Furthermore, “To give greater security to the principal mails, locks…will be placed on the portmanteaus containing the principal mails (which) can only be opened…at the distributing offices.”

    On Oct. 1, 1896, an experiment in “Rural Free Delivery” (or RFD), began in Postmaster General Wilson’s home state of West Virginia. This RFD became a permanent postal service on July 1, 1902. The creation of these RFD routes replaced the need for so many small post offices. In 1901, the Post Office Department had 76,945 post offices operating.

    According to the 1911 Official Postal Guide, Rural Free Delivery routes were permanently established so that farmers, as well as city dwellers, would have home delivery of their mail.  Georgia’s RFD service was first established in Southeast Georgia in Halcyondale, Oconee and Ogeechee. In 1904, RFDs were established in Daisy, Dover, Guyton, Metter, Millen, Register, Statesboro, Swainsboro and Sylvania.

    An Act to Further Establish Postal Rates on RR Post Routes,” was passed by Congress on Jan. 25, 1839 in order to develop of a formal mail service on certain railroad routes.

    “Maynard's History of the Railway Mail Service,” published in Executive Document No. 20, stated that on Aug. 28, 1864, the first "United States Railway Post Office" train (or RPO) left Chicago. The book “Early Railway Mail Routes” (1994) listed Georgia’s operating post offices that used the state’s railway lines to deliver mail in the 1880s.

    There were two different types of railway mail, with the first, “Railway Routes,” being replaced by the second, “Railway Post Offices.”

    These railway routes had railway postal agents serving at certain depots. In Southeast Georgia, the majority of these railway routes were handled by the Central of Georgia Railroad.

    The Central’s first railway route extended from Savannah to Millen, and the second was established between Augusta and Macon. Both ceased operation in 1882.

    The second type of rail mails were “Railway Post Offices,” or RPOs. RPOs were trains which had a railroad car converted to a mail sorting office staffed by post office employees who processed the mail while underway.

    When the “Register of Officers…In the Service of the United States” was published in 1871, it listed Southeast Georgia’s full-service RPOs.

    These RPOs included the Georgia Railroad routes #6001, #6005 and #6006; and the Central of Georgia Railroad’s routes #6004, #6013, #6014 and #6015.



            Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email Roger at

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