The first real air mail service in the United States was carried out, believe it or not, by a balloon. On Jan. 9, 1793, our nation's first president, George Washington, sent a private letter from his office in Philadelphia to be carried to a personal friend in Deptford, N.J.
Records show that the first scheduled mail deliveries of any kind to Bulloch County were made by the "Birdville" mail route riders, who traversed the Wiregrass on their dangerous and difficult journey once a week in the 1800s. This mail service was replaced by the Savannah-to-Augusta stagecoach, whose runs carried mail to Statesboro several days a week.
The stagecoach mail service was then replaced when the Central of Georgia Railway established regular passenger trips between Atlanta and Savannah. Statesboro's mail was carried daily on the train to Rocky Ford. From there, a rider carried the mail on to Statesboro's post office, where it was sorted.
Once the Dover-to-Statesboro railway's line was completed, mail was transferred from the Central to the Dover train and carried directly into Statesboro. When the Central bought both the Dover-and-Statesboro and Brewton-and-Pineora railroads, Statesboro's mail was carried by the Central through trains from Savannah to Dublin.
It wasn't until 1921 that a regular transcontinental air mail service between New York City and San Francisco was established. This trip required 16 separate stopovers, including a major stop in Chicago. In addition, four different pilots were needed to fly the entire run, which took an average of four days to complete.
The signal that modern mail delivery was on the way locally came at 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 9, 1937. Dick Feil, the Gulf Oil aviation representative, flew his company plane to Statesboro to check out the local airport’s landing field to ensure safe landing conditions existed. His job was to help set up the first U.S. Air Mail letter to be picked up by the new private "contract air mail" route he was inaugurating, consisting of stops in Statesboro, Savannah, Brunswick and Folkston.
Waiting for him at the airport were Statesboro Mayor J.L. Renfroe, Bulloch County Commission Chairman F.W. Hodges, Statesboro Postmaster George Groover and Eastern Air Lines Division Traffic Manager R.D. Hager.
Also in attendance were a number of Statesboro's business community leaders, including Sea Island Bank President C.P. Olliff and Bulloch County Bank President S.W. Lewis, as well as Howell Cone, collector of the port in Savannah.
The Bulloch Herald reported that Postmaster Groover announced that a special stamped envelope was available for sale at the Statesboro Post Office. It pictured a cow and a hog, above which read "Statesboro, Georgia: Where Nature Smiles, We Lead in the Production of Cows, Hogs, and Poultry."
Whereas mailing regular letters from Statesboro cost as little as 3 cents postage, to use the new "Air Mail Special Delivery" service required one to buy stamps that cost as much as 50 cents for the new Trans-Pacific mail delivery of letters to Asia.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. He provides a brief look at the area's historical past. Email Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.