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Mail delivery was spotty in 1860s

Liberty lore

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POSTED: July 16, 2013 11:00 p.m.

In the 1800s, travel was slow and letters were few, but even then the mail went through.
Post offices in this area, from the earliest records of 1837, were Sunbury, Johnston’s Store (Ludowici), Liberty and Baggs in Liberty County.
Mail service was disrupted in the area during the Civil War (1861-1865). The Confederate government made an effort to establish its routes to correspond with the federal system that it no longer had, but met many difficulties. When routes were set up, service was irregular and generally poor.
Liberty County court records attest to one problem:
The Confederacy proposed to establish its own mail route from Reidsville to Hinesville. Its postmaster general issued a commission to one James T. McCullough, contractor from that route from July 1, 1863, to July 1, 1867. By the time his commission came through, James was serving in the 25th Regiment of the Georgia Volunteers and could not get his release. Finally, by court order of Judge W. B. Fleming, McCullough’s commanding officer, Col. W. J. Winn, was required to produce him to the Liberty County court, where he was released March 31, 1864.
And, of course, in less than a year, that plan was dashed along with all others of the Confederacy.
It is not known what post offices were on that route, but it was not until about 1880 that anything like adequate mail service was restored. Several stations were added that year, and others came a decade later with the advent of the railroad.
The Hinesville Gazette (Sept. 11, 1882) tells of the conditions then:  The mail rider from Reidsville had trouble on his trip last Tuesday. When he reached the Canoochee Creek, the bridges were all gone and the water was booming across the causeway. He had to leave the team and cross with the mailbags in a boat. The same thing had to be done when he came to Taylors Creek, but he boated it and, hiring a team, he finally reached Hinesville safely. After all, the mail must go through!
The roads were poor and kept passable by men in each neighborhood working on them one or two days twice a year. (Times have certainly changed. Last year in Tattnall County, two old farmers were arrested and jailed for taking their own equipment and grading the road by their homes when the weather was so bad, the roads almost were impassable. The authorities said that the men were not educated or trained in the way roads should be graded.)
Means of conveyances or transportation were by horseback, buggies, wagons and two-wheel carts. A mail rider brought mail from McIntosh and Liberty counties to Long Branch, Bull Creek and Reidsville in Tattnall County, making one round-trip each week. It took three days for each round trip. That way, people could send and receive mail once a week, but many lived 12 or 15 miles from the post office and seldom called for their mail.
J. Madison Smith was the first rural mail carrier in Liberty County. He was a traveling postman out of the Hinesville office from 1913-41. He began delivering mail on horseback, and when the roads improved, he used a horse and buggy. For a while, he rode a motorcycle. He was one of the first people in Hinesville to buy a Model T Ford to drive on his route.
Liberty County post offices in 1888-89 were Arcadia, Banner, Beard’s Creek, Dorchester, Fleming, Gertrude, Gum Branch, Hinesville, Johnston Station, Joselyn, McIntosh, Oneida, Paxton, Riceborough, Signboard, Smiley, Taylors Creek and Walthourville.
Some of this information came from Lucile Hodges’ book, “A History of Our Locale,” and Robert Groover’s book, “Sweet Land of Liberty.”

 

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