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Delivering stories of the early post office

By Henry Timman • Apr 13, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Last week I talked about some early postal history from our area and it brought to mind some stories of the difficulties encountered by the pioneer mail carriers in our area. For reasons not known to me, a number of stories of mail delivery in the early 19th century have been preserved.

Joseph Cunningham was born in 1830 and came to Clarksfield Township with his family in 1833. He left a most interesting and poignant account of “mail day” in his boyhood. A post boy (perhaps even a teenager) brought the mail on horseback, entering Clarksfield Hollow from the east. He carried a tin horn on his saddle, which he sounded as he approached so that all within hearing would know he had arrived. There wasn’t a great deal of mail, but the day was second only to Sunday as a day of importance.

A poem called The Post-Boy’s Song appeared in the mid-19th century and gave a vivid description of the post-boy’s lot. The author was Frances Fuller Victor, whose father kept a hotel at Monroeville for several years. Her husband, Henry Clay Victor, was born at Sandusky, where his father also was a hotel keeper. Mrs. Victor and her sister, Metta, are recognized American authors of the 19th century.

Other stories of the early days of mail delivery had been preserved, such as the fact that the first mail carrier through Wakeman in 1829 had no mail to deliver, but was required to make the trip. He appeared with his large pocket book (mail bag) padlocked, but no mail in it. A man named DeBow carried mail between Medina and Norwalk in the 1820s. Thomas Fletcher lived along present Ohio 18 just east of the Blue Fly community in Townsend Township. Fletch cut a hole in a large tree for his mailbox and DeBow carried a horn to blow as a signal that he was leaving a letter in the “mail box.”

People in Florence, Berlin and Milan townships were lucky in having early good roads for postal riders and for stagecoach delivery of their mail. This route actually extended from Cleveland to Fremont — first by horseback and later by stage line. It passed through Norwalk and brought the news of the day with each delivery.

The very first official mail carrier across the Firelands was a man named Benoni Brown, whose route was from Cleveland to a small settlement at the mouth of the Maumee River at present-day Toledo. This was in 1809, and the only house on his route was the trading post of John B. Flamand at Huron. Because of the lack of improved roads, Brown traveled on foot. It was impossible to cross the Black Swamp west of Fremont in one day, so he slept on the trunk of a fallen tree one night on each trip. For 40 miles, he waded through water in the swamp and in winter often broke through the ice.

One Facer carried the first mail from Huron to Mansfield about the time Benoni Brown started his east-west trek. Perhaps the two met at Huron to sort the few letters they carried. Facer passed a few houses south of Huron, but the last one was the Comstock cabin near the aged brick schoolhouse on Old State Road at the south edge of Milan. From that point south to Mansfield was total wilderness.

All of these stores prove that the only constant in life is change.

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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at New Directions Design, 20 W. Main St., in downtown Norwalk. These contain my earlier columns fully indexed and in permanent book form.

 

Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.

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