Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Postal Service - Yesterday and Today

With all the talk in the news about the United States Postal Service cutting Saturday deliveries has started me thinking about mail delivery and the Postal Service in the past.  

As you know, I only lived in Ripley until I was three years old which was when my father rejoined the Army and we moved.  I lived there again during my seventh grade school year in 1969 - 70 while my dad was in Vietnam so most of my earlier memories of Ripley come from those vacation weeks spent with my grandparents.  

The postal service is probably not high on anyone's list of favorite childhood memories, but, once again, it is the differences from one's normal life and routine which is what stands out and is remembered.  I DO remember mail delivery in Ripley during the 1960's.  Now I can't tell you the exact years this happened or the name of the mailman, but I can tell you it was a man who brought the letters and packages to my grandparents' house.  You are probably thinking that this poor Army kid didn't have a mailman which is why she remembers it so fondly, but that is not it.  What was so different is that the mailman in Ripley climbed that Fourth Street hill with his bag of mail TWO times each day!  Once in the morning and then once again in the afternoon!  And...he walked!  

Now, I don't really remember if my mailman in wherever I happened to be living at the time actually walked or drove to deliver the mail, but I can tell you that it was delivered only once a day.  Why Ripley had two deliveries is a mystery to me.  Maybe they really enjoyed writing letters to people or maybe they ordered a lot of goodies through the mail.  Maybe a lot of small towns during those days had two mail deliveries.  I don't know, but it sure made an impression on me.

I own Carl Thompson's book, Historical Collections of Brown County, Ohio which is a great book with a lot of different kinds of information about the county in it.  There is a section about the postal service in Ripley which I found interesting enough to share.  

It seems that the Postal Service in Ripley goes back to 1816 when Alexander Campbell was the Postmaster.   From 1887 to 1891, and then again from 1895 to 1899, a Mary Beyersdorfer was the Postmaster or, I guess today, we would call her the Postmistress.  I don't know if she is related to my Beyersdoerfer's, but chances are she is in some way.  The spelling is lacking that extra "e", but that doesn't really mean anything.  I've seen it spelled both ways for the same person.  

In the early days, the salary of the Postmaster depended on how many stamps they sold or canceled.  In 1885, the salary of Ripley's Postmaster was $1,300.  I imagine that was a lot of stamps that Henry Biehn, who the Postmaster at the time, sold and canceled!

With all our technology, stamps do not sell as well as they used to and UPS and FedEx deliver a lot of our packages.  Letter writing is quickly becoming a lost art so maybe we don't really need the Saturday delivery.  If it comes to that, I, for one, would probably miss going to the mailbox on Saturday for a while, but when I think about it, who needs all that junk mail anyway!  


  1. I own that book with the Campbell info on postal history in Ripley! I used it to write my two books about the Rankin Underground Railroad family who lived where the steps in your photo are. We used to drive through Ripley in the 60's (probably at least once while you visited your grandma) as I was on the way to visit *my* grandma in Kentucky. That's how I first discovered the Rankins. I love Ripley history.

  2. It was good to get your comment! I definitely want to read your books!
    I have visited the Rankin House several times and even have a picture or two of it before it became a public attraction. The steps actually end in the woods that were in the backyard of my grandparents' house. My grandmother told me once that her great grandfather, Joseph Montgomery, helped build the steps, but I've never found anything to prove that story. I'd like to think it is true.
    Thank you again for your comment and I hope you continue to read my blog.

  3. Thanks, Lynn! That's an interesting story about the steps. If I ever find out, I'll let you know.

    I'm going to subscribe so I don't miss anything!



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