"Neither cold, nor heat, nor storm, nor flood must be permitted to halt the United States Mail"! We all glibly repeat these words, but to our comfortable present-day lives they have not much meaning. However, they meant much to the three men who successively served the water mail route between Bon Secour and Gasque, Alabama.
The first carrier was Mr. William Graham and a tropical hurricane with winds of one hundred and thirty-five miles an hour was the "storm" which finally convinced him that he should leave Gasque. He sublet his contract to Mr. G. M. Galloway, who carried the mail faithfully for many years.
Mr. Galloway began his route in 1917 and carried the mail until 1933 at which time he was succeeded by his son, Mr. William Galloway. For sixteen years the elder Galloway left Gasque with the mail sacks from the local post office and from Fort Morgan at day break in a horse-drawn buggy, and drove five miles along what is known as "the Ridge Road" collecting mail as he went. His destination was Plash's store at the mouth of the south fork of Bon Secour River. Here he fed and stabled his horse, and took to the boat which had been left, tied up at Plash’s Wharf the day before.
In all weathers he rowed two miles to Swift's Landing, crisscrossing the river several times to collect the mail and to take grocery orders to be filled at either Patterson's or Brown's Stores and delivered on his return trip. At Brown's Store he picked up mail from Miller's Bend, then proceeded up the left bank to the Post Office built by Mr. Charles Swift. Here he turned in all mail from Fort Morgan, Gasque, Plash's and Brown's stores, plus all letters collected on the Ridge Road and the River.
He was given the mail to take back and started with the delivery on the south bank, plus the grocery orders, then returned to the north bank with the mail for Joe Brown's store, and crossed again to the mouth of the south fork and Plash's store. Here he put up his boat, harnessed his horse, and started back on the five mile mail route that must be serviced before he reached Gasque. At Gasque the men from Fort Morgan were waiting to pick up the mail. They started out with their sack on a fifteen mile ride that often ended after dark.
In good weather the schedule was tight, but not difficult, since Mr. Galloway was usually at Plash’s store by nine A.M. and at Swift's Landing by ten. He left about ten-thirty, was back at Plash’s store by twelve, because he had to cross the river several times in making his deliveries. He usually left Plash’s by one P.M. and was back in Gasque by four. However, in bad weather it often took much longer. Even the comparatively high Ridge Road could become almost impassable, and rowing back and forth across the river on a windy day could be difficult and time consuming work.
If you have ever ridden down a wet road through the piney woods while the wind sighed in the trees like a lost soul, you know that it also could become dreadfully lonely. Mr. Galloway was glad to see the friendly farmers and fishermen along his route and happy to do small favors for them and their families, and he made many friends in consequence. To some farm wives he was their contact with the world, and he often brought thread or needles or matched materials at the store, or carried patterns and recipes from one household to another. Since the only telephone in the whole area was in Plash’s store he also telephoned the doctor upon request and took and brought messages about relatives and visitors which must be 'phoned into Foley or Mobile. He also took news of good fortune such as new babies, or word that the shrimp were running, and ill fortune such as sickness, so that people knew when to go and care for their neighbors. He often carried a hound pup, or a pretty kitten, or a fresh pie to a neighbor, too, and many a child was indebted to him for a beloved pet. It was a good life, even when the river had thin ice on it and the big boats had to break his row boat a path through it.
Several times during those sixteen years his buggy mired down, and he had to unhitch the horse and ride him, waiting until late in the afternoon on his return trip to get the buggy out of the mud. Sometimes he had strange packages, too. He carried boxes of baby chicks, and once a game cock, and severs times a blooded hound in his box with a wire front. A lady ordered a pair of stays from the mail order catalogue and the package broke open, but he discreetly wrapped it up again, and no one was the wiser. He enjoyed his work and all his friend loved him and looked forward each day to his coming. How ever, one day in 1933, late in the afternoon, after an awful tussle with the boat on a windy river, and a long, difficult journey over an almost impassable road to make his way back to Gasque he suddenly found that, for him, traveling days were over. When he reached home he knew instinctively that he was ill and before he fell into a troubled sleep wondered who would carry the message to Plash’s store to telephone the doctor, as he had for so many hundreds of people in other days.
Mr. Galloway was more fortunate than most men for he had a son who was really interested in his father's work, and who willingly took over the route. Mr. Galloway was a slender man of medium height with sunburned skin and a drooping white mustache. William was taller, but he had a pleasant smile and the obliging ways of his father, so he filled his father's place perfectly. Mr. Galloway could relax for a change and sit on the porch and rock and watch people come to the Gasque Post Office to get their mail.
Gradually, life became much easier for Mr. William Galloway as it has for most R.F.D. postmen. William worked out two more contracts. Then the intracoastal canal was put through the peninsula behind Plash’s store, cutting the Ridge Road off from Bon Secour and making the point what is now known as Plash’s Island. All the country on the west and south of Oyster Bay became another Island and Gasque was isolated from the Bon Secour Post Office.
A hard surfaced road was built from Gulf Shores to Fort Morgan, and the Army, Navy, and Coast Guard put posts there during the Second World War. A mail route was established out of the Foley Post Office terminating at Fort Morgan, and the Gasque Post Office was closed. Mr. William bid on the route and got it. The old horse and buggy had been replaced by a car several years before, now the boat was abandoned also, and there was no more water mail route. The new Route was a better job, but it lacked the old human touch. From Foley to Gasque and from Gasque to the Fort is approximately thirty miles. All the houses on Mobile Point are close to the water and the road runs down the middle of the peninsula. It is possible to ride the whole route and see only a few of the persons to whom you deliver mail. Folks watched for "Mr. Willie" and waved to him, and spoke if they had a chance, but he was not their contact with the outside world as he had been to the folks on the old water route. Because he had a very pleasing personality, he made many friends, but he did not fill grocery orders or match threads and patterns, or take a message to be telephoned to the doctor, or to let relatives know that they were needed. Life was much less isolated and much more impersonal.
In 1941 William's father died at the age of eighty-five years, and it seemed that a whole way of life had died with him and his contemporaries. The old post office at Swift's Landing was still there, and one of Mr. Swift's daughters, Mrs. Charles Wakeford, ran it, but the route from Foley to Gulf Shores never comes closer than six or seven miles to Bon Secour. One of Mr. Galloway's grand daughters works with Mrs. Wakeford in her restaurant called, "MEME'S", so, though the old water mail route is gone, there is still a Galloway at Bon Secour and the friendship continues.
In 1960 Mr. "Willie" himself retired, so now all the mail is carried by someone else and the last link for the Galloways with the "Old Water Mail Route" is gone. For thirty-seven years father and son carried the mail for southwest Baldwin County. They literally traveled through storm, for we had two tropical hurricanes in that time. "Freezing weather" or ice also was accurately descriptive because the temperature became so much colder that all the satsuma orange orchards have been killed. As for heat, it is and always has been hot here from June through September. When we say heat, we mean 95 degrees, and any macadam road is wavy with the heat devils dancing before your eyes at that temperature. The only thing that has improved is the road. Flood means nothing now. There are no mud holes at all to break the speed of the postman's travel and his delivery of the mail.
The Galloways did a hundred thousand kindnesses for which the Government did not reimburse them, but for which they were amply repaid by the love of their friends. When anyone who was reared on the old Ridge Road, or at Oyster Bay, or in Bon Secour thinks of faithfulness and devotion to duty, he instinctively thinks of the Galloways.
Written in 1965 by Charley and Meme Wakeford for their book “Food, Fun, and Fable.”