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Postal Service, Gloucester County~1850
by Donald O. Dowling

The history of the postal service in Gloucester County is in large part, as in most other communities, reflective of the history of the County's development and the interest of its citizens.  Ingredients which affect both the postal service and a county's development are somewhat the same.  For instance, it is desirable, perhaps essential is a better word, that a majority of the citizens be able to read and write and to have need to communicate outside one's boundaries, whether to communicate with relatives, friends or on business, plus population growth is a factor.  The point can be better understood by analyzing the following data.

In 1850 there were five post offices in Gloucester County listed in the following table and located on the map below:

Post Office Date Established Postmaster Profession
Gloucester Court House 1795 Thomas B. Taliafero Merchant
Glenn's 1805 Matthew Glenn Lumber Dealer
Gloucestertown (Point) 1818 (Discontinued 1820)    
Woods Cross Roads 1823 Samuel B. Chapman Merchant
Hickory Fork (White Marsh) 1831 William H. Rowe Farmer
Hayes Store 1849 Joel Hayes Merchant/Farmer

The first post office, Gloucester Court House, was located about mid-point in the County.  Glenn's, established 10 years later, was located in the northernmost area.  Gloucestertown, established 13 years later, was at the southernmost area but only operated less than two years.  Woods Cross Roads, established five years later, was in the northern area.  Woods Cross Roads was discontinued for a 6-year period and was also known as Amoryville for a 3-year period.  Hickory Fork, established eight years later, was in the upper-southern area; and Hayes Store, established 18 years later, was in the mid-southern area.  Gloucester's east, south and western (and some northern) boundaries were/are surrounded by water, so it's logical that harvesting and retailing of seafood was one of its largest occupations.  The inland and mid-south to northern areas were mostly farming areas.  Considering the geographical location and slow establishment of post offices, one can theorize where those characteristics mentioned in the opening statement were located within the County.  It is also interesting to note that the Gloucester Point Post Office was not established until 1877 or 102 years after Gloucester Court House, or 59 years after the failed Gloucestertown Post Office.

1850 Gloucesterites who did use the postal system could for the first time purchase an adhesive stamp which was adopted in 1847, in a 5 cents and/or 10 cents denomination, which had the likeness of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, respectively.  Perforated stamps followed in 1857.

Post Offices Receipts Salary  
Gloucester Court House $313.50 $240.00  
Hickory Fork $78.26 $61.20  
Hayes Store $38.13 $31.69  
Glenns $15.90 $14.85  
Woods Cross Roads $25.40 $20.61  

It is interesting to note the geographical concentration of professional and business people as indicated by financial reports submitted by the five post offices and the Postmasters' salaries for 1850 presented by the table inset.  Even then post offices attempted to be self-supporting.

Mail was received in Gloucester by several routes and schedules; however, the majority was received on Mail Route 2459 from Tappahannock, at 4 a.m., Wednesday and Saturday, south to Saluda, Glenn's and Woods Cross Roads, to Gloucester C.H., by 10 a.m., next days.  54 miles and back between 11 a.m., Monday and Thursday, and 4 p.m., next days.  Mail Route 2461 from Yorktown at 9 a.m., Wednesday and Saturday, by Hayes Store, Hickory Fork, Gloucester C.H., and North End, to Mathews C.H. by 5 p.m., 31 miles and back between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesday and Friday.  Mail Route 2465 from Fleetwood Academy, after arrival of Richmond mail, say at 2 p.m., Tuesday and Friday, by King & Queen C.H., Little Plymouth, Shackelford, Plainview and Woods Cross Roads, to Gloucester C.H., by 7 p.m., next days, 62 miles and back between 7 a.m., Sunday and Thursday, and 1 p.m., next days.  (The preceding was copied from list of mail routes, 1851, United States Post Office Guide.)

Sixty-five to seventy post offices have existed during Gloucester's history.  Discontinuance of a great number was caused by changing times, but insufficient justification for initial establishment caused a number to close in a few years.  Today 13 continue in operation.

The data in this article was researched in The National Archives and Postal History Section of U.S. Postal Service, Washington, D.C.  The rationalization and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and to my knowledge do not reflect the opinions of any other person.  I expect and would gladly welcome any comments on points considered controversial or incorrect.

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Last Updated  Friday, 30 January 2004 06:20 PM