Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Richard H. Williams -- Mill Creek Hundred's First Mail Carrier

(Wilmington) Morning News, September 3, 1898
I won't lie to you and say that this has been a burning question I've spent years trying to answer, but the subject of mail delivery has popped into my head now and again. As most of you probably know, rural mail delivery was next to non-existent in the early days, when you had to go to the nearest town or city (of which there were none in MCH) to send or receive mail. A bit later, as populations increased and travel became slightly easier, a few non-urban post offices began to spring up. In our area, Stanton's post office opened in 1825 and the one in Loveville along the Lancaster Turnpike opened in about 1831.

Through the remainder of the 19th Century, post offices spread to the furthest reaches of our hundred. With the introduction of the railroads, post offices began to be placed at or near stations, to aid in the ease of transport by rail. However, even up to almost the dawn of the 20th Century, if you lived in MCH and want to send or receive mail, you either had to go to the nearest post office to do so or pay for delivery by a private carrier. However, by the late 1880's many people began advocating for the implementation of a Rural Free Delivery (RFD) system to be run by the US Post Office. Although there was some opposition to it at first, the idea was ultimately adopted. And lest you think that the idea of those in power pushing for things that would benefit them personally is a new thing (it's not, although the concept may be reaching new heights these days), the Postmaster General who fought the hardest for RFD was John Wanamaker. The guy who just so happened to own a store that offered mail order items.

Nevertheless RFD finally made its way to Delaware in late 1898. And thanks to a fascinating article I recently stumbled across, I can finally answer the age-old question (just go with me on it, ok?) -- Who was Mill Creek Hundred's first mailman? The answer, it turns out, is Richard H. Williams of Marshallton. And also thanks to the same article, we know exactly when he started and even what route he took. To flesh out the story some more, I did a little digging into Mr. Williams and found that he was a pretty interesting and active man.