Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What We Learn From Early Post Offices

Even though we live in an age of electronic communication and e-mail is the mode of today’s exchange of letters, there still is a fascination about receiving mail by post. If you have a post office box and go there to check your mail, no doubt you spend time to greet someone in the lobby or in the parking lot. You exchange pleasantries, news of the day, and talk of the world situation, politics or the weather (none of which we can change much by talk alone).

If the mail is delivered to your home address and you are there near the time for the postman to come, you begin to watch the clock. If you are away at work when the postman arrives at your address, you most assuredly will check your box soon after arriving home. We may deplore the excesses of “junk” mail. We could wish our bills were not so prompt in delivery. But still there is the fascination for the mail. And so has it been through many a day of mountain mists.

In the last column we sought to locate where Polk, Union County might have been. Noting that the post office name changed from Polk, founded in 1844 to Choestoe in 1851, we listed the known postmasters until the Choestoe post office closed in 1938.

Other complications are noted about Polk as a post office. In the old Coopers Creek District were five post offices: Baxter, Clemeth, Polk, Seabolt and Shopes.

William L. Smith made application for a post office to be named Polk, Georgia on December 23, 1891. It was approved January 11, 1892 and Mr. Smith was the first postmaster. Evidently the authorities at the U. S. Postal Services considered that enough time had elapsed since September 25, 1851 when Joseph F. England “across the mountain” had requested that the Polk office there be changed to Choestoe. That was, after all, forty years in the past.

Polk post office opened in the Coopers Creek District. James H. Shope was appointed second postmaster at Polk on October 15, 1892, but his appointment was soon rescinded. Smith resumed the duties until James H. Cavender was appointed on April 14, 1893. Next was his sister, Mary A. Cavender, who began as postmaster on March 30, 1894. Samuel A. Dixon began duties on April 2, 1895. Polk, Georgia post office was discontinued on October 7, 1897. This Polk location for the U. S. mails lasted almost five years. When the last postmaster had the charge, it was located at his home on Dixon Branch, a mile south of Mulky Gap. When Polk was closed, the mail was routed to the Coosa post office, which closed March 15, 1907.

Baxter post office had an interesting history. It was the forty-fifth post office to be established in Union County. Dates of appointment and postmasters were: David M. Jarrard, June 16, 1900; James H. Cavender, April 15, 1901; Mary Ann Cavender (James’ sister), February 20, 1903; Nellie Cavender Grizzle (sister to James and Mary Ann), January 17, 1935; Mrs. Lillie Gurley moved the post office to her home January 26, 1944 and served until the office was discontinued April 15, 1953. Two of the postmasters served until their deaths: Ms. Mary Ann Cavender and Ms. Nellie Cavender Grizzle.

Clemeth post office in Coopers Creek District was opened June 21, 1880, with Clemeth Cavender the first postmaster. The office had the given name of its first postmaster. It had a short life until April 26, 1887, two months shy of seven years. Yet in that seven year period, there were seven postmaster appointments, some serving twice: Clemeth Cavender, Andrew B. Campbell, James A. Cavender, William Jones, William A. Jones, William F. Cavender and James A. Cavender.

Seabolt post office was located in the Coopers Creek District. The initial application asked for the name Mist, due to the mist from the waterfalls near Coopers Creek Bridge as well as the many morning fogs that left mist like a veil over the valley. The application was approved on May 25, 1903 but not the name Mist. Instead, Seabolt was the assigned name. Seabolt was designated in honor of the first settlers to the area. It lasted the first time until October 31, 1907 when it was discontinued and the mail routed through Suches. However, Seabolt was reopened July 22, 1922 by James Frank Seabolt and operated until July 31. 1924 and the mail routed to Baxter, GA.

The last of the five post offices in the Cooper Creek District was named Shope. The application requested Harkinsville as the name, but instead the U. S. Postmaster General chose Shope after early settlers. Opened August 8, 1880 with Charles W. O’Kelley as postmaster, he served until the office closed March 2, 1883 and the mail was routed to Clemeth.

Applications for new post office charters had to give approximate number of families that would be served by the office, the names of some citizens in the community, and occupations. Even being in close proximity to those the office served, postmasters could not always guarantee delivery for they depended on mail to arrive at their office by a carrier on horseback. The Pony Express of the west had a kindred tie to the station-to-station carriers of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Through rain, flood, snow, sleet or sun’s burning rays, they sought to do their jobs and get the mail on its way.

c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Mar. 31, 2005 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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