The Postal Service of the United States in Connection with the Local History of Buffalo
by Nathan Kelsey Hall
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No very satisfactory account of the origin and progress of the Postal Service of the country, in its more immediate connection with the local history of Buffalo, can now be compiled. The early records of the transportation service of the Post-Office Department, were originally meager and imperfect; and many of the books and papers of the Department, prior to 1837, were destroyed or lost when the public edifices at Washington were burned in 1814, and also when the building in which the Department was kept was destroyed by fire, in December, 1836. For these reasons the Hon. A. N. Zevely, Third Assistant Postmaster-General—who has kindly furnished extracts from the records and papers of the Department—has been able to afford but little information in respect to the early transportation of the mails in the western part of this State. Indeed, no information in respect to that service, prior to 1814, could be given; no route-books of older date than 1820 are now in the Department, and those from 1820 to 1835 are not so arranged as to show the running time on the several routes.

The records of the Appointment Office, and those of the Auditor's Office of the Department, are more full and perfect; and from these, and from various other sources of information, much that is deemed entirely reliable and not wholly uninteresting has been obtained.

Erastus Granger was the first Postmaster of Buffalo—or rather of "Buffalo Creek," the original name of the office. He was appointed on the first establishment of the office, September 30, 1804. At that time the nearest post-offices were at Batavia on the east, Erie on the west, and Niagara on the north. Mr. Granger was a second cousin of Hon. Gideon Granger, the fourth Postmaster-General of the United States, who held that office from 1801 to 1814.

The successors of our first Postmaster, and the dates of their respective appointments, appear in the following statement:

Julius Guiteau, May 6, 1818. Samuel Russel, April 25, 1831. Henry P. Russell, July 26, 1834. Orange H. Dibble, August 28, 1834. Philip Dorsheimer, June 8, 1838. Charles C. Haddock, October 12, 1841. Philip Dorsheimer, April 1, 1845. Henry K. Smith, August 14, 1846. Isaac R. Harrington, May 17, 1849. James O. Putnam, September 1, 1851. James G. Dickie, May 4, 1853. Israel T. Hatch, November 11, 1859. Almon M. Clapp, (the present incumbent[C]) March 27, 1861.

The Buffalo Post-office was the only post-office within the present limits of the city until January, 1817, when a post-office was established at Black Rock. The appointments of Postmasters at Black Rock have been as follows:

James L. Barton, January 29, 1817. Elisha H. Burnham, July 11, 1828. Morgan G. Lewis, June 29, 1841. George Johnson, July 7, 1853. Daniel Hibbard, (the present incumbent) June 1, 1861.

In July, 1854, the Post-office of Black Rock Dam, now called North Buffalo, was established. The name of the office was changed to North Buffalo, February 10, 1857. The appointments to that office have been as follows:

Henry A. Bennett, July 12, 1854. Charles Manly, March 17, 1856. George Argus, May 20, 1859. William D. Davis, July 29, 1861. George Argus, (the present incumbent) 1864.

The Buffalo Post-office was kept, during Mr. Granger's term of office, first on Main Street, near where the Metropolitan Theater[D] now stands, and afterwards in the brick house on the west side of Pearl Street, a few doors south of Swan Street, now No. 58 Pearl Street. Mr. Guiteau first kept the office on Main Street, opposite Stevenson's livery stable; then on the west side of Main Street about the middle of the block next south of Erie Street; and afterwards on the northwest corner of Ellicott Square. It was kept in the same place for a short period at the commencement of Judge Russel's term of office, but was soon removed to the northwest corner of the next block above, where it remained until after the appointment of Mr. Dibble. It was removed by Mr. Dibble about 1836, to the old Baptist Church then standing on the corner where the post-office is now kept, and it was kept in that building until after Mr. Haddock took the office. He removed the office to the northwest corner of Main and Seneca Streets, where it remained until it was removed, in August, 1858, into the Government building in which it is now.

The gross receipts of the post-office at Buffalo, for the years given in the following table, have been as follows:

1805 $ 90.83 1825 $ 2,840.60 1806 120.13 1830 6,695.34 1807 122.82 1835 19,219.34 1808 173.63 1840 25,501.49 1809 217.49 1845 22,681.26 1810 291.46 1850 39,644.01 1812 963.61 1855 47,458.67 1813 Imperfect returns. 1860 44,800.94 1814 488.37[E] 1862 55,265.57[F] 1815 1,932.98 1863 48,238.53 1820 1,463.21

The gross receipts at the offices of Black Rock, Black Rock Dam and North Buffalo, for the years named have been as follows:

At Black Rock:

1817 $ 56.88 1845 $ 467.32 1818 134.34 1850 776.62 1819 237.96 1855 420.24 1820 239.38 1860 317.74 1825 737.41 1862 389.50 1830 493.08 1863 461.52 1835 617.49 1864} 234.52 1840 712.77 to July 1.}

At Black Rock Dam (North Buffalo):

1854 $ 108.47 1862 $ 463.27 1855 419.82 1863 650.73 1860 303.15 1864} 319.75 1861 307.20 to July 1.}

The aggregate amount of the postage received at the different post-offices must always depend, in a greater or less degree, upon the extent and frequency of the mail transportation by which such offices are supplied, and the rates of postage charged, as well as upon the number, education, character and occupation of the population within the delivery of such offices. Other causes, some of them local or temporary, may at times affect the revenue of an office, but only the population of the neighborhood, the frequency and extent of the transportation service, and the general rates of letter postage, will be here considered.

The first census under the authority of the United States was taken in 1790; probably in July and August of that year. In that portion of New York lying west of the old Massachusetts preemption line it was taken by General Amos Hall, as Deputy Marshal, and an abstract of his list or census-roll is given in Turner's "History of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase." The number of heads of families then residing west of Genesee River, and named in that list, was 24; but it is probable that the deputy marshal did not visit this locality, as neither Winney the Indian trader, nor Johnston the Indian agent and interpreter, is named; although it is probable that both of them resided here. Winney, it is quite certain, was here in 1791, and it is supposed came about 1784.

The whole population west of the Massachusetts preemption line, which was a line drawn due north and south across the State, passing through Seneca Lake and about two miles east of Geneva, as given by Turner from General Hall's census-roll, was 1,084, as follows: males, 728; females, 340; free blacks, 7; slaves, 9. In the State census report of 1853, the population of Ontario County in 1790 (which county then embraced all that territory) is stated at 1,075. The difference between the two statements is caused by the omission of the slaves from the latter statement. In 1800 the population of the same territory (then the Counties of Ontario and Steuben) was 15,359 free persons and 79 slaves.

In 1808 the County of Niagara (embracing the present counties of Niagara and Erie) was organized, and its population in 1810 was 6,132. Of these 1,465 were inhabitants of the present County of Niagara, and 4,667 of the present County of Erie. There were then in the county 8 slaves, which number should probably be added to the aggregate above stated.

In 1820 the population of Niagara County was 18,156, of which 10,834 were inhabitants of the present County of Erie. There were then 15 slaves in the whole County of Niagara.

In 1821, the County of Erie was organized with its present boundaries. Its population at each census since has been as follows, viz: 1825, 24,316; 1830, 35,719; 1835, 57,594; 1840, 62,465; 1845, 78,635; 1850, 100,993; 1855, 132,331; and 1860, 141,791.

It is probable that in 1790, Winney and Johnston were the only white residents upon the territory now embraced within our city limits. In 1796, there were but four buildings in all that territory—as stated by the late Joseph Landon. In 1807, there were about a dozen houses. This number, it is said, had increased to more than 200 houses, when, on the 31st of December, 1813, the village was burned by the British and Indians;—only the house of Mrs. St. John, Reese's blacksmith shop, the gaol, and the uncovered frame of a barn escaping the general conflagration.

The white population of the territory now comprised in our city limits did not, in 1800, probably exceed 25. The earliest census report which gives any information in regard to its population is that of 1810 when the population was 1,508. It was 1,060 in 1814; 2,095 in 1820; 5,141 in 1825; 8,668 in 1830; 21,838 in 1840; 34,606 in 1845; 49,769 in 1850; 74,214 in 1855; and 81,129 in 1860. It is believed that it is now about 100,000.

But little reliable information in regard to the transportation of the mails west of Albany from 1800 to 1824, can now be obtained; and as the transportation service and the origin and progress of the system of posts, by which, even now, much of this transportation service is performed, are believed to be the most interesting of the topics of the present paper (as that service itself is the most essential of those connected with the Post-office establishment), it has been deemed proper to refer to the probable origin of that system;—a system which in its continued extension and constant improvement, has grown into the Post-office establishment of the present day. These are now, almost universally under the control of the State or sovereign power, and they are certainly among the most important and beneficent of the institutions of civil government.

It is said that the Assyrian and Persian monarchs had their posts, at a day's journey from each other, with horses saddled, ready to carry with the utmost dispatch, the decrees of these despotic rulers. In the Roman Empire, couriers on swift horses carried the imperial edicts to every province. Charlemagne, it is said, established stations for carriers who delivered the letters and decrees of the court in the different and distant parts of his dominions. As early as the XIth Century the University of Paris had a body of pedestrian messengers, to carry letters and packets from its thousands of students to various parts of Europe, and to tiring money, letters and packets in return. Posts for the transmission of Government messages were established in England in the XIIIth Century, and in 1464 Louis XI. established a system of mounted posts, stationed four French miles apart, to carry the dispatches of the Government.

Government posts, as the convenience and interest of the people at large began to receive some attention from their rulers, were at times allowed to carry private letters, and private posts for the transmission of general correspondence were sometimes established. This was at first but an irregular and uncertain service, without fixed compensation; but considerable regularity, order and system were the results of the public appreciation of their convenience, and of the gradual improvements which followed their more general employment.

In 1524 the French posts—which had previously carried only the letters of the King and nobles—were first permitted to carry other letters; and in 1543 Charles V., Emperor of Germany, established a riding post throughout his dominions. It was not until the reign of James I. that a system of postal communication was established in England, although Edward IV., in 1481, had established posts twenty miles apart, with riders, to bring the earliest intelligence of the events of the war with the Scots. It was not until about 1644 that a weekly conveyance of letters, by post, was established throughout that kingdom. Mail coaches were first used at Bristol, in England, in 1784. They were placed on the post routes in 1785, and their use became general throughout England.

The mail service of North America, which in its magnitude and regularity, and in the extension of its benefits to every settlement and fireside, has, it is believed, no superior, probably had its beginning in private enterprise; although perhaps sanctioned at the very outset, by local authority.

As early as 1677 Mr. John Hayward, scrivener, of Boston, Mass., was appointed by the General Court to take in and convey letters according to their direction. This was probably the first post-office and mail service authorized in America. Other local arrangements, necessarily very imperfect in their character, were made in different colonies soon after; some of them having the sanction of Colonial Governors or Legislatures.

Thomas Dongan, the Governor of New York under the Duke of York, in a letter to the Duke's secretary, dated February 18, 1684, says:

You are pleased to say I may set up a post-house, but send me noe power to do it. I never intended it should be expensive to His Royal Highness. It was desired by the neighboring colonies, and is at present practiced in some places by foot messengers.

In the same letter Gov. Dongan says he will endeavor to establish a post-office in Connecticut and at Boston. Under date of August 27, 1684, Sir John Werden, the Duke's secretary, wrote to Gov. Dongan:

As for setting up post-houses along the coast from Carolina to Nova Scotia it seems a very reasonable thing, and you may offer the privilege thereof to any undertakers for ye space of 3 or 5 years, by way of farm; reserving wt part of ye profit you think fit to the Duke.

At least as early as January, 1690, there was what was called a public post between Boston and New York, and in 1691 there was a post of some kind from New York to Virginia, and from New York to Albany. This was during the war with the French, and these posts were probably established by the military authorities.

On the 4th of April, 1692, Thomas Neele, having obtained a patent to establish post-offices throughout the American colonies, appointed Andrew Hamilton (afterwards Governor of New Jersey), his deputy for all the plantations. Mr. Deputy Hamilton brought the subject before Gov. Fletcher and the New York Colonial Assembly in October following, and an Act was immediately passed "for encouraging a post-office."

In 1705 Lord Cornbury, the Governor of New York, informed the Lords of Trade of the passage by the New York Assembly of "an Act for enforcing and continuing a post-office," which he recommended His Majesty to confirm "as an act of necessity," without which the post to Boston and Philadelphia would be lost.

In 1710 the British Parliament passed an Act authorizing the British Postmaster-General "to keep one chief letter-office in New York and other chief letter-offices in each of His Majesty's Provinces or Colonies in America." Deputy Postmasters-General for North America were afterwards, and from time to time, appointed by the British Postmaster-General in England. Dr. Franklin was appointed to that office in 1755, and it is said that in 1760 he startled the people of the colonies by proposing to run a "stage waggon" from Boston to Philadelphia once a week, starting for each city on Monday morning and reaching the other by Saturday. In 1763 he spent five months in traveling through the Northern Colonies for the purpose of inspecting and improving the post-offices and the mail service. He went as far east as New Hampshire, and the whole extent of his five months' tour, in going and returning, was about sixteen hundred miles. He made such improvements in the service as to enable the citizens of Philadelphia to write to Boston and get replies in three weeks instead of six weeks, the time previously required.

In 1774 Dr. Franklin was removed from office; and on the 25th of December, 1775, the Secretary of the General Post-Office gave notice that, in consequence of the Provincial Congress of Maryland having passed a resolution that the Parliamentary post should not be permitted to travel on a pass through that province, and of the seizure of the mails at Baltimore and Philadelphia, the Deputy Postmaster-General was "obliged, for the present, to stop all the posts." It is supposed that this terminated the regular mail service in the old Thirteen Colonies, and that it was never resumed under British management.

Before this suspension of the Parliamentary posts, Mr. William Godard of Baltimore had proposed to establish "an American Post-office"; and in July, 1774, he announced that his proposals had been warmly and generously patronized by the friends of freedom, and that postmasters and riders were engaged. During the preceding six months he had visited several of the colonies in order to extend and perfect his arrangements, and there appears to have been a very general disposition to abandon the use of the British post and sustain that established by Mr. Godard. In May, 1775, Mr. Godard had thirty postmasters, but Mr. John Holt of New York City was the only one in this State. In that year partial arrangements for mail service in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts were made by the Provincial Congress of each of those Colonies.

The old Continental Congress first assembled in September, 1774; and on the 26th of July, 1775, it resolved "that a Postmaster-General should be appointed for the United Colonies who should hold his office at Philadelphia and be allowed a salary of $1,000 for himself and $340 for his secretary and comptroller; and that a line of posts should be appointed, under the direction of the Postmaster-General, from Falmouth, in New England, to Savannah, in Georgia." Dr. Franklin was then unanimously chosen Postmaster-General. The ledger in which he kept the accounts of his office is now in the Post-office Department. It is a half-bound book of rather more than foolscap size, and about three-fourths of an inch thick, and many of the entries are in Dr. Franklin's own handwriting. Richard Bache succeeded Dr. Franklin November 7, 1776, and Mr. Bache was succeeded by Ebenezer Hazard.

The Articles of Confederation, adopted in 1778, gave to the United States, in Congress assembled, "the sole and extensive right and power of establishing and regulating post-offices from one State to another"; but the increase of mail service was comparatively trifling until after the organization of the Post-office Department by the first Congress which assembled under the Constitution of the United States. This gave it efficiency and value, and provided for the early extension of its benefits to the inhabitants of the several States.

The National Congress, organized under the Constitution, commenced its first session on the 4th of March, 1789, but it was not until September 22, 1790, that an Act was passed for establishing, or rather continuing, the postal service. The Act then passed provided that a Postmaster-General should be appointed, and that the regulations of the Post-office should be the same as they last were under the resolutions and ordinances of the Congress of the Confederation.

In 1790 there were but seventy-five post-offices and 1,875 miles of post-roads in the United States, and the whole amount of postages received for that year was $37,935. The population of the United States, as shown by the census of that year, was only 3,929,827; and the whole mail service was performed upon our seaboard line, passing through the principal towns from Wiscassett in Maine, to Savannah in Georgia, and upon a few cross or intersecting lines, on many portions of which the mail was carried only once a fortnight.

On the 3d of March, 1791, the Postmaster-General was authorized to extend the carrying of the mail from Albany to Bennington, Vermont. It is probable that the post-office at Albany was a special office until late in that year, as in an official list of post-offices, with their receipts for the year ending October 5, 1791, New York is the only office in this State; and by an official statement dated April 24, 1790, it appears that the contractor from Albany to New York received the postages for carrying the mail, and that that was the only mail service in this State north or west of New York City.

It is stated in a "History of Oneida County" that the first mail to Utica was brought by Simeon Post in 1793, under an arrangement with the Post-office Department authorizing its transportation from Canajoharie to Whitestown at the expense of the inhabitants on the route; and that in 1793 or 1794, the remarkable fact that the Great Western Mail, on one arrival at Fort Schuyler (Utica), contained six letters for that place, was heralded from one end of the settlement to the other. It is added that some were incredulous, but the solemn and repeated assurances of the veracious Dutch postmaster at last obtained general credence.

On the 8th of May, 1794, sundry post-routes were established, among which is one "from Albany by Schenectady, Johnstown, Canajoharie and Whitestown, to Canandaigua"; and in July, 1794, four-horse "stages" were run from Albany to Schenectady daily. The passenger fare by these stages was only three cents per mile.

On the 31st of July, 1794, the Postmaster-General, Timothy Pickering, advertised in the Albany Gazette for proposals for carrying the mails in this State, as follows: (1.) "From New York by Peekskill, Fishkill, Poughkeepsie, Rhinebeck, Redhook, Clermont, Hudson and Kinderhook to Albany," to leave New York every Monday and Thursday at 4 p. m., and arrive at Albany on Wednesday and Saturday by 7 in the evening. (2.) "From Albany by Schenectady, Johnstown and Canajoharie to Whitestown," to leave Albany every Thursday at 10 a. m., and arrive at Whitestown on Saturday by 6 p. m. (3.) "From Canajoharie through Cherry Valley to the Court House in Cooperstown," to leave every Friday at 4 p. m., and arrive on Saturday by 1 p. m. (4.) "From Whitestown to Canandaigua once in two weeks"; to leave Whitestown every other Monday at 8 a. m., and arrive at Canandaigua the next Thursday by 2 p. m. This advertisement bears date July 8, 1794. It does not state the mode of conveyance required.

On the 3d of March, 1797, Congress established a post-road "from Kanandaigua in the State of New York, to Niagara." This route was run through Avon and LeRoy, and probably through Batavia, and thence on the north side of the Tonawanda Creek, and through the present town of Lockport to Niagara.

In the "History of Onondaga County" it is stated that a Mr. Langdon first carried the mail through that county on horseback from Whitestown to Genesee in 1797 or 1798[G]; that he distributed papers and unsealed letters by the way before intermediate offices were established; that a Mr. Lucas succeeded Mr. Langdon in transporting the mail, which, in 1800, had become so heavy as to require a wagon to transport it that the first four-horse mail-coach was sent through in 1803; and that in 1804 Jason Parker ran a four-horse mail-coach twice a week from Utica to Canandaigua. From an advertisement at Canandaigua, copied by Turner, it appears that a mail-coach was that year run twice a week between Albany and Canandaigua.

It is stated in Turner's "History of Phelps and Gorham's Purchase" (p. 174), that Luther Cole was the first to carry the mail from Whitestown to Canandaigua—on horseback when the roads would allow, but often on foot. The same history states that the mail-route from Canandaigua to Niagara was established "about 1798" (1797) and that the mail was carried through by Jasper Marvin—who sometimes dispensed with mail-bags and carried the mail in his pocket-book—and that he was six days in going and returning. The route, it is stated, was the usual one from Canandaigua to Buffalo and then down the river on the Canada side, to Fort Niagara; but other, and it is believed more reliable authority states, that the mail at this time was carried through Cold Springs, in the present town of Lockport, and did not pass through Buffalo Creek.

The surveys upon the Holland Land Company's Purchase were commenced in the spring of 1798, and the first wagon track on the Purchase was opened that year. Before that time parties came through from Canandaigua on the old Indian Trail. In 1802, Mr. Ellicott, the Holland Land Company's agent, procured the establishment of a post-office at Batavia, and the appointment of James Brisbane as postmaster.[H]

In 1804 the Holland Land Company's survey of the inner lots of the present City of Buffalo was made, and on the 26th of March in that year Congress passed an Act in relation to post-routes which provides that the post-route from Canandaigua to Niagara shall pass by Buffalo Creek. From this it is clearly to be inferred that the mail to Niagara had been previously carried upon a different route, as above stated.

In the Buffalo Directory of 1828 is the following statement:

The first mail received here was in March, 1803, on horseback. It was conveyed from the East once in two weeks, in this manner, until 1805. A weekly route was then established and continued until 1809. In 1810 the mode of conveyance was changed and a stage-wagon was used.

This statement is substantially repeated in several subsequent directories and is probably nearly correct; although it will be recollected that the post-office at Buffalo was not established until September, 1804, and it appears by extracts from a Canandaigua paper that a "stage road to Niagara" was advertised, in 1808, to leave Canandaigua every Monday, at 6 o'clock a. m., and arrive at Niagara via Buffalo every Thursday at 3 a. m. These stages were run by John Metcalf, who, in April, 1807, had obtained from the Legislature of this State a law giving him the exclusive right, for some years, of running stages from Canandaigua to Buffalo, and imposing a fine of $500 on any other person running wagons on said route as a stage line. He was required to provide at least three wagons and three stage sleighs with sufficient coverings and a sufficient number of horses. The fare was not to exceed six cents a mile for a passenger and fourteen pounds of baggage; and for every one hundred and fifty pounds additional baggage he was to be entitled to charge six cents a mile or in that proportion. He was to start on regular days, and between the first day of July and first day of October he was to accomplish said route between Canandaigua and Buffalo at least once in a week, unavoidable accidents excepted.

In a report made to Congress by the Hon. Gideon Granger, Postmaster-General, on the 21st of February, 1810, it is stated that in March, 1799, it required to write from Portland to Savannah and receive an answer forty days, and that it then required but twenty-seven; that in 1799 it required between New York and Canandaigua twenty days, and then required but twelve; and that most if not all the other mails have been expedited proportionably according to their relative importance.

On the 18th of April, 1814, Congress established a post-route "from Sheldon, by Willink and Hamburg, to Buffalo," and it appears from the books of the Post-office Department that mail service, once in two weeks, leaving Sheldon every other Friday at 6 a. m. and arriving at Buffalo the next day at 10 a. m., and leaving Buffalo the same day at 12 m. and arriving at Sheldon the next day by 8 p. m., was the same year put upon the route.

In 1815, the mail was carried from Buffalo to Erie once a week, leaving Buffalo on Saturday at 12 m. and arriving at Erie on Monday at 6 p. m., and leaving Erie Tuesday at 6 a. m. and arriving at Buffalo on Thursday by 10 a. m.

In 1816, the mail between Buffalo and Youngstown was carried twice a week, twelve hours being allowed for a trip either way.

On the 3rd of March, 1817, a post-route "from Moscow by the State road to Buffalo," and one "from Canandaigua, by Bristol, Richmond, Livonia and Genesee to Sheldon" were established.

About the first of the year 1819 the post-office at Buffalo was made a distributing office, and it has continued to be a distributing office ever since.

From 1820 to 1824, the arrangements of the Department for mail service from New York City to Buffalo, thence to Niagara, and from Buffalo to Erie, Pa., were as follows:—Leave New York daily at 9 a. m., and arrive at Albany next day by 8.30 p. m.; leave Albany at 2 a. m. and arrive at Utica the same day by 9 p. m. (10 p. m. in winter); leave Utica the next day at 6 a. m. and arrive at Canandaigua the next day at 8 p. m.; leave Canandaigua at 6 a. m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and arrive at Buffalo the next day at 6 p. m.; leave Buffalo Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 6 a. m. and arrive at Niagara the same day at 6 p. m.; and also to leave Buffalo Tuesdays at 2 p. m. and arrive at Erie the next day by 6 p. m. It will thus be seen that a letter which left New York on Monday morning at 9 o'clock would reach this city at 6 o'clock the next Sunday evening, and Erie three days later, if the mails were not behind time. This frequently happened in bad weather, and it is possible that the interest of contractors, as connected with the transportation of passengers, sometimes induced them to reach Buffalo in advance of their schedule time.

On the 3rd of March, 1823, a post-route was established "from Buffalo in Erie to Olean in the County of Cattaraugus, passing through the towns of Boston, Concord and Ellicottville."

On the 14th of July, 1824, the mail routes by which the Buffalo office was supplied, and the service thereon, were as follows: Canandaigua to Buffalo, three times a week; Niagara to Buffalo, three times a week; Erie to Buffalo, twice a week; and Moscow to Buffalo, once a week.

From 1824 to 1828, the mail was generally carried from New York to Albany by steamboats, six times a week, during the season of navigation, and probably three times a week, by land, in winter; and the mail from Buffalo to Albany was carried twice a week, by one line in three days and four hours, and by the other in four days. The mails from Buffalo to Youngstown and from Buffalo to Erie were carried each way three times a week.

It is stated in the Buffalo Directory of 1828, that the number of mails then arriving and departing weekly from the Buffalo post-office was thirty-five. An advertisement by the late Bela D. Coe, Esq., states that the Pilot mail-coach left Buffalo every evening, arrived at Geneva the first day, Utica the second, and Albany the third; and that the Diligence coach left Buffalo every morning at 8 o'clock, arrived at Avon the first night, Auburn the second, Utica the third, and Albany the fourth.

On the 15th of June, 1832, a post-route was established "from Buffalo, Erie County, by Aurora, Wales, Holland, Sardinia, China, Fredonia, Caneadea and Belfast to Angelica in Allegany County"; after which no other post-routes, commencing or terminating at Buffalo, were established prior to 1845, except that by the Act of July 7, 1838, all the railroads then existing (in which the Buffalo & Niagara Falls Railroad must be included), or thereafter to be completed in the United States, were declared post-roads, and the Postmaster-General was thereby authorized, under certain restrictions, to contract for carrying the mails thereon.

As the last link in the chain of railroads from Albany to Buffalo was completed early in 1843, there was then, or soon after, continuous mail transportation by railroad from Boston, through Worcester, Springfield and Albany to Buffalo. The completion of the Hudson River Railroad, and of the New York and Erie Railroad in 1851, gave us direct railroad communication with New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, and the completion of the Buffalo & State Line Railroad and other roads in or before 1852, gave us further railroad service for the supply of the Buffalo office.

As the receipts of our post-office are, to a large extent, determined by the rates of postage charged, especially of letter postage, which probably constitutes nine-tenths of those receipts, a very brief statement in regard to the rates of letter postage since the post-office of Buffalo Creek was established, will form the concluding portion of this paper.

From 1792 until 1845 the single rate of letter postage was charged on each single letter, and an additional single rate on each additional piece of paper; and if a single or other letter weighed an ounce or more it was charged four single rates for each ounce. During this period of fifty-three years—from 1792 to 1845—the changes in the rates of inland letter postage were very slight. There were generally from five to eight different single rates, according to the distance the letter was carried, the lowest being, at different times, six or eight cents, and the highest uniformly twenty-five cents, except for a short period, near the close of the War of 1812, when, in consequence of the expenses of the war, the rates were temporarily increased fifty per cent.

From 1816 to 1845 the rate for a single letter carried not over thirty miles was 6-1/4 cents; over thirty and under eighty miles, 10 cents; over eighty and under one hundred and fifty miles, 12-1/2 cents; over one hundred and fifty and under four hundred miles, 18-3/4 cents; and over four hundred miles, 25 cents.

By an Act of Congress passed in 1845, the rate of inland letter postage (after the 1st of July in that year), was fixed, irrespective of the number of pieces of paper contained in a letter, as follows: For a letter not exceeding half an ounce in weight, carried under three hundred miles, 5 cents; over three hundred miles, 10 cents, and an additional rate for every additional half ounce or fraction of half an ounce. Drop letters and printed circulars were by the same Act, to be charged 2 cents each. This was considered by the Post-office Department as an average deduction of 53 per cent. from the previously existing rates.

In 1851 an Act was passed which reduced the single rate of inland letter postage (from and after the 30th of June in that year), for any distance not exceeding three thousand miles, to 3 cents, when prepaid, and 5 cents when not prepaid; and for any distance over three thousand miles to 6 cents when prepaid and 10 cents when not prepaid. Drop letters and also unsealed printed circulars for any distance not exceeding five hundred miles were, by the same Act, to be charged 1 cent each. This, it is believed, was an average reduction of about fifty per cent. on the reduced rates of inland letter postage established by the Act of 1845. These rates did not apply to foreign letters, for which different provision was made.

The Postal Treaty with Great Britain made in 1848, the postal arrangements made in 1851 for direct and frequent postal communication with the Canadas and other British Provinces, and the postal arrangements soon after made with Prussia and other foreign countries, increased to a considerable extent the amount of postages received at the Buffalo offices on letters sent to and received from foreign countries.

In 1855 an Act was passed under which all inland postage was required to be prepaid and which fixed the single rate of inland letter postage for any distance not exceeding three thousand miles at 3 cents, and for any distance exceeding three thousand miles at 10 cents.

In 1863 the single uniform rate of inland letter postage was fixed at 3 cents, without regard to distance, and was required to be prepaid by stamps; the postage on drop letters was increased to 2 cents the half ounce; and all letters reaching their destination without prepayment of postage were to be charged with double the rate of prepaid postage chargeable thereon, thus allowing letters to be sent without prepayment and leaving the general rate of inland letter postage when prepaid as it was fixed for distances under three thousand miles by the Act of 1851, but increasing it 1 cent beyond the rate of 1851 when sent unpaid; also increasing the rate of 1851 on unsealed printed circulars from 1 to 2 cents, and on drop letters from 1 cent the letter to 2 cents the half ounce; and reducing the rates of postage to and from California and Oregon from 6 to 3 cents when prepaid and from 10 to 6 cents when not prepaid.

That the revenues of the Department have been perennially diminished by these reductions cannot be denied; but it is believed that this diminution has been slight in comparison with the public benefits which have followed the adoption of rates of postage, which (the cost of transportation consequent upon the vast extent over which our more remote settlements are scattered, the general sparseness of our population and the high prices of clerical and other labor being considered) are believed to be the cheapest which have ever been adopted by any Government of ancient or modern times.


[A] [B] Respectively Postmaster-General and Postmaster of Buffalo.—ED.

[C] Succeeded in 1866 by Joseph Candee (died Nov. 20, 1884); succeeding Postmasters of Buffalo have been: Isaac M. Schermerhorn; Thomas M. Blossom (appointed in 1869, died Feb. 10, 1882); Isaac M. Schermerhorn (second appointment, April, 1871); John M. Bedford (appointed April 1, 1879); John B. Sackett (appointed March 7, 1887); Bernard F. Gentsch (appointed May 28, 1890, died Aug. 3, 1894); Howard H. Baker (appointed June 7, 1894), present incumbent.—ED.

[D] Predecessor of the Academy of Music, east side of Main, between Seneca and Swan Streets.—ED.

[E] Last quarter only.

[F] Stamps sold for currency $18,000 more, furnished from Buffalo P. O.

[G] AUTHOR'S NOTE—This is probably erroneous as it will be seen that the post-road from Whitestown to Canandaigua was established and service thereon advertised for in 1794. It is quite certain that there was mail service on this route as early as 1795.

[H] AUTHOR'S NOTE.—This was stated on the authority of Turner's "History of the Holland Purchase" and it was supposed there could be no doubt of its accuracy. But in Vol. 1., Miscellaneous, of the American State Papers, published by Gales & Seaton, is a list of post-offices in 1800 (p. 289), and of those established in 1801 (p. 298), and in the latter is "Batavia, N. Y., Sanford Hunt, Postmaster." It may be that Mr. Hunt did not accept the appointment and that Mr. Brisbane was appointed in 1802.

Transcriber's Note:

Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note.


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