Pittsylvania County's Puzzling Post Offices

By Herman E. Melton

Some of the early ones had names long since forgotten, such as Coloebs, Castor, Newburg, Monroeton and Chestnut Grove. Pittsylvania's puzzling post offices ebbed and flowed in number as the county grew and shifted its population.

Some had name changes for logical reasons. A case in point was Chestnut Grove which became Whitmell in 1853 just after the untimely death of one of its favorite sons Whitmell Tunstall, the founder of the first railroad in the county.

It appears that the Post Office Department was founded nearly a decade before it chartered a post office in the county. One can harbor suspicions that the first Postmaster-General, Charles Osgood from Massachusetts, insulated himself from petitions from the rural South.

In any case, it was not until Joseph Haberstam from Georgia took over, that a post office was finally chartered at Pittsylvania Courthouse in 1798.

Eventually, the county seat town name was changed to Competition by the General Assembly in 1807. Ironically, the Postoffice Department did not follow suit, and the office retained its original name until it was changed to Chatham in 1877.

Available records indicate that from 1798 until the present, there were 122 post offices chartered in the county. This included the one at old Peytonsburg that lasted from 1803 until the post-Reconstruction period.

From its beginning through the 19th century, the Post Office Department followed an efficient method of housing and staffing a post office. The usual procedure was to appoint a postmaster who used his house or store and as compensation received half of each years receipts.

Soon the more enterprising of these established a country store in tandem to take advantage of the traffic for commercial reasons. Among such establishments in the county were Grasty Store, established in 1805, Robertson's Store, established in 1827, Smith's Store, chartered in 1817, Williams' Store opened in 1829 and Watkins Store, founded in 1819.

As for their pay, some received what seems a pittance today. For example, Joseph Swanson the PM at Joseph was paid on $8.19 as late as 1905. Others at places such as Crafton made less than $5 anually in 1887.

Although women did not have voting rights, some of them became postmasters. Among those was Nannie Pigg Anderson whose salary at Tomahawk P.O. in 1893 was $3.29.

There is a gap in the history of county post offices from 1861 through 1865. A crisis in mail service came quickly after Ft. Sumner in April of 1861. The U.S. immediately halted the flow to and from all points in the South.

The embattled Confederacy responded by forming its own P.O. Dept. Jefferson Davis made one of his better appointments when he put John Reagan of Tennessee birth in charge.

A scarcity of engravers and engraving equipment prohibited the CSA from issuing sufficient stamps for the flood of mail. The remarkable Reagan alleviated the problem somewhat by allowing the local post offices to print their own. Both Danville and Pittsylvania Courthouse printed stamps of identical design.

As popuation grew, so did the number of P.O.s. Tell, Meriwether, Trelow, Elect, Menla, Redeye and Peatross came into being by 1900. A few others changed names. Yak became Mountain Hill and Oak Shop became Museville for example. Keeling P.O. was chartered in 1887 and has changed locations four times. All of the four buildings remain standing.

The number of county P.O.s reached a peak of 77 in 1893 and declined rapidly therafter. The reason: The automobile. After its advent, one rural mail carrier could distribute as much mail as six or eight rural P.O.s. Sadly for the romantic, their number has dwindled to 13 in Pittsylvania County today.

Omina mutantur nos et mutanter in illlis!


Notes


Books by Herman Melton

(Available from the sponsor.)

Pittsylvania's Eighteenth-Century Grist Mills

Pittsylvania's Eighteenth-Century Grist Mills

Pittsylvania's Nineteenth-Century Grist Mills

Pittsylvania's Nineteenth-Century Grist Mills

Thirty-Nine Lashes, Well Laid On

Thirty-Nine Lashes, Well Laid On


Pittsylvania County's Historic Courthouse

Pittsylvania County's Historic Courthouse



Other Books Concerning Pittsylvania County History

(Available from the sponsor.)

History of Pittsylvania County, VA

Clement: History of Pittsylvania County

Pittsylvania: Homes and People of the Past

Fitzgerald: Pittsylvania: Homes and People of the Past

Eighteenth Century Landmarks of Pittsylvania County, VA

Hurt: Eighteenth Century Landmarks of Pittsylvania County


An Intimate History of the American Revolution in Pittsylvania County, Virginia

Hurt: An Intimate History of the American Revolution in Pittsylvania County

Footprints from the Old Survey Books

Dodson: Footprints from the Old Survey Books

Histories of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina (Dover)

Byrd: Histories of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina


Tales About People in a Small Town

Jones: Tales About People in a Small Town



Herman Melton's online articles are posted by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House as part of an effort to document Pittsylvania County, Chatham, and Danville, Virginia.