Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, December 30, 2001, pg. 6
We conclude the year 2001 with an historical look at U.S. Mail service in our area. Rural Free Delivery (RFD) was the policy of providing free mail delivery and mail services to the homes of farmers out in the country so they wouldn’t have to travel into town to get their mail and stamps. Nowadays we take this mail delivery for granted, but over 100 years ago it was a new venture. The first RFD routes were around 25-30 miles long, and were based upon what a man with a horse and buggy could travel on unpaved rural country roads during a workday back then. The pay was only $45 a month, and the carrier had to provide his own horse, buggy, feed and water.
The Eckford post office southwest of Albion had the distinction of having the first rural routes in Calhoun County, and the second in the state of Michigan. The service was instituted on July 5, 1899 on an experimental basis that became permanent, and served as a model and inspiration for RFD in other post offices, including Albion. There were two routes established, the first carriers being James E. “Ned” Taylor and Ira Hayes. Route 1 roughly covered the areas west of Eckford towards Marshall, while Route 2 covered areas east of Eckford north of Homer towards Albion. Both routes were a little more than thirty miles each.
Back in those days, mail was transported by train. When rail service was discontinued through the village of Eckford in 1930, the post office notified rural Eckford residents in June that year that Route 1 was being assigned to the Marshall post office, while Route 2 was being assigned to the Homer post office. That explains why the Homer post office today covers a large area southwest of Albion all the way to Babcock. The post office in the village of Eckford itself was closed on June 15, 1934, and assigned to Homer.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of the Eckford Village Post Office located in the George W. Butler General Store at 217 Maple St. This photograph is courtesy of Frances (Butler) Ray, whose grandfather George Ensign-Warner established the Albion RFD routes shortly after the Eckford routes were instituted, and Bruce Rapp, historian of Eckford. The photo was taken on October 18, 1900 and shows the two Eckford rural route mail wagons in front. Upstairs is the Eckford Tent No. 7 of Knights of the Maccabbees Hall. This building burned around 1910 and a new general store/post office was constructed down the block and across the street at 304 Maple St. A residence was subsequently built upon the foundation of the original store.
On the far left we see a 2-horse-drawn wagon upon which is painted, “USM No. 2 (United States Mail No. 2).” On the far right is a similar wagon painted “U.S.M.,” which would have been Route No. 1. From the far left to right are: a Mr. Starr standing alongside the horses with Harry Butler (his grandson) and Nellie Pease in front of him; the other rural carrier Albert Adams under the porch pole; Eckford railroad agent Frank Peters with his bicycle; the two ladies on the porch behind him are unidentified; Nort Hornback; Mrs. Frank Peters in her white dress; unidentified boy; Mrs. George Butler with black bow around neck; two unidentified men behind; Mrs. George Pease the mother of the girl Nellie Pease with hands around waist; Dr. George B. Gesner in suit with hands in pockets; postmaster/store owner George Butler postmaster wearing a vest; unidentified man in back of mail wagon; Route 1 carrier James “Ned” Taylor with a mail pouch under his arm. Stamps, anyone? A very Happy New Year to all the readers of this column.
Eckford Village Post Office, 1900
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic