An RFD Route of Sixty Years Ago
by Wesley A. Beaman

Published in
The Morris Chronicle
January 8, 1908

It may not be known to many of the rural mail carriers of today that years ago the Cooperstown papers were delivered to subscribers throughout the county by carriers from house to house. The fall of 1844, sixty-three years ago, when the writer was 13 years old, witnessed one of the most exciting campaigns history records. In that year Polk and Dallas, and Clay and Frelinghuysen were the candidates respectively for President and Vice-President. I was living then with my uncle, James H. Kenyon, at Jacksonville (Mt. Vision), and he was the proprietor of a newspaper route running south-west from Cooperstown.

Each Saturday morning that fall I left home on horse-back for Cooperstown, over Buck hill. Reaching the county seat about half-past ten o'clock, my first call would be at the Freeman's Journal office. Col. John H. Prentiss was the editor and proprietor, and from him I obtained from 175 to 200 copies of the Journal. From there I crossed the street and called on Andrew M. Barber and got 150 copies of the Otsego Republican. In the latter office the late L.P. Carpenter, then 16 years old, was serving a five-year apprenticeship.

I would get away from Cooperstown about one o'clock p.m. with big saddlebags full of papers. My first stop was at Hope Factory, where I left several copies. From there to Hartwick village the houses were far apart and I made but few stops. I remember Elisha Fields and a few others. At Hartwick I recall Rufus Conklin, Dr. Head, Sheffield Harrington and Deacon Bissell; and then on down to Robinson tannery, where there were several copies taken. Then down to Linus Shepherd's where I crossed the creek to Mr. Brownell's and then came back and down to Thomas Wilcox's store at South Hartwick, where I left a number of papers. Then I crossed the creek again to serve Amos Matteson, Isaiah Wright, Nathanial Gardner, and Rhodero Gardner. At the foot of the hill lived Gilbert Stevens, and there I struck the level road into Jacksonville, and always blew a long blast an my horn to let the people know I was coming.

I stayed at home on Sunday, and many when down to church would call and get their papers. At 8 o'clock in the morning of Monday I was on the road again. Crossing the creek and turning to the right my first call was on George Gardner and his son Clark, and across the road lived his son William, known as "ickie Bill." Next was Harvey Gregory and Abel Mann. Here was the schoolhouse and here the old Baptist church stood, and I believe the last service held in it was on the occasion of the funeral of Mrs. Elias Gregory, in July or August 1843. Father Gregory, as he was called, officiated, assisted by Elder Lemuel Pattengill.

Here I took the lower road across Falls Bridge, and first came to Samuel Mack's then Nelson Ballard's and opposite Captain Ballard's, his father. At Elisha Gregory's I left papers for Matthew Robinson and others living on the cross-road up to A. Rockwell's. Next was Rhodolphus Alger's and on to Caleb Potter's where I left a few copies for subscribers not on my direct route. Turning to the left, came Benjamin Morehouse, L.Rockwell, Abner Rockwell, William Pattengill, Daniel F. Pattengill and Seely Gregory. From there I left but few copies until reaching New Lisbon Center. Here in the hollow near the Baptist meeting house lived a Mr. Gregory, who owned a shepherd dog which was in the habit of running out and biting horses' heels as they were passing. As I went by on horseback one day the dog ran out and grabbed my horse by the leg, and in less time that it takes to tell it, I found myself lying on the ground and my papers distributed all over on both sides of the road. Mr. Gregory came out and assisted me into his house, where I rested until I recovered from the shock. In the meantime someone had gathered up my papers and aught my black pony for me, and I proceeded on my way. Near the Center, I remember Henry Williams, father of Mrs. Frank Palmitier of Morris village, engaged in a little shop making butter ladles.

From the Center down it was not very thickly settled although it is easy to recall the Bucks and Gregorys and Caleb Potter and his son Caleb (father of the Potter Bros.of Morris), and David Wakeley, a decorative painter and grainer, near Noblesville. Then came the New Lisbon postoffice, known far and wide as "Hard and Peck's." Here at their store I left a number of papers, crossed the valley and went up to Stetsonville. On the way lived Mr. Hand who made rakes, and was unable to supply the demand for the Hand rake. Stetsonville was quite a busy little hamlet with its store and shops. I left a number of papers there , then returned down the creek road for the Nearings, Lulls, Linus Chapin, Hopkins (afterward the J.C. Hollister place), and the Baptist meeting house where, in other days worshiped my mother and grandmother, the latter being Ruth Lull. There in the old burying ground sleep numerous of the Lull family and other sturdy pioneers of the Valley.

The next place was Butler Gilbert's then Hyatt Bunnell's, then the Jacob K. Lull farm, where there had been a big tannery, then the Bowne farm, and Elm Grove, where several copies were taken.

Upon reaching Louisville (Morris village) I put up at the hotel kept by Erastus W. Yates (now the Payne building), and taking my papers on my arm started out. Across the road was Jonathan Lull's, next the stone hotel; where the Kenyon house stands was a private residence, the Davis place, setting back with a green plot in front, where on public days peddlers' carts formed in line to auction off their wares. There were no other places until I reached Dr. Wings's grocery and drug store just across the creek where now is Mrs. D. I. Laurence's lawn. I was always heartily welcomed by the old Dr. who was eagerly awaiting my coming with his paper. Back over the bridge and across the street was Burgin the hatter, the Weedens, George Hitchcock's grocery in the Perry building, then a big hotel, and then Ansel Moore's store in the stone building on the corner; and on the other corner David Beekman took a paper.

At one p.m. I was ready to leave Louisville, which I did by the Charlotte turnpike road across the creek past the Franchot place. All of what is now Hillington Cemetery was a part of the Franchot farm, excepting that small plot which was the Franchot and Van Rensaelaer burying place. Passing the Quaker church I came to Hopestill Cruttenden's (father of Albert and Lee Cruttenden). On one trip Dr. William Bassett, who boarded at the Yates hotel, started out with me, and side by side on horseback we went, each with big saddlebags, for more than a mile together.

Up Patrick Hill first came Isaac Leggett's, then Thomas Furbush's, E Turner's (father of Andrew Turner), John Patrick's, the Wings (Asa and Harvey), and on over the hill to Horace Tucker's, Samuel Merrille's, to Butts' Corners. Here, on almost the same spot where nearing completion stands the Episcopal church, stood a flourishing whisky distillery, and the foundation walls of the new church came from the stone walls of the old still.

In the big stone house on the opposite corner lived a Mr. Strait. Here on the corners I always blew a blast on my horn to hear the echo! After leaving some copies there, I took the north road to John Brown's (where a family of eighteen children were coming on), to Vincent Dunbar's brick mansion, then Eldred's and on to the Johnson schoolhouse where at the five corners I left papers for a Mr. Morse and Uriah Warren, familiarly known as "Farmer Warren." Mr. Warren met a tragic death in 1850. Having occasion to step out of his back door one evening, by some mishap he fell of the steps into a cistern, and was drowned.

At Johnson schoolhouse I struck the Town Line road for Jacksonville. Joel Grover lived near the corners. I remember one time leaving Louisville late in November in the midst of a cold south-east storm of rain, which I had to face a good share of the way. When I reached Uncle Joel's place that afternoon I was wet through and numb with cold. He came out and fairly pulled me off my horse, and while he cared for the pony I went into the house and stood before the great blazing fire-place to warm myself and dry my clothes.

Partially dried, I proceeded on my way. Harvey and Charles Eldred came next, a couple of well-to-do farmers. If I mistake not, here is where the late George Naylor married his wife, and their long married life was spent on the corner where they died. George and I attended the same school at Falls Bridge in the 40s. ON farther were two families of Harringtons, and at the foot of the lake Morris Gilbert lived. Then came Tiffany place. Miss Barbara Tiffany carried on the farm for a long time after her parents and brother Stutely died. Stephen Rathbun lived where Mr. Cope has lived for many years. Near where the schoolhouse now stands was a blacksmith shop, and across the little brook stood Barton's whiskey still, whose owner was known as "Captain Ame." It is related that one pleasant afternoon Mr. Barton's daughter started on horseback for Laurens village, and when but a short distance on the way, near a piece of woods, her horse shied at some object and she was thrown off and killed, in like manner as was Miss Cooper in 1800 two miles below Morris village.

At the top of the hill lived Jesse B. Kenyon, whose name to me is a pleasant reminder of other days, for in his home five years of my life, from 1846 to 1851, were spent. Fifty years ago he sold his farm to John Sherman. Farther on and down the hill where George Robinson lives then lived Arnold Carr, senior, and this was the end of my route.

One of the other routes was from Cooperstown to Otego, to Otadawa to West Oneonta and to Laurens. The carrier was Mr. Griffith, who lived above Laurens village on the Fowlston road, on top of the hill.

The routes were bought and sold like stages routes. My uncle James Kenyon, sold out to Jared Gardner, and he to his son William, familiarly known as "Bildad." I think the last carrier on the route was Nehemiah Daniels, forty years ago. Mr. Griffith sold his route to Orrelius Gardner, a brother of William. And now one of the R.F.D. carriers from Mt. Vision, going over a portion of the same old route, is Arthur Gardner of the fourth generation direct from Jared Gardner. Many of the patrons had roughly constructed mail boxes, very similar to the boxes used when the modern R.F.D. first opened up for business. Often however the people or their children, notified by the carrier's horn, were out to the road anxious to get their paper, for its weekly visit brought to them about all the news they got of the outside world, and often also the continuing chapters of an interesting serial story.

Quite a contrast with to-day, when even the daily paper, which is left at the farmhouse door every day, has been distanced by the telephone which hangs on the wall inside the farmhouse. Those were slow days back there, compared with this day of the telegraph, the telephone, the trolly road, the steam car, the automobile, the motorcycle, the daily R.F.D. and the possibilities of navigation in the air looming right before us, to be accomplished in this generation- But yet, we look back sometimes with regret that those old days are gone forever; the people as neighborhood communities enjoyed themselves socially more than they do now, the world wasn't rushing along at such speed as now, and we had more time; the people were just as contented, just as happy, and I think the boys and girls enjoyed themselves just as much as now, and more, for in the country districts there were more of them.

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