Postal History

History of the Post Office in Campbellsville and Taylor County, Kentucky

                                                Beginning 1817

                Researched  By Betty Jane Gorin, first published in 1985;  updated in 2016.

About 500 B.C. the Greek historian Herodotus described the Persian postal system: 

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat or gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”  For hundreds of years, messengers on foot and horseback have served as communication links throughout the civilized world. 

            While still a colony of Britain, in 1639 Massachusetts designated Fairbanks Tavern in Boston as the official repository for mail brought from or sent overseas, in line with a practice long used in England, to use coffee houses and taverns as mail drops.  Benjamin Franklin was made the first Postmaster General and the ensuing postal system is largely from his planning and management.

            “Express messengers” Daniel Boone and Michael Stoner brought in the first letter to this area of Kentucky in 1774 when they delivered a message to James Harrod at Harrod’s Fort.  The first path, or trace, was blazed from Logan’s For (Stanford) through what is now Taylor County in 1780 and letters were carried to early settlers by hunters and travelers on this trace with little assurance of delivery.

            Because the U.S. Government was dilatory in extending its postal service to the West, a second kind of mail service developed—the Post Rider.  People were eager for news and mail; therefore, John Bradford, publisher of the Kentucky Gazette, employed post-riders to gather news from correspondents and to carry his paper to central Kentuckians.

            A third stage of mail delivery was started in 1796 when a wagon road was opened from the Cumberland Gap to central Kentucky, which enabled mail and settlers to move to the West on covered wagons.  Kentucky’s population grew rapidly in the 1790s and by 1798 the state possessed ten “post-villages,” the closest one to Campbellsville being Springfield.

            While still part of Green County, in 1817 Campbellsville was incorporated and was granted its first post office.  United States Postal Records list Pleasant Kirtley as the first postmaster in Campbellsville with his appointment beginning January 2, 1817.  Since Pleasant Kirtley owned five town lots on the 1820 plat of Campbellsville, it is impossible to tell on which lot the first post office was located.

            In the early 1800s, a fourth carrier of mail emerged—the stage coach.  Stage coaches rumbled over the great National Road, sometimes called the Cumberland Road, carrying the mail from the East.  This main trunk line ran from Pittsburg, Baltimore, and Cumberland, Maryland, to Zanesville, Ohio, to St. Louis.  Under the Jackson administration, an important mail stage route in Kentucky was completed called the “Zanesville-Florence star route.”  From Zanesville, Ohio, it ran to Maysville, Lexington, Harrodsburg, Perryville, Lebanon, Campbellsville, Glasgow, Nashville, to Florence, Alabama, where the mail was loaded on a steamboat for New Orleans.            The goal of a stage driver was to make eight miles in an hour, and the roads had to be kept in passable condition for him to meet his timetable.

            J. Winston Coleman observed:  “There is no question that the post-office developed the country as much as any other factor.”   As in all early villages, mail and commerce went hand in hand in Campbellsville.  Post offices were generally situated in the backs of general stores or operated from hotels along the stage coach route.  These hotels were sometimes called inns, or taverns if alcoholic beverages were available in the bar.  In the 1820s Woodruff Hoskins, a merchant in Campbellsville who came from Connecticut, operated a general store and it could be assumed that the post office occupied a small corner of his business.  In the 1840s two brothers, Dr. Josiah L. and Ferdinand Hiestand, were postmasters; therefore, the office was located in Ferdinand Hiestand’s Tavern, the home of several physicians and lawyers, at 209 Main Street, a part of the Citizens Bank on Main Street in 2016.  By 1851 Ariel Hoskins, another merchant from Connecticut, was postmaster and he was operating the post office from his large general store which was located at 309 East First Street.  Robert Colvin, postmaster in 1855, owned several properties on Main Street, any one of which could have served as the post office, but it was probably in his warehouse at the corner of Main and South Central, occupied by the Justice Center in 2016.

            In 1864 R. E. Jeter, a former captain in the Union Army, was appointed postmaster and the post office was probably in the hotel he operated with his son-in-law Creed Haskins.  The court records reveal that Jeter and Haskins were to “keep and feed” the stage teams carrying mail and passengers running from Campbellsville to Lebanon, Columbia and Greensburg.  In 1866 Jeter was paid $235 every three months for keeping eight horses and two drivers for the stage.

            Some difficulty arose concerning scheduling the stage to arrive at meal time at Jeter’s Hotel.  John R. Beckley and Joseph Thomas stated in a court case that they were agents of the federal government and were “compelled by law to promptly transport the mail in their stages from one point to another and the carrying of passengers only secondary and incidental business and when they passed Jeter’s Hotel, it was not a usually meal time.”

            The days of the stage coach as the principal carrier came to an end with the coming of the railroad to Campbellsville in 1879.  Since the rail line extended only to Greensburg, the stage coach continued to carry the mail between Campbellsville and Columbia.  By 1914 mail trucks, one of which was driven by Seymour Shaw, replaced the stage coach between these points.  The mail was gathered twice a day in Columbia, once at 2:00 a.m. to reach Campbellsville in time to make the morning train to Louisville, and again at 10:00 a.m. to make the 3:00 p.m. train to Louisville.  J. R. “Buck” Barbee sold the mail contract on this route to W. R. Marr, who later sold it to a Mr. Noe.

            Sanborn Insurance Maps of 1886, 1895, 1901 and 1903 exactly locate the post office in Campbellsville through these years.  In 1886, the post office was located on the south side of Main, at 204 East Main Street; by 1895,  the post office had moved up the street to 220 East Main.  By 1901, the post office had moved across Main Street to 227 East Main.  Finally, by 1903, the post office moved to the Campbellsville Hotel Building at 226 East Main Street on the corner of Main and Depot (now Central Avenue —where Elegant Touch is located in 2016.)

 There it would remain until 1937. Fire damaged the building in 1934, but evidently, part of the building was still usable.

            While the post office was in this corner location, in the early 1900s, the mail arrived by way of the train twice a day, once around noon and again around 9:00 p.m.  The mail and parcel post were unloaded at the Campbellsville Depot and placed on a two-wheeled cart and brought to the post office on Main Street.  On summer evenings, patrons often stood around the railroad station and waited for the night train to arrive and then followed the mail wagon to the post office and waited for the mail to be “worked.”

            In 1904, the postal service rented the building for $180 a year, in 1918, the rent increased to $500 a year; in 1928, the rent rose to $1,000 a year.  In 1904, the salary of the post master was $100 per month with the two clerks earning $18 and $16 each per month.  “Ordinary” stamps sold for 2 cents; postal cards, 1 cent.  In 1905, the total sales of the post office of stamps, cards, envelopes, etc., ran from $153.32 in June to a high of $297.95 in December.  The light bill for August 1904 was one dollar.

            Some of the early clerks that can be remembered are Mrs. Bess Terhune, John Owsley Durham, Carl McCubbin, Paul Holt, Mrs. Will (Edna Collins) Hoskins, Turner Cloyd, Walter Cloyd, Mrs. Ray (Aileen Meader) Goodin, Mrs. Minnie Harding, Jess Drake, Carter Buchanan, and Robinson Young.

            At one time Taylor County had many rural post offices with names long since gone from the memory of most people, names such as Lorain, Badger, Bass, Pitmansville, and Irene.  The general practice was for the mail to be delivered to the Campbellsville Post Office and then taken by carriers to the county’s outlying post offices.  In 1954, the following post offices were still in existence:  Hatcher, Maple, Elkhorn, Spurlington, Saloma, Mannsville, White Rose, Finley, Mac, Merrimac, Bengal, Yuma, and Hibernia.  In 1985 only four of these remained:  Campbellsville, Finley, Mannsville, and Elkhorn. By 2016, only Campbellsville and Mannsville remain open.

            Rural Free Delivery Mail via carriers on routes was inaugurated in this county in August 1906.  At first the mail was delivered tri-weekly, then daily.  Tom Newton delivered on Route 1; Marvin Rice, later replaced by Bob DeWitt, delivered Route 2; A. J. “Jessie” Arvin, Route 3; Floyd Caulk, Route 4; and Robinson Young, Route 5.  These rural carriers started their routes driving a horse and buggy.  As the years passed and the roads in Taylor County improved, the carriers drove automobiles over the routes.  The mail buggies lined up on Depot Street (Central Avenue today) at 7:00 a.m. to gather the mail and the carriers were hard pressed to finish their routes by nightfall.  Many wives and children of carriers remember warming bricks for their family members who carried the mail.  The bricks were placed in a foot warmer and together with a lantern would provide warmth for the mail carrier in the winter.

            After Tom Newton had carried the mail for 30 years, he was interviewed by the newspaper about his experiences.  He stated that in the winter when he started the route, two strong horses were necessary to pull the light covered wagon he used to transport the mail.  He changed to an automobile in 1924.  In 1906, 96 boxes were on Route 1; in 1936, 159 boxes serving 230 families were on Route 1.  In 1906, Mr. Newton delivered 26 pieces of mail a day; in 1936, he averaged 250 pieces. 

            In 1937, when the bridge across Little Pitman Creek on the Saloma Road was opened, the first person chosen to pass over the bridge was a rural mail carrier, A. J. Arvin, a man who had forded the creek for 22 years delivering the mail without fail in all kinds of weather.

            Rural mail carriers were more than purveyors of mail.  Often they ran errands for people on their routes, the most common request being to pick up medicine and deliver it with their mail.

            Springtime brought its own special problems for rural carriers because boxes of baby chickens had to be delivered.  Sometimes carriers such as Floyd Caulk would “special deliver” these chickens for the patrons on Sunday afternoons in order to insure the chicks’ survival.  Shelby Chandler remembers feeding and watering boxes of chickens for his patrons when the creeks prevented the delivery of his cargo promptly.

            Another method of delivering mail to outlying communities was the Star Route.  The star routes were bid for and contracted out to carriers.  These carriers were allowed to run errands for a fee and to haul cream, freight, and passengers.  Campbellsville had several star routes operating out of its post office.  One ran from Mac, Pitman, Bengal, and Sweeneyville to Campbellsvillle.  For 40 years this route was carried by horseback, horse and buggy, and after 1923, by car, by Bob Martin and his daughter Ida.  The first four years that route was carried for 60 cents a day.  Big Pitman had to be forded.  Alfred Underwood, Buck DeSpain, Harden Morris, and Melvin DeSpain succeeded the Martins.

            Another Star Route ran from Hibernia, Maple, Willowtown, and Saloma.  That route was carried horseback by Malcolm and Victor Warren and Tom Berry Underwood.  Clayton Wright ran a short star route between White Rose and Saloma in horse and buggy.  Lee Chappell ran a star route to Elkhorn, Knifley, Casey Creek, and Clementsville for years.

            In 1927 mail delivery within the city of Campbellsville began.  For 20 years, Tommie S. Gibson delivered the mail on Main Street and on the streets south of Main.  Hubert Wooldridge delivered the mail on the north side of Main Street.  Mail and parcel post were delivered twice a day.  James Buchanan, Dallas Grace, and George Dick Buckner were also carriers of city mail through these years.

            Between 1937 and 1999, the Campbellsville Post Office was located at 321 East Main Street.  In 1936, the date on the cornerstone, the J. C. Miller, Sr., Construction Company was awarded the contract for the first government-owned post office in Campbellsville with the bid of $46,269.  The total cost of the land and the building was $65,000.  A frame building housing the offices of Doctors J. L. Atkinson, W. B. Atkinson, Frank Buckner, and Lee Gowdy had to be torn away before construction could begin.

            The new post office was under roof by February 1937, and the building was ready for occupancy by summer.  June 26, 1937, was the last day of operation in the Campbellsville Hotel building; Saturday night, June 27, the move was made to the new building, and Monday morning, June 28, 1937, the new post office was open to the public.

            A landscaping contract was let in August 1937 to the Louisville Nurseries for $489.40, the landscaping to be completed by January 1938.

            During the Depression, between 1938 and 1940, Bert Reuben Mullins, of Berea, painted two oil on canvas murals inside the Campbellsville Post Office ceilings.  They were entitled: “Agriculture in Kentucky” and “General Zachary Taylor.”  A black and white photo of the Taylor mural is the only record that remains of either mural.  Mullins painted at least one other post office mural, that one is in Morganfield, entitled “Rural Free Delivery,” in 1939.  The painter was the son of William Green Mullins and Eliza J. Swinford. His wife was Eva Ison and they had at least two children, Katherine who married Henry Gilbert, and Philip.

                According to the News-Journal, 18 Aug 1938, the mural took up the entire wall. The one erected in 1938 was of farming scenes, a field of ripened tobacco, cattle watering, hogs, sheep and the farmers at work cultivating their crops in the foreground. In the background, in the distance are the roofs and smokestacks of a city with factories and dwellings.  

                Below is the painting of Zachary Taylor during the Wars in Florida.

            In 1965, the 1937 post office building was remodeled and doubled in size with Ray Blevins and Clinton Tharp Construction Company being awarded the contract for approximately $635,000.  This project was completed by March 1966.

            With changing times came a new way to transport the mail—the Highway Post Office.  After World War II, train service to Campbellsville and other central Kentucky areas declined.  Therefore, in January 1949, Campbellsville began being served by a large bus-like vehicle which provided direct mail service between Louisville and Somerset, Campbellsville being one of the stops.  The “Hi-Po” left Louisville for Somerset at 2:45 a.m. and arrived there at 8:30 a.m.  Returning it would leave at 3:15 p.m. and arrive in Louisville at 9:00 p.m.  The Highway Post Office clerks distributed the mail as the vehicle travelled down the highway and this service improved mail delivery as much as 24 hours in some instances.

            Highway post offices were replaced by regional service centers in the middle 1960s.  Today all mail is sent to Louisville, a regional center, where it is processed by zip codes and sent by truck or plane to points all over the United States.

            In August 1999, a new post office replaced the 1937 building. It is located at 1410 Broadway with branch offices at the Citizens Bank and Purcell’s Business Products downtown  and the Book Store in Green River Plaza. Wilbur Malone was postmaster when the change was made. The new post office offered more retail space and a large area to process the mail. More customer parking spaces were available in front with space for employees to park in the rear.

            In 1985 the Campbellsville Post Office had six city routes, eight rural routes, one star route, three regular clerks, and seven part-time clerks, who handled approximately 60 feet of incoming mail per day.  Outgoing mail ran approximately 24 feet of mail per day.  In 2016, is responsible for a large volume of mail being handled by the Campbellsville Post Office.

            Although the postal system has become modernized, zip-coded and computerized, the postal employees at Campbellsville attempted to retain a human touch.  During the Korean War, National Guardsmen from Campbellsville were sent to the Far East around Thanksgiving.  Letters to their relatives arrived home too late for the last delivery before Christmas.  Therefore, Bill and Laura Sue Toby hand-delivered the letters to the men’s families on Christmas Eve 1951. 

            Edward Everett, the great orator who preceded Lincoln at Gettysburg, held the postal service in high regard and his comments remain true today:

            When I contemplate the extent to which the moral sentiments, the intelligence, the affections of so many millions of people, --sealed up . . . within the cover of a letter—daily circulate through a country,I am compelled to regard the post office, next to Christianity, as the right arm of our modern civilization.


National Archives, Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-1971.

Taylor County, KY, Circuit Court Records, Jeter Case, Bundle 134, May 23, 1970.

Taylor County, KY, Deed Books.

T. C. Taylor’s Post Office Ledger, 1904-1906.

J. Winston Coleman, Jr., Stage-Coach Days in the Bluegrass.

File, Postal Service, Kentucky Historical Society.

Sanborn Insurance Maps for Campbellsville, 1886-1925.

Newspapers: News-Journal, 1936-1938; 1960—50 year edition.

                        Harrodsburg Herald, May 13,1938.

                        Courier Journal Magazine, February 13, 1949.

                        Courier Journal, December 10, 1948 & May 17, 1953.

Interviews, May 1985, by Betty Gorin with John Shelby Chandler, Paul Holt, Mrs. Aileen   McKinley, Mrs. Laura Sue Toby, Mrs. Louise Durham, Claude Ray Bowles, Mrs. Ann    Crooker, Mr. & Mrs. Charles Graham, Campbell Harding, Mrs. Mary Ingram, Mrs.      Margaret Kerr, Mrs. Lissa Tarter, Dallas I. Crace, R. Towler Parrott, Mrs. Floyd Caulk, Paul         Smith, Miss Ida Martin, Harden Morris, Mrs. Ruth Ford, Jerry Greenwell, Mrs. Opal             DeWitt, Ray Blevins, Carl Smith, Mrs. Edna Shirley, George Dick Buckner.

Postmasters of Campbellsville                                                    Appointment Date

Originally Green County:           

Pleasant Kirtley

January 2, 1817

Edward L. Hamilton

April 13, 1921

Woodruff Hoskins

August 30, 1823

Thompson Sherrill

January 11, 1839

Josiah L. Hiestand

April 18, 1846

County Changed to Taylor in 1848:


Ferdinand J. Hiestand

October 30, 1850

Ariel Hoskins

January 28, 1851

David Willock

July 19, (illegible)

William Crouch

April 4, 1855

Robert Colvin

November 27, 1855

Robert H. Martin

September 4, 1863

Rodophil E. Jeter

May 12, 1864

Robert H. Martin

June 25, 1864

Thomas T. Cook

November 11, 1865

Robert H. Martin

February 1, 1866

Augustus Buchanan

February 19, 1866

James H. Blandford

July 2, 1869

Robert H. Martin

January 15, 1877

Dollie W. Mitchell

July 22, 1885

William L. Malone

April 19, 1889

Matilda Malone

April 11, 1891

Alfred B. Gowdy

December 14, 1892

William Hobson

November 15, 1897

Thomas C. Taylor

December 13, 1904

George O. Harding

July 7, 1908

James C. Pruett

August 21, 1909

Fannie G. Taylor

November 29, 1913

Reappointed as Fannie G. Wilson

Date illegible]

George R. Holt (Acting Postmaster)

March 21, 1922

George R. Holt

April 26, 1922

Emma H. Ellis

December 15, 1925

Joseph P. Gozder

June 17, 1936

Kate Cloyd

October 19, 1939

Richard L. Kerr

June 25, 1940

Lissa H. Tarter (Acting Postmaster)

March 4, 1954

Lissa H. Tarter

April 2, 1958

Dallas L. Crace (Acting Postmaster)

July 3, 1964

Dallas L. Crace

October 15, 1965

John Shelby Chandler (Acting Postmaster)

June 21, 1968

William M. Toby

June 26, 1971

Claude R. Bowles

January 21. 1976

Bert E. Hail

November 20, 1980

Jerry E. Greenwell

August 18, 1984