In 1775, Benjamin Franklin was appointed as the first Postmaster General, but it would be another 125 years before the postal system would implement RFD (Rural Free Delivery) aimed at providing mail service to country folks.
According to the 1988 book, History of Washington County Tennessee, initially the government was the primary user of the postal service. The general population had to rely on volunteers traveling to and from their area to receive mail delivery. Eventually mail routes became established with riders carrying mail in saddlebags. When roads improved such that stagecoaches could travel over them, parcels were delivered by these roomier conveyances.
By 1796, a post office was established at Jonesborough with John Waddell, Jr., a son-in-law of John Sevier, as postmaster. In Washington County, post offices were at first located in the homes or stores of designated postmasters, which meant a change of address anytime there was a change of postmaster.
In 1803, a proposed stagecoach route between Jonesborough and Blountville was rejected because it was too costly – $600 per year for once a week delivery. A carrier on horseback could transport it for $200. By 1840, mail was established between Jonesborough and three nearby cities: Abingdon, Virginia; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Knoxville, Tennessee.
By 1847, there were only eight post offices in Washington County. The number slowly grew to 14 by 1868. However, as the population began to increase, numerous additional offices were established throughout the county.
Postage stamps were introduced in 1847. During the Civil War, a Jonesborough postmaster issued a five-cent stamp on which his name appeared. However, uniform rates for stamps were not established until 1863. Initially, customers could prepay for a letter using a stamp or let the recipient fork out the money upon arrival.
Around 1900, the number of post offices began to decrease significantly because RFD had arrived. The establishment of 300 free rural delivery routes in Tennessee resulted in an almost immediate closing down of all post offices in Tennessee; they had served their usefulness. New and prosperous towns sprang up near villages, which brought with it larger distribution locations for the mail.
Many of the old post offices had historical significance attached to them. For instance, Bean station was where William Bean in 1769 built the first cabin by a white settler in Kentucky, Tennessee or Western North Carolina.
Noli Chucky (Nolichucky) was the site of Jacob Brown’s first store opening in Tennessee in 1772. It was also where Russell Bean, the first child born on Tennessee soil first saw light. Also, John Sevier whose bravery was displayed in a battle with Indians earned the nickname “Nolichucky Jack.”
A few hundred yards from the Boons Creek office was the site of a gigantic leaning beech tree that bore the famous inscription, “D. Boon cilled a bar in the year 1760.”
According to the book, Tennessee Post Offices and Postmaster Appointments, 1789-1984, there were 99 original post offices in Washington County. A sampling of nine of them with the post office name (its first postmaster, the years in existence and where the post office function was absorbed) include the following:
Alfred (Landon C. Garber, 1889-1899, Johnson City), Austin Springs (Clisbe Austin, Jr., 1875-1900, Johnson City), Blizzard (renamed Damphool, John F. Grisham, 1889-1900, Jonesborough), Blue Plum (Henry Johnson, 1849-1859, discontinued), Douglass Shed (renamed Douglass, Charles S. Ervin, 1895-1900, Jonesborough), Hacker (Robert L. Ford, 1893-1900, Telford), Haws Cross Roads (Thomas R. Haws, 1860-1900, Jonesborough), Johnson’s Depot (renamed Haynesville, 1857-1870, name changed to Johnson City), and Knob Creek (Alpheus Dove, 1856-1859, discontinued).