“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” – Herodotus, 503 B.C
These words were adopted to describe the modern U. S. postal carriers. The person who sorted the mail, sold stamps and check the addresses, were and still are called ‘postmasters’. Once upon a time, the mail was not delivered to homes, and patrons had to travel to the post office to retrieve their mail.
My grandfather’s grand-uncle, Rufus Forrester, and his daughter, Lola, were are part of this era. At this time, they were responsible for all the above mentioned duties, and more to ensure the safe delivery of all the mail they were entrusted with.
Rufus had an interesting life to trace. He was born in Feb 1849, probably in Randolph County, Alabama, where his family resided. In January 1867, just days shy of his 18th birthday, he was granted ‘relief from minority’ from the State of Alabama General Assembly. This means that although he was underage, he was to be granted the privilege of full adulthood. I have yet to uncover the reason for this request and permission. One reason for being granted this special permission was being a married man, but I have found no evidence of a marriage.
In 1870, Rufus is in Webster County, Kentucky, single, and working as a farm hand. He is also there in 1880, still single and working on another farm.
By 1882, however, he has apparently gone back to Alabama and married Susan Atkins. They had at least one child, Lola, in Alabama. Rufus was appointed tax assessor in Aug 1884 for Randolph Co, Alabama, but as J. H. Radney, Collector, had been appointed tax commissioner, Rufus never assessed the taxes.
By July 1887, Rufus and his family have moved to Texas, where they add three daughters and one son to their family.
Rufus was appointed postmaster at Daingerfield, Morris County, Texas, on 14 Oct 1897.
Since the first Rural Free Delivery (RFD) in Texas was started 1 Aug 1899, it’s likely that Rufus handed the mail to his patrons over the counter. According to a Wikipedia article, the postmaster was probably one of the most important positions in the town. I have a visual from all the pioneer shows I have seen on TV, and I wonder if he worked from a store, or if he had a building specifically for the post office.
Rufus died in 1904, and his daughter, Lola Forrester, took over his position. She was about 21 years of age, and single. She was appointed postmaster on the 18 June 1904. She served in that position for two years, until John H. McCollum was appointed postmaster on 18 Sept 1906.
By 1910, Lola and her mother, Susan, had moved to Corpus Christi in Nueces County, Texas.
Lola never married, but apparently lived a very full life. She was listed as a bookkeeper, first at a dry goods store, then at a furniture store. There was an annual flower show in Texas, which Lola had a hand in starting. I found many newspaper articles concerning these shows. After her death in 1936, the show was named the Lola Forrester Flower Show. It retained that name until sometime, I believe, in the 1970’s.
In today’s fast paced world of instant message, e-mail and twitter, ‘snail mail’ gets a bad reputation. However, if not for the postal deliveries, packages, cards, notices, and yes, even letters would have a hard time reaching the recipients. Our modern mail carriers face all kinds of weather – hot, cool, dry and stormy. I am so glad my family has played a part in this endeavor to help family communicate with each other. After all, it’s wonderful to hold a letter written by your g-g-grandparent. Can’t do that with an e-mail.