Thursday, May 18, 2017

Early Mail Delivery in Idaho

One of the most frustrating problems facing early settlers was the lack of a dependable mail system.
Getting letters to friends and family in other areas of the country was often a matter of luck. Whenever early settlers met a packer or some unhappy emigrant heading back east, they grabbed the opportunity to send mail with them, often composing letters on the spot.
One early-day traveler through Idaho, a man named Wakeman Bryant, described such an incident:
"We met ... a party of trappers, some of whom intended to return to the states. They were carrying mail back, receiving 50 cents a letter. They had some thousands of letters. I stopped long enough to write two, and committed them to their charge."
Often, pioneers had no choice but to leave their precious mail at a trading post, with no more than a hope that someone would come along to carry the letters east.
By the 1860s, the federal government was awarding postal contracts to private entrepreneurs. But it wasn't until the highways linking all parts of Idaho were finally finished, that mail service became dependable.
Nobody knows how much mail was lost during the early days of Idaho. One thing seems sure, though. At 49 cents per letter today, the system is vastly improved from the days when a stranger going east was the mailman.

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