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Columns

March 23, 2013

Free mail delivery began in Oneonta 125 years ago

Maybe I’m just not mingling with enough groups of people in the region, but I’m not hearing loud and persistent complaints about the end of Saturday home mail delivery, set for later this year. I’m not complaining, but I’d have a problem if home delivery in Oneonta were going away the other five days of the week.

Residents of Oneonta had no mail delivery at all until 125 years ago this April. In 1888, the post office was found within the Central Hotel block, in the area of today’s 189 Main St. Village residents picked up their mail at that office.

Oneonta was a growing village, and the post office was doing an increasing amount of business. Postmaster Harlow Bundy made an application on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 1888, to the Post Office Department in Washington, D.C., for free delivery of mail. Oneonta had exceeded the necessary requirement of $10,000 in annual business at the post office. Receipts had exceeded the level during 1887, said to be a great advance over previous years.

Of Bundy, The Oneonta Herald of Jan. 5 said, “That his application may be granted will be the wish of citizens generally and business men particularly.”

It was then reported on Wednesday, Feb. 18, how Post Office Inspector George E. Bachelder from the New York office paid a visit to Oneonta about free delivery. Bundy gave Bachelder a tour of the town and submitted required information. Afterward, Bachelder promised “a favorable report” about initiating the service.

On March 1, U.S. Congressman David Wilber wrote from Washington that he found there could be no free delivery in Oneonta until all dwellings were numbered. Village trustees gave the requirement immediate attention.

“While they are at it,” the Herald commented, “the trustees will see that proper signs are placed at street corners — the lack of which has been a constant cause of well-grounded complaint on the part of strangers.”

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