EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay-area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.
By R.L. HEMINGER
A new day dawned for many Hancock County farmers in September, 1899, when rural free delivery service started within Hancock County, bringing the mailman to the farmer’s front door with the mail.
Until that time, all those living on farms had to make trips to the county seat or to the small villages to get the mail. And such trips were not made in the automobiles of today, but behind Old Dobbin, who was hitched to the family buggy.
It was difficult for a farmer to make such a journey every day, particularly when the distance was beyond a couple of miles, so the arrival of the mail in the rural home was not always a daily event, under such circumstances.
Toward the end of the 1890s the matter of such departure as rural free delivery service for the nation’s farmers began to gain ground. Within Congress, there were those who began to urge action toward that end in the interest of improving the lot of the farmers.
Findlay and Hancock County became the center of developing sentiment to get the mail out to the farmer and his family on a daily basis. Appeals went to Washington for favorable action directed to Rep. Archibald Lybrand of Delaware, Ohio, the 8th Ohio District’s member of Congress, and to Ohio’s two senators as well as to others.
John M. Barr and Dr. Jacob Boger were Findlay’s postmasters in the late 1890s and their help was vital to the effort.
But the chief moving spirit was Thomas Houpt, a local citizen who took a great interest in the matter of rural free delivery and who did much of the “spade work” in bringing the system about locally. He was one of two sons of Samuel D. Houpt, prominent merchant in Seneca County for many years. The other son was named for the father and was in Findlay for many years with his father-in-law, Henry Byal, a leading citizen of the local community for a long time.
When petitions went to Washington from Findlay requesting that Hancock County be favorably considered for rural free delivery service late in the 1890s, special representatives of the post office department came to Findlay to make a survey of the local situation. They conferred with the postmaster and local citizens. They decided to recommend the appointment of Mr. Houpt as a special agent of the government to submit a formal report with recommendations.
Mr. Houpt proceeded to do so and made his report of his findings and it was not long before the postmaster and Mr. Houpt received a wire from Washington to go ahead and make plans to inaugurate the service out of the Findlay office.
It was decided to establish four routes in each direction out of the Findlay post office. Maps were prepared for use in determining the exact routes the carriers would travel.
There were many applicants for the carrier jobs, approaching nearly 50 in all. The routes were arranged so that the carrier would travel approximately 25 miles in five to six hours time.
Finally appointments of carriers were announced and the routes to be traveled made known. The general areas to be served and the carriers were as follows:
No. 1: Parts of Cass and Allen townships Jesse N. Greer.
No. 2: Parts of Marion, Jackson and Amanda townships, Samuel S. Metzler
No. 3: Parts of Eagle and Jackson townships, Fred C. Johnson.
No. 4: Part of Liberty Township, William H. Gray.
Carriers were to be required to post $500 bond. Their pay was set at $400 a year.
The routes were to be covered by horse and buggy. The automobile had yet to make its appearance generally. The advent of hard-surfaced, paved roadways was not here yet either. There were only what were known as stone pikes in various areas.
The appointment of the carriers was made later in August and Sept. 5th was set for the start of the service. Prior to the beginning of the service, carriers had to make preliminary rounds to acquaint the farmers with what was ahead.
Next week: More about Rural Free Delivery in Hancock County.