"In the later part of the last century some congressman
introduced a bill for an experiment with rural free
delivery of mail. It was generally considered visionary and
preposterous and very few people gave it any thought. Very
few newspapers even mentioned it, but the congressman
succeeded in getting the bill through congress for an
appropriation of a small sum, $5,000 I think, for the
experiment, about enough to finance one route now.
"But Maxy Jewett, Morton township farmer, a great reader,
ran across an obscure notice of the proposed experiment,
and concluded that it would be a good thing. So he drew up
a petition to the postmaster general or congress asking
that an experimental route be established at Shenandoah,
passed it around among his neighbors and asked them to sign
it, more as a favor to him than with any idea that route
could be secured.
"That was about the time I was appointed postmaster here. I
think he showed the petition to me when he mailed it but l
promptly forgot all about it.
"During my second year as postmaster, one beautiful day in
December, a stranger came into the postoffice, handed in
his card, said he wanted to see the postmaster.
"He explained to me that he had been sent here by
the department to lay out a rural free delivery mail route.
I hardly understood what he meant, but when he produced the
Maxy Jewett petition, I sensed at once that it would be a
good thing for Shenandoah. I hiked right over to Oviatt's
livery stable and hired a rig and we drove out to the
Jewett farm, found him at home and the three of us sat down
at the table there and drew up a map of a route to reach
the principal farmers of the community. It did not take
long and then the man said:
"Well, I was assigned two days here and I have
nothing to do tomorrow; let's lay out another route.
"I said, "Very well, we have one route laid out
in Page county, so let's lay out the other in Fremont
county." Next day we went across the river, called on
farmers with the proposition. Charlie Mitchell and one or
two others took to it right away, but most of them said
they did not want it as they had all the taxes they could
stand. The man explained that it would not cost them
anything except for a box to hold the mail. "Oh, we have
heard that story before," they said; "we never get anything
"G.M. Castle was selected as carrier for number one and
N. H. Ingals as carrier for number two, and as soon as I
could get the appointments okayed by the government the
service was started.
"These two were the first routes in southwest Iowa, and
there were only a score or so in the whole United States.
The carriers started in at a salary of $300 per year, had
to furnish their own teams and conveyances, but before long
the department raised the salary to $400 and granted the
carriers privilege to carry packages and passengers for pay
by the patrons. Farmers would send in orders for goods and
the mail carriers would take the packages out the next
"Farmers soon overcame their objections to the service
and looked upon the carrier as Santa Claus. They treated
the carrier royally, farmers giving him oats and corn for
his team and the farm women putting chicken, cakes and pies
in the mail box for the carrier. But even at that they
hardly were able to live, but year by year the government
became more liberal in pay until now, they tell, me the
carriers driving from the small towns get more pay than the
postmasters. Of course in those first years there were no
automobiles and the roads were all
of dirt and often impassable, but the farmers always helped
and would often meet the carriers half way or better and
carry the mail on their backs across the fields."