(Editorial Note: Part 64 of a series of further development in the early days that impacted the settlement of Franklin County. Sources: A History of Southeastern Idaho, by Merrill Beal; History of Weston, ID, by Lars Fredrickson; The Community of Banida Centennial 1910-2010 by Karla Cattani; Riverdale History by Barbara Meek and committee; Mink Creek History, 1971-1976 by Viola B. Larsen, Gentile Valley, the First 100 Years by Thatcher Ward)
The first Idaho mail services was established in 1861 when the Pony Express line was opened between Brigham City, Utah and various Idaho mining camps to the north. The Pony Express carried the mail as a private enterprise. There was a charge of 50 cents to a $1 per letter to cover the cost of the operation of the company.
“In 1864, Ben Holliday, the western Pony Express founder, opened two stage lines. One connected Salt Lake City and the Dalles in Oregon territory, the other ran from the Utah city to Helena, Montana.” Mail went out three times each week without interruption until 1866 when Holliday’s interests were purchased by Wells Fargo and Company.
Weston settlers moved their community from the Cedarville area to its present site in 1867. This space offered more room and it had the vantage point for the lookouts for approaching Indian threats of that time. Another plus for this location was that it was on the main freight roads to Montana and mail was more readily delivered. By 1870 Weston got a post office. John Clark was the first postmaster and the services remained in Clark’s residence until his release in 1906.
Due to the freight roads and stagecoach line Gentile Valley residents claimed a post office in the early 1870s. The first one was located on Cottonwood Creek and was known as the Cinder Post office with Thomas Johnson as the postmaster. When he moved away so did the postal service, over to the west side of Bear River, on King Creek at Harry King’s place of business. King was bitter towards his Mormon neighbors and would not deliver any mail addressed to Mound Valley that came to that post office. When Solomon Hale, a Mormon, purchased land on the west side of Gentile Valley, the mail for Mound Valley was left at his ranch.
The terminus of the Utah and Northern Narrow Gauge Railroad was at Franklin in the fall of 1874. Mail could come in on trains to Franklin and then needed to be carried to recipients beyond so the job of mail carrier was open to bids from willing and able men. It meant long hours in the saddle and horses of endurance, plus any challenges that might present themselves in the way of weather.
Being a mail carrier was not a job for the faint of heart. Two young men from Weston, James and Fred Atkinson got the contract to carry mail from Franklin once a week to Soda Springs. “They got along all right until Christmas, and after that they would not use their horses any farther than Roscolt’s place on Battle Creek, the snow being too deep. They had to pack the mail by snowshoe the rest of the way.”
When the U & N Railroad made its way in 1878 as far as Dunnville (now Banida) the superintendent of construction, Washington Dunn, had several “mail order“ houses built in the east and shipped to Dunnville in sections. They were houses that could be dismantled and moved to the next “end of track” boomtown as the railroad progressed.
“The Post Office at Dunnville, one of these bolted together dwellings, was also a rolling institution. It perambulated with the Terminus. Tom B. Warren served as Post Master to the end of the U & N line.” T. Morrison, one of the first settlers, applied for and got the contract to carry the mail from Dunnville to Soda Springs.
Ranches that were located near a stagecoach or freight line often became the post office for settlers and each family within the area was responsible for picking up their mail at that gathering spot.
This was the case for Treasureton and Stockton. According to the Riverdale history, Joseph Stone was their first mail carrier. He began the trip between Franklin and Riverdale in the fall of 1879, and continued for 10 years. At first there were three post offices established in this area. At Riverdale Peter Preece was postmaster in 1882. The one at The Falls (upper Riverdale) was supervised by George Davis in the spring of 1880. At the western end of this spread-out community was a post office at Battle Creek.
An official post office was established in Mink Creek in 1878, with founder James Morgan Keller as postmaster. Prior to this time, mail was received only occasionally from the Franklin Post Office and if a resident had reason to make the trip to Franklin they would haul any mail that had accumulated in Franklin back to the Mink Creek Village.
“The story goes that on the opening day of this new post office, all the townspeople were gathered and ready to receive their mail. When the carrier arrived, it was discovered that the keys to the mail sacks had been left in Franklin. A return ride was made. No doubt the weekly mail delivery days were the big event of the week.”
Mail was important to the settlers. Many had traveled oceans and continents to carve out a home in what is now Franklin County. Receiving of a letter, or news of any kind, from their past lives kept them connected.