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Texas Postal System Began at San Felipe

Within three years of the town's founding, the Mexican mail system formally extended to San Felipe with the appointment of Samuel May Williams as postmaster in 1826. While official mail routes ran between San Felipe and San Antonio, there were no links between the Mexican postal system and that of the United States. As a result, letters between Austin's Colony and the United States had to be hand carried by travelers or merchants. Williams, a close associate of Stephen F. Austin, remained in the job of postmaster until 1835.

As tensions mounted between the Texas colonists and the Mexican government in the fall of 1835, Austin led the San Felipe Committee of Safety to organize the colonists and prepare for war if necessary. Austin realized that communication within the colonies and with the United States was essential. On October 4, 1835, he proposed the creation of a Post Office Department for Texas headquartered at San Felipe. His plan continued some of the routes previously covered by the Mexican postal system, but extended them to additional areas within the colonies and with the United States. Austin asked his old friend John Rice Jones, who had served as a postmaster in Missouri to create a Texas postal system.

The Telegraph and Texas Register that came from the press at San Felipe October 31, 1835 carried a notice by Postmaster General John Rice Jones the bids would be received for carrying the mail over various designated routes in Texas (in the next issue John Rice Jones had turned his attention to domestic problems and advertised the he wanted a good cook). Jones, the organizer of the Texas Postal System, followed the United States plan of organization, acquiring the blanks for his guidance. The first routes established by November 3, 1835, were ones from San Felipe de Austin to the headquarters of the army to Bexar, to Velasco, and to the Cantonment Jessup in the United States. Cantonment Jessup was in Natchitoches Parish 379 miles from New Orleans.

Mrs. Mary Austin Holley, in the book Texas published in 1836 by J. Clarke and Company, Kentucky, refers to "Route No. 1 from San Felipe de Austin by Whitesides in Cole's Settlement, Washington, Fanthrop's and Sim's to Robbin's on the Trinity River 118 miles weekly. This mail left San Felipe de Austin every Sunday at 7:00 o'clock a.m. and arrived at Robbin's every Tuesday at 7:00 o'clock p.m., leaving Robbin's Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. and arriving at San Felipe de Austin at 7:00 o'clock p.m." By the latter part of 1836 Jones had made contract for ten routes covering 988 miles.

The first Texas rates established were 6 1/4 cents for twenty miles; 12 1/2 cents for the second zone up to fifty miles; 18 3/4 cents for the third zone up to one hundred miles and 25 cents for up to two hundred miles and 37 1/2 cents for further distances. Ship mail, presumed foreign mail, paid an additional 6 1/4 cents. As Spanish money was used, the fractions created no difficulty in service. These rates were for single letters, meaning one page - folded over with the address on the front, known as stampless covers. Envelopes did not come into use until 1845.

When the town was burned in 1836 the settlers fled, many going back to the United States never to return. However, after the Battle of San Jacinto and Texas won her independence, some came back to San Felipe to begin life anew. The post office was continued.

During the time Texas was a Republic, mail continued to be brought in and dispatched by boats, stage coach and pony express. An excerpt from an old newspaper states "the mail from Houston due to arrive in Austin on July 15, 1840, was lost. The mules on which it was being transported ran away near San Felipe."

After Texas became a State of the Union the Post then came under the jurisdiction of the United States Post Office Department. Among the United States Post Office department records the first entry for the San Felipe Post Office is dated May 22, 1846, when S. Munger was listed as the postmaster.

When the J.J. Josey Store was built the post office was located in the southeast corner of the building. When the store was moved in 1880, about a mile and a half southeast to the Narrow Gauge railroad, the post office was also moved. At this time J.J. Josey was postmaster. The post office remained in the same location in the store except for a short time when the floor became so worn and thin from use it was deemed unsafe and had to be repaired.

At Dr. Josey's death, W. J. Frederick became the postmaster in 1893. Mr. Frederick served as postmaster in the same building for 47 years. Upon his retirement in 1940, Mrs. Carrie Mae Gaydosik became postmaster. The office remained in the same location until April 1, 1940, when it was moved to a new location.

Masthead photos: Jerry Olson:

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