You’ve Got Mail! (Historic Tannahill Post Office)

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While sheltering in place from Covid-19, I reflected on how lucky we are to have the technology in place now that helps keep relationships close and communications going even though we’re physically separated.

If our daughter in Atlanta wants to share some fun news about her or her family with us here in Fort Worth, she has lots of options. She can call, text, email, SnapChat, FB messenger, etc. and instantly we receive information and photos about what has been going on in her life. We can also hop onto a Zoom video meeting and see each other and catch up on what has been happening. Technology has progressed so much where we can stay connected instantly, even though we are 865 miles away.

Recent Family Zoom Session

But, what if it was actually the year 1884 vs. 2020? How would our daughter have sent family news to us back then? Turns out there weren’t many options. Some new technologies were available. The first telephone connection in Fort Worth was made in 1876 between a Doctor and the pharmacy, but was not in widespread use in 1884 and would have not been available to us. The telegraph was in broader use, as it followed the railroads, but it was fairly expensive (Example: a 10 word message would have cost around $1) [1] and was only used for news that needed to arrive “quickly”. The only real option was for her to write us a letter/post card and mail it through the United States Postal Service.

But how would the letter get to us? While home deliver of the mail started in the city of Fort Worth in 1884, it would be years until home delivery would occur in our rural area of Tarrant County. So we would have to periodically go to the nearest post office to see if we have received any mail. And, where was the nearest post office to our current location back in 1884? After doing some research, it turns out that it would have been only one mile from our house, at the Tannahill Homestead on the corner of Silver Creek Road and Verna Trail. As I mentioned in a previous blog, the Tannahill Homestead was built in 1874 and is still standing today! By the way, if the Tannahill Post Office did not exist back then, we would have had to travel, more than likely by horseback or wagon, 10 miles to/from Fort Worth to retrieve our mail.

The Tannahill Post Office was officially established on May 17, 1878. The first Post Master was Robert Tannahill. A copy of the official document establishing this post office can be found at the White Settlement Museum. Note that it states that it would be serving approxiately 100 families.

Establishment of the Tannahill Post Office
White Settlement Museum Collections

An 1887 Postal Route map of Texas shows that the Tannahill Post Office was serviced twice/week and was the first stop out of Fort Worth on the route to Shell Rock (which is now called Azle and for a limited time was also called O’Bar). [2]

1887 Texas Postal Route Map

The Post Office was in existence until January 21,1889, when all documents were transferred to the Azle post office. [3]

Tannahill Post Masters

The actual post office was on the north side of the Tannahill Homestead which used to be the front of the home. Evidence of the post office no longer exists. A remodeling of the house in 1905 removed the post office window.

North Side of Tannahill Homestead
Photo: Tracy J Houpt

Other interesting items I found in my research include how much Robert Tannahill earned in 1883 serving as a post master. He received $31.19 which would be equivalent to $929 now. [4]

Post Master Compensation -1883

Finally, I was able to determine that it would have cost my daughter 2 cents to send us a letter (as long as it weighed under ½ ounce) or a penny to mail us a postcard. [5] For the letter to travel to us, our daughter would carry it to her local post office. There, the post master would determine how to best route the letter to us via railroads, with the letter finally delivered to the rail station with the closest post office to us. This would be the Fort Worth post office. There, the letter would have been sorted and placed on the stagecoach, that also made a stop at the Tannahill Homestead which I will write about in my next blog. Then, when it was time for us to check our mail, we’d walk to the Tannahill Homestead where we would find her letter! I’ve estimated that it would have been a 2-3 weeks to receive her letter, at best. [6]

Postal Guide
1889

In all of my online research for this blog, I did fail to find the one gem that I really wanted to find; a Tannahill Post Mark. Robert would have had a stamp to mark on each delivered item, just like our mail is still automatically stamp today. I even reached out to the National Post Mark Museum (http://www.postmarks.org/museum/) near Bellevue, Ohio for help. So far, they have been unable to locate an old piece of mail with a Tannahill post mark. If I ever locate one, I will try to secure a copy of it for the White Settlement Museum. But, with current day technology, I can still imagine what it might have looked like!

References:

[1] https://eh.net/encyclopedia/history-of-the-u-s-telegraph-industry/

[2] https://search.lib.virginia.edu/catalog/uva-lib:1081764?fbclid=IwAR0gB4pay0-02Hv2bGVypFl94DvB2P3pI5jN3rlCPJsePyw_q4y5goBdXuo#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=1&xywh=6923%2C3358%2C1912%2C1094

[3] http://sites.rootsweb.com/~txpost/tarrant.html


[4] https://books.google.com/books?id=bKhLAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA611&lpg=PA611&dq=%22tannahill%22+official+register&source=bl&ots=l5J85l9qc-&sig=ACfU3U3SY4UPLuUp1dyy8KVAlpPXUNnETw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiAm8D9tc_pAhWFXM0KHQISDDsQ6AEwBXoECAMQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22tannahill%22%20official%20register&f=false


[5-] https://books.google.com/books?id=kfPqAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA407&lpg=PA407&dq=postage+rate+1884&source=bl&ots=uJbRfwfS-q&sig=ACfU3U2XE3A9AGtdhDTzo5Rbj3Id8t7QBw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiV3pOK283pAhVTXM0KHapPA8gQ6AEwGXoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=postage%20rate%201884&f=false


[6] https://books.google.com/books?id=W2IyAQAAMAAJ&pg=PT30&lpg=PT30&dq=texas+post+offices+by+county+tannahill&source=bl&ots=rreG0k8RYa&sig=ACfU3U0g-

One thought on “You’ve Got Mail! (Historic Tannahill Post Office)

  1. Very interesting to think about! We have so much to be thankful for these days, but I still think that it would be fun to go back to those days.

    Like

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