Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Post Offices in Northern Illinois, 1837

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Post Offices in Northern Illinois, 1837

Article excerpt

In 1814, the U.S. Congress approved legislation requiring the extension of mail service to the seat of local government in all existing counties in the several states and to new seats of government whenever new counties were established. The law assured that as new states - and their counties - were established in the Northwest Territory, mail service would officially tie the new regions to the more established Eastern states. I

Upon his election to the Presidency, Andrew Jackson used Congress's interest in extending post offices and post roads to advance his own political agenda. Jackson essentially invented the modern patronage system, and, through his vigorous and talented postmaster general, Amos Kendall, used the appointment of postmasters to extend his political influence to virtually every corner of the nation.'

In the June 30, 1837 edition of the Illinois State Register and People's Advocate, published in the Illinois state capital at Vandalia, Kendall advertised for bids on carrying the mail from 1 January 1838 through 30 June 1842. A total of 112 Illinois postal routes were listed, 28 of them for service to northern Illinois destinations (defined here as post offices generally north of Peoria). The route listings filled columns 6-7 on page 2 of the paper and columns 1-6 on page 3. The bid specifications were re-published weekly thereafter until early autumn, apparently to give prospective contractors time to submit their bids. Since most of the mail was required to be carried in post coaches or stage wagons - which needed roads, no matter how primitive - the designed routes offer an interesting snapshot of the road system as it existed in the northern third of Illinois in 1837.

Below is a listing of the 28 routes advertised to serve northern Illinois, complete with the introduction and the concluding explanatory notes, which specify the conditions of service required of bidders. Each numbered route includes the origin and terminus post offices, plus intermediate offices, the route's estimated mileage, and any special requirements postal officials deemed necessary, such as a later start for service on the route in question or requirements that the mails be carried in a special vehicle, such as a four horse post coach. Spellings in the original have been retained. Clarifications added by the editor are included in square brackets. Where possible, the post offices listed have been footnoted and referenced using information from 19th Century atlases, contemporary maps, local and regional histories, and the Listing of Illinois Post Offices by County published in 1981 by the Illinois Postal History Society. This valuable reference was compiled by members of the society (which has now apparently dissolved), who searched through microfilmed postal service records concerning the establishment of post offices and appointment of postmasters throughout Illinois. Unless otherwise indicated in the notes, the post offices listed below remain active.

Proposals for carrying the mails of the United States from the 1st of January 1838 (except as hereinafore stated.) to the 30th of June, 1842, on the following post routes in Illinois, will be received at the department until the 10th day of October next, inclusive, to be decided by the 21st day of said month.

On routes where the existing contracts have been extended to the 30th June 1838, the new service (unless it be of a higher degree than that now in operation) will be made to commence on the 1st of July next. These cases are especially noted under their respective numbers.

2785: From Peoria' by Rome4, Henrys, Hennepin6, Peru', and Utica8 to Ottawa9, 81 miles and back three times a week in four horse post coaches. (Proposals will also be considered for carrying the mail by steamboats on the above route) Leave Peoria every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 2 a.m., arrive at Ottawa same days by 12 [mid] night. Leave Ottawa every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, at 2 a. …

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