Rural Mail Delivery in West Virginia

My Dad, who lives in central West Virginia, mentioned recently that the U. S. Postal Service is considering closing his local post office at Orma as part of a money-saving measure.  Rural postal delivery has always been a challenge for the post office; but the USPS has gone to great lengths to provide service six days a week, even to those in harder-to-reach areas.

Dad also shared with me this brief article from the Hur Herald, a web-based news source for Calhoun County, WV, where I grew up.  The Hur Herald reprinted a 1954 National Geographic article with photos featuring Burt Vaughan’s rural postal delivery route through the hills.  Vaughan took the daily route by horse because there was no better way to make his way through the sparsely-settled, hilly area.

Here’s a picture of postman Vaughan (third from left) handing out mail at the local post office/general store in Chloe.  That store, in the original building, is still open today and it’s where my parents pick up a gallon of milk or loaf of bread when they don’t want to go “into town” 40 minutes away.

(photo from National Geographic via the Hur Herald)

Vaughan operated a “Star Route” which meant he was a contractor and not an official post office employee.  It was cheaper for the USPS to contract out certain routes than to provide the service directly.  To save cash today, the USPS is considering contracting out the provision of postal services to local grocery stores and other existing businesses to save the money of having to maintain post offices and staff. Seems like the U.S.P.S. may be returning to the post office/general store model that was popular in the first century of the postal service.  Funny how history repeats itself!