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Mailman Describes 22-mile Horseback Delivery Route


A mailman for a day, Frank Colvin described how in the early 1900’s  he delivered mail by horseback 22 miles from Gold Beach, Ore., to the post office in Irma.

He picked up the mail at 6 a.m. and saw Dennis Cunniff Sr. 15 minutes later on his way to milk his cows. Vigilantes hanged two men in 1861 accused of murdering Cunniff’s wife and stepdaughter.

At Hunter Creek, he met Antone Defonte, who claimed to have walked from St. Louis to San Francisco.

Colvin stopped at the ranch of Robert Smith who married an Indian girl who had saved him during the Rogue Indian wars. 

Farther south, Colvin delivered mail to immigrants from Ireland, Greece, Canada and Italy.

Before reaching the Irma post office, Colvin forded a river and climbed a mountain on the old wagon road, making mail stops along the way.

At Irma, he met the mailman from Harbor, Ore., Tom Van Pelt.  They fed their horses and had a cold lunch together before returning home, Van Pelt going south and Colvin riding north.

Colvin wrote, “I was mailman for just one day and I have written this from memory."

Source: Colvin, Frank. "Biography: Frank Colvin, An Early Mail Route." Curry (County) Historical Society. 2014. Web. 9 June 2015. .

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.