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As It Was: Mail Carriers Go from Bicycles and Horses to Air Delivery

In 1903 Bill Warner became the first rural mail carrier for Medford, Ore.  He used a bicycle in the summer or a horse-drawn, two-wheeled cart. When rain turned the roads to mud, Warner carried the mail on horseback.

Folks living in town still had to go to the post office to get their mail. It wasn’t until 1907 that city mail delivery began, and Rollie Beach became the first carrier in town.

In the 1920s, Warner became postmaster and Beach was his assistant. A decade of drama followed for the Medford postal service.

In October 1923, the D’Autremont brothers blew up a mail rail car and killed four people at Tunnel 13 in the Siskiyou mountains. In the weeks that followed, Beach ran the post office while Warner drove inspectors following leads thousands of miles in his old Dodge.

More drama arrived when the Ku Klux Klan mailed anonymous letters warning people of “necktie parties,” or hangings.  Later an embezzler stole over $9,000 in post office money.

When Medford became Oregon’s first air mail stop in 1926, Miller and Beach were there to launch the new way of delivering the U.S. Mail.

Source:  Hamilton, Eva. "Early Mail Service in Medford--The Sensational Twenties." Medford Mail Tribune, 21 Aug. 1966, p. 1.

Alice Mullaly is a graduate of Oregon State and Stanford University, and taught mathematics for 42 years in high schools in Nyack, New York; Mill Valley, California; and Hedrick Junior High School in Medford. Alice has been an Southern Oregon Historical Society volunteer for nearly 30 years, the source of many of her “As It Was” stories.