First Rural Free Delivery Mail Service Starts in Rowan County

A Rural Free Delivery mail carrier at Chadbourn in the early 1900s. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill Library.On October 23, 1896, the first rural free delivery, or RFD mail service in North Carolina was established in the small community of China Grove, near Salisbury in Rowan County.

Postal service via RFD included the delivery of all postal items, free of charge, to citizens at their homes, eliminating the need to visit the local post office.  Initially only two citizens were willing to accept the service. Local skepticism for the mail delivery stemmed from concerns about theft and reliability. Postmaster J.C. Deaton, with two assistants, canvassed the area around China Grove, pleading for local residents to try the system. The new routes covered approximately 18 miles in Rowan County, and were slowly expanded as citizen began to trust the RFD system. Although development was slow, today’s postal system derives from the scheme first tested out in North Carolina.

Mail service began in North Carolina in the 1730s as the colonial government extended postal routes through the Carolinas to Charleston. By the 1780s there were only four post offices in North Carolina. By 1851, the number of post offices had increased to nearly 800.

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