When Bethel residents get their mail on Monday, it will be the 200th anniversary of U.S. Postal Service delivery in the town.
Before that time, the closest place to get mail delivery was the Post Office in Waterford.
The first Bethel postmaster was Dr. Moses Mason, whose house on Broad Street is one of two museums operated by the Bethel Historical Society.
According to the ‘History of Bethel’ by William B. Lapham (published in 1891), “The doctor often remarked in after years, that the most exciting moment of his life was when he heard the post-rider’s horn and knew that the first regular mail was about to arrive at Bethel Hill.”
The History describes mail delivery at the time:
“The amount of mail matter brought into town was very small at that time when compared with what is brought now. No daily paper was then published in the State, and comparatively few weeklies. Stationary was expensive, postage high, and the people too busy to do much letter-writing. Nevertheless, the weekly communication with the outside world by means of the post-rider was pleasant, and an important era in the progress of the town. These post-riders were generally very obliging, and for a small remuneration would distribute the mail matter all along their route. For instance, before leaving Waterford for Bethel, he would take from the Waterford office papers and letters belonging to persons residing on the way, and just before reaching a house, a shrill blast from his tin horn would announce his approach and indicate that he had something for its inmates.”
Mason served as postmaster in Bethel from 1815 to 1833, operating out of his home. Randy Bennett, executive director of the BHS, believes the office was likely located in one of the front rooms of the house.
In 1833 Mason was elected to the U.S. Congress and was succeeded as postmaster by his brother-in-law and next door neighbor, O’Neil Robinson. The Robinson House is also a BHS museum.
The large postal desk used by Mason is on display at the Mason House. The society plans an observance of the 1815-2015 anniversary in the summer. Bennett said the re-enactment of the arrival of mail on horseback will be the featured event.
“We need a horse that’s not frightened by the tin horn,” he said.