Did you know? Postmasters, 1855-1893


By Janet Morrison
Did you know?

Did you know that the post office for Harrisburg has been located in at least ten different buildings since 1855?  In the early days, when someone new became the postmaster, the location of the post office often changed. 

It was not until the mid-1900s that the U.S. Post Office (now called the U.S. Postal Service) started constructing buildings in Harrisburg to be used specifically and solely as the post office. 

The coming of the North Carolina Railroad in 1854 probably introduced the first regular mail service in and out of Harrisburg as we know it today.  The N.C. Postal History Society says that the Harrisburgh Post Office moved from Mecklenburg to Cabarrus County on January 22, 1855, and took the name Harris Depot.

Samuel J. Harris was appointed postmaster on that date.  The actual post office might have been in a store owned by Harris’ father, Robert.  That store was across the railroad track from the depot.  After little more than 18 months, Harris resigned.  He died a couple of years later at the age of 38.

William Johnston replaced Harris as postmaster on October 30, 1856. Two years later, he was replaced by John M. Cochran.  Cochran lived on the hill south of Stallings Road on present-day Robinson Church Road.  It is believed that the post office continued to be in Harris’ Store near the depot.

Robert Kirkpatrick was the fourth postmaster at Harris Depot.  He was appointed to the post on September 3, 1860, shortly after giving up his duties as postmaster of the Kirkland Post Office on Pharr Mill Road. 

A 78-year-old widower, there is speculation that Kirkpatrick had moved into Harrisburg to live with his son.  His home was in the old Valentine Kirkpatrick house prior to his moving to Harrisburg.  (The Kirkpatrick house was across the road from the east end of the education building of Rocky River Presbyterian Church which is at 7940 Rocky River Road.)

Kirkpatrick served but a short time, and Alexander “Sandy” McKinley became postmaster on March 12, 1861.  Fifty-three years old, the father of 13 children, and a prosperous planter, McKinley probably operated the post office out of his home which still stands at 7570 Hickory Ridge Road.

N.A. Kirkpatrick, a son of Robert who served earlier, became Harris Depot’s sixth postmaster on January 30, 1866; however, his tenure was only two and one-half months.
The reason for his leaving the post is unknown, but his wife, Jane, replaced him. She served as postmistress for the next four years.

Balis E. Parrish became the Harrisburg Postmaster on February 28, 1870.  Parrish, who had served in Company H, 7th Regiment, NC Troops in the War Between the States, lived in the home that stood until a few years ago in the 7400 or 7500 block of Robinson Church Road.  His home was later purchased and lived in by Franklin Howie. 

It was during Parrish’s time as postmaster that the name of the post office changed from Harris Depot to Harrisburg on November 23, 1874.

Balis Parrish was succeeded as postmaster by his brother, Virgil C. on September 3, 1875.  Alexander Newton Harris was the next postmaster, assuming office on December 27, 1882.  Another veteran of the War Between the States, Harris served until October of 1883.

A son-in-law of Sandy McKinley, Samuel McKee Stafford, became Harrisburg postmaster on October 17, 1883.  The post office was possibly operated in the Stafford home, as it was the former residence of Sandy and Elizabeth McKinley.

Look for the “Did You Know?” column in two weeks to learn about Harrisburg’s postmasters from 1893 until 1954.


Historian, Corporate Information Services, United States Postal Service, October 5, 1993.

“Post Offices and Postmasters of North Carolina, Vol. II,” by the NC Postal History Society

The Mail Comes Through:  How the News was Carried to and from Cabarrus County Citizens from 1792-1967, by The Stephen Cabarrus Historian Club, Harrisburg School, 1967.

Ancestors and Descendants of Robert Harris, Sr., compiled by Mary Harris Stratton, 1967.

The Descendants of Valentine Kirkpatrick, by Willett Douglas Kirkpatrick, 1991.

Descendants of James & Jennet Morrison of Rocky River, compiled by Marie and Janet Morrison, 1996.

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