Early mail service in Harrisburg


By Janet Morrison
Did you know?

Records of the earliest mail service in the Harrisburg area are sparse to nonexistent. There was a post office in Concord as early as 1801, and it is thought that it served all of Cabarrus County for as long as 25 years. Citizens picked up their mail when they went to Concord for court or to conduct business.

The next post office known to have opened in Cabarrus County was one at Poplar Tent in 1827, and one followed in the Rocky River community in Township One in 1831.

There was a flurry of post office openings in the area in the 1830s. Post offices opened at mills and other places of business. Some were established in private homes. 
Eventually, there were 57 post offices in the county. Carriers took the mail from one place to the next by horseback or on foot.

As today, sometimes a post office in one county served residents in the adjacent county. Such was the case in the early 1800s with the post office at Morrison’s Tanyard on Caldwell Creek just inside Mecklenburg County. 

The tanyard was owned and operated by “Tanner Jimmie” Morrison who was born in 1777 and died in 1824. The post office served some Cabarrus County families near the county line on present-day Lower Rocky River Road. That area now has a Harrisburg address.

According to the historian of the United States Postal Service and “Post Offices and Postmasters of North Carolina, Vol. II,” by the N.C. Postal History Society, there was a post office called Harrisburgh in eastern Mecklenburg County. 

Samuel S. Harris was appointed Harrisburgh postmaster on April 11, 1834. Richard J. Rankin, his successor, was appointed on Dec. 13, 1847. Charles B. McGinnis was appointed postmaster of Harrisburgh on Oct. 8, 1841, and his successor on Jan. 14, 1851, was Edwin Alexander. If you say that Harrisburg started out in Mecklenburg County, though, you’d better have your running shoes on!  Those are “fightin’ words” as far as some people are concerned.

When Alexander Newton Harris came home from the War Between the States, he carried the mail from Harrisburg to Monroe, N.C., on horseback. 

There were only two post offices in Township One when Cabarrus County was divided into townships in 1868: Pioneer Mills and Harrisburg. Other post offices that have operated in Township One are Kirkland, Welch’s Mill and Wharey. 

The Pioneer Mills Post Office was located near the corner of present-day Morrison Road and Pioneer Mills Road. Look for a possible “Did You Know?” column about the Pioneer Mills Post Office and community in the coming months, as well as one about the Kirkland, Welch’s Mill and Wharey post offices.

According to the “Harrisburg Items” column in the Concord Times newspaper on June 23, 1887, “Col. J.M. Cross has a mail route to let out the first of August — running from this city to his place, known as the white star line. Bidders will please see or write the Col. at once.” It isn’t known whether or not Colonel Cross had any takers. 

I haven’t been able to determine where Mr. Cross lived in relation to Harrisburg. He was listed as living in Township One in the 1880 U.S. Census. He was 26 years old and disabled.

Dan Honeycutt carried the mail between Harrisburg and the Pioneer Mills Post Office which was housed in a country store back in “horse and buggy days.” He traveled by foot and sometimes on horseback. He had a path across fields and through the woods to the Pioneer Mills community. 

Honeycutt was paid about $100 per year for carrying the mail three days a week. He and his brother, Bingham, lived and raised cotton on a farm up the railroad from Harrisburg.

With this background information in mind, the next “Did You Know?” columns will focus on the postmasters and postal clerks. Later, one column will be about the horse and buggy mail carriers and two columns will be about the mail carriers in the age of the automobile. 

Bibliography• 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.
• Historian, Corporate Information Services, USPS, Oct. 5, 1993.
• “Post Offices and Postmasters of North Carolina, Vol. II,” by the N.C. Postal History Society.
• The Concord Times, June 23, 1887.
• Interviews with and written notes from Ira Lee Taylor, 2006-2008.
• Tenth Census, Cabarrus County, N.C., 1880, transcribed by Betty L. Krimminger, 2003.

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