Bartlett post office has historic roots in 1800s

Bledsoe Rural Route. Photo courtesy of the Bartlett Historical Society.
Bledsoe Rural Route. Photo courtesy of the Bartlett Historical Society.

Editor’s note: This series will run weekly throughout 2016 to highlight prominent people, places and events in Bartlett in honor of the city’s 150th anniversary this year.

The first known post office established in the Bartlett area began on Sept. 5, 1836. The post office was located in a community called “Greenbottom,” which was near to the current intersection of Stage Road (U.S. Highway 64) and Kate Bond Road. The first postmaster was a gentleman named Milton Estill, who, in March 1836, had acquired a clear title to 128 acres on which he built a house where he kept a tavern for travelers. It is not known if the post office was in his tavern, in another business or a home, but in those days, most post offices were located in a commercial operation rather than a home. It could be assumed that the post office was in his tavern but there are no records to confirm or deny this issue. Records do show that A.S. Yancey was the last known postmaster for this operation, which was discontinued on July 26, 1866.

In 1855, the Memphis and Ohio Railroad established a railroad depot at the southwest corner of Stage and the railroad tracks, which became known as “Union Depot,” probably from the fact of the railroad and the road crossing at this point. After it was built, in early 1857, a group of civic-minded citizens held a meeting and drew up a petition imploring the railroad to appoint a station master or agent at the local depot.

It was also in February 1857 a post office called “Jessamine” was established near the same intersection (Stage Road and the railroad tracks). John C. Gay, who owned several lots in the vicinity, became the first postmaster of that facility. The only other know postmaster was Isaac B. Mercer, who had been appointed railroad agent at the depot. Mercer served from Dec. 28, 1858, until the post office was discontinued in 1866.

The Bartlett Post Office (formerly called “Jessamine”) was established on July 27, 1866. The first appointed postmaster was Lewis Hamilton, who served until 1869. The exact location is unknown, but it has been determined that prior to 1968, the post office was located in several local stores, including J.H. Tatum’s Store, Gotten-Hood Store, D.A. Appling & Sons store, H.L. Priddy’s store and the Willis Edwards store.

Some of the postmasters serving Bartlett residents for over 100 years from 1867 to 1971 include members of the Priddy, Davis, Edwards, Gowen, Appling, Freeman, Sedinger, Warr, Huffman and O’Daniel families.

James F. Bledsoe operate a rural route out of Bartlett’s post office from March 1906 until April 1934, for over 28 years. Because of the condition of the roads at that time, he first carried the mail on horseback, and later he obtained a mail wagon and then a buggy. He often delivered medicine and food to people who were unable to get out of their home. One time the mail wagon was hit by a train, and the mail delivery was hampered. Bledsoe’s leg was broken and the horse that pulled the wagon was killed.

For many years the local mail was picked up at the old depot by the passing trains. The mail bag was placed in a pouch on a hook, and as the train came through it was picked up and a mailbag with incoming mail was left. After the depot was demolished in 1940, a pole with a hook at the old site served the purpose until December 1964, after which mail has been transported by truck.

In 1966, plans were announced to build a new post office building that would be located at 5809 Stage Road. The post office moved into that building, which contained 14,972 square feet, on April 18, 1968. That space soon became too small as Bartlett was experiencing tremendous growth and, in a few years, the office moved into an industrial building on Bartlett Road.

In 1976, a larger building was constructed on Elmore Park Road, which continues to serve Bartlett residents today. It has 80 employees serving over 15,000 households and nearly 60,000 residents with six days a week city delivery and 20 rural routes. They offer passport services Monday-Saturday by appointment.

Bartlett’s original ZIP code was 38005. The Bartlett Post Office became a branch of the Memphis Post Office on Jan. 6, 1973, and Bartlett was divided into three ZIP codes: 38133, 38134 and 38135, which the Bartlett Post Office serves. As Bartlett has expanded, it also encompasseD 38129 in the Ellendale area and part of 38002 in the northern part of Bartlett.

Written by By Jack Coleman, special to the Express. Coleman is a member of the Bartlett Historical Society.