The First Post Roads And First Post Riders
Through Bellows Falls

 

The Legislature of Vermont, October 27, 1795, authorized the building of the first post-road through this town, to be part of a road to be laid out from the south line of Vermont to the north line of the town of Newbury. Dr. Samuel Cutler and David Sanderson of Bellows Falls, and Adjutant Eliakim Spooner were appointed a committee to lay out this road through Windham County, and it was "to be laid out near Connecticut River." The definite survey of the road through the town of Rockingham showing each turn and the points of compass was filed at the town clerk's office in 1796. Its location has never been changed in any material degree, except for a few rods at the north end of the village of Bellows Falls, necessitated by the building of the "Champlain & Connecticut Railroad" (now the Rutland Railroad) in 1847. It was a part of a system of post-roads of this section of New England, being a post route, or "a road on which the post or mail is conveyed."

"Post-riders" were employed, and an important part of their work was the sale and delivery of the different newspapers published in this vicinity. At the time, this post-road was built, there were papers published at Westminster, Walpole, and Windsor, and the post-riders had control of their circulation upon their routes.

Two advertisements in the Vermont Intelligencer and Bellows Falls Advertiser in 1818, the second year of its publication, were as follows

"POST RIDERS NOTICE

"Reuben Prentiss proposes to ride Post for the

purpose of distributing the Vermont Intelligencer for the

term of one year from the 26th of January last, and will supply gentlemen, who may be disposed to take said paper on the most accommodating terms in any part of his route, which will be from Bellows Falls to Saxton's River Village, Westminster West Parish, Putney, Brookline and Townshend, to Athens.

"Said Prentiss will likewise perform errands and transact business with which he may be entrusted, with faithfulness, punctuality, and at a reasonable rate.

February 16, 1818."

"A POST RIDER

"Wanted immediately, to distribute the Vermont Intelligencer in Rockingham, Springfield, Weathersfield, Reading, and perhaps further north. There are always about one hundred subscribers on a part only of said route, and it is believed that more might be obtained. Apply at the printing office.

February 16, 1818.

BILL BLAKE & CO."

An earlier post-route, which had accommodated the inhabitants of this section of the Connecticut valley, was laid out down the Connecticut on the New Hampshire side. Page 263 of the Records of the New Hampshire Committee of Safety shows that July 27, 1781, John Balch was appointed a post-rider for the term of three months, and they agreed that said Balch set out from Portsmouth on Saturday morning and ride to Haverhill by way of Conway, Plymouth, thence down the river to Charlestown, Keene and to Portsmouth again, every fourteen days during the term, for which service he was to receive "seventy hard dollars, or paper money equivalent."

In 1792, a post-rider carried the mail once a fort-night from Concord through Weirs, New Boston, Amherst, Wilton, Peterboro, Dublin, and Marlboro to Keene, and thence through Westmoreland, Walpole, Alstead, Acworth, Charlestown, Claremont, Newport and Hopkinton to Concord. Thomas Smith of Surry was post-rider on this route. His compensation was twelve pounds per year, and the perquisites on papers and private packages. The postage at that time was six-pence (about twelve cents) on each private letter for every forty miles, and four pence for any number of miles less than forty. Mr. Balch continued to ride for two years and was succeeded by Timothy Balch of Keene, who was re-appointed in 1785.

 

Based on: The Connecticut River Valley in southern Vermont and New Hampshire: historical sketches, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Co., Marble City Press, 1929.

 

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