In the year 1783, while Vermont was an independent republic without allegiance to other states or nations, Governor Chittenden and his council established the first post office in Vermont at Bennington, and authorized the appointment of the first post-rider between that town and the office at Albany, N. Y. The man rode weekly carrying the mail in his saddlebags. The next year, the legislature of the state established four other offices, those at Rutland, Brattleboro, Windsor, and Newbury, and the post-rider, -the pioneer of the splendidly equipped railway post offices of today-between Brattleboro and Newbury, passed through Bellows Falls once each week, each way.
The rates of postage were the same as those of the United States, which then numbered but thirteen states. Anthony Haswell, Esq., of Bennington, was chosen post-master general of Vermont. The post-rider between Bennington and Brattleboro was allowed for travel three pence per mile, while riders on other routes were allowed only two pence, the additional rate being on account of the extremely mountainous country between Bennington and Brattleboro. These post-riders were allowed the exclusive privilege of carrying letters, papers and packages on their respective routes, and any person who infringed upon their rights was subject to a fine of ten pounds. Upon the admission of Vermont to the Union, as the fourteenth state, in 1791, the post offices established in this commonwealth became a part of the general government, and increased rapidly during the next few years.
When regular stagecoaches were started in this vicinity, about 1800, the mails were transferred to and carried by them. In the year 1818, stages and mails passed through Bellows Falls in four directions three times each week.
In 1808, the rate of postage required for letters was: eight cents for a single sheet (size not limited) for less than 40 miles; over 40 and less than 90, ten cents; over 90 and not exceeding 150 miles, 121/2 cents; 150 to 300 miles, seventeen cents; 300 to 500 miles, twenty cents; and over 500 miles the rate was twenty-five cents. If two pieces of paper were enclosed, the rate was double the above, three pieces was treble, four pieces, weighing one ounce, was quadruple those rates.
As late as 1861, each letter was required to be placed in a wrapper in the post office, and in the package was enclosed a “way-bill”, showing the name of the addressee and the amount of postage upon it, similar to what was later done with express and freight parcels.
The first post office in this town was at Rockingham, that then being the largest village in town, Roswell Bellows being commissioned as postmaster January 1, 1801. The second was in Bellows Falls, this being established April 1, 1801. The first postmaster here was Dr. William Page, the grandfather of the late Ex-Gov. John B. Page of Rutland. He was the civil engineer who built the Bellows Falls canal; which was chartered under the name “Company for Rendering Connecticut River Navigable by Bellows Falls,” The first post office was located in the office of that company, of which Dr. Page was the superintendent and engineer. The building overlooked the canal on the brow of the hill just in the rear of Mammoth Block and the present location of the clothing store of J. J. Fenton & Co. The canal was not completed so that boats passed through it till the next year, and the canal tolls were all collected at this building for many years thereafter.
Dr. Page was postmaster four years, being succeeded by Quartus Morgan, proprietor of the old “Morgan Tavern,” still standing on Rockingham Street, and that building was the second location. Since the office was established here, there have been 23 different postmasters, and the office has been located in about as many different places.
Based on: The Connecticut River Valley in southern Vermont and New Hampshire: historical sketches, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Co., Marble City Press, 1929.