There has been a post office in Columbus for a very long time. In fact, there was a post office in what is now downtown Columbus before there even was a downtown Columbus.

There has been a post office in Columbus for a very long time. In fact, there was a post office in what is now downtown Columbus before there even was a downtown Columbus.

In 1797, frontier surveyor Lucas Sullivant laid out the village of Franklinton at the forks of the Scioto and Whetstone rivers. In a move still not fully explained, the Ohio General Assembly changed the name of the Whetstone to the Olentangy in the 1830s. What had previously been the Olentangy River is now called Big Darby Creek.

Delivery of the mail was not at the top of everyone's list of things to do in 1797. When not coping with epidemic disease, occasional buffalo wanderings and the persistent danger of Indian attack, the early settlers also had to cope with a flood that submerged the whole town in 1798.

It was not until 1805 that the residents of Franklinton decided the town was well enough along to deserve regular mail service. A man named Adam Hosac was the first postmaster. With prescient knowledge of later business methods, he immediately outsourced mail delivery to 13-year-old Andrew McIlvaine.

Many years later, McIlvaine remembered, "The route then was on the west side of the Scioto.

A weekly mail left Franklinton every Friday, stayed overnight at Markey's Mills on Darby Creek, next day made Chillicothe, and returned to Thompson's on Deer Creek, thence Home on Sunday It was a rather lonesome route for a boy."

It soon became a great deal less lonely. The frontier village of a few dozen people suddenly became quite large when some of the armies of Gen. William Henry Harrison called the place home during the War of 1812.

With all of this taking place, the Ohio General Assembly, seeking a permanent home in central Ohio, chose the "High Banks opposite Franklinton at the Forks of the Scioto known as Wolf's Ridge" and called their new town Columbus.

The simple, two-story log house of David Deardurff in Franklinton served the needs of that community as a post office (as well as being Deardurff's house) quite well for a number of years.

Columbus had a more uneven history. James Kilbourn of Worthington, a representative to Congress, obtained a post office for Columbus in 1813. Mathew Matthews was the first postmaster. Disdaining an office for postal affairs, Matthews simply distributed the mail to all and sundry from a desk in his office. He was replaced after a year by his employer, Joel Buttles, who held the job for the next 15 years.

Things moved a little more slowly on the frontier.

The coming of the railroad expedited and regularized the delivery of mail. Now, incoming mail was not delivered to the Neil House Hotel but to Union Station north of the city. For a number of years, since the arrival of the telegraph in the capital city in 1849, the post office had been located in a small building at the southwest corner of Pearl Alley and East State Street. In 1861, it was moved to the Odeon Building on High Street across from the capitol. In 1874, the Post Office was moved to the new City Hall, where the Ohio Theatre is today.

For a number of years, beginning in the late 1850s, the central Ohio congressional delegation had been seeking a new, federally funded post office building for the city of Columbus. In 1882, the rather slow-moving Congress agreed to fund a "substantial and commodious building, with fireproof vaults for the use of the United States District and Circuit Courts, internal revenue and pension offices, post office and other government uses" for a cost not to exceed $250,000.

The site finally chosen was at the southeast corner of East State and South Third streets. Originally the site of a rather turgid pond, the filled-in corner had more recently been home to a local lumberyard. The building today known as the Old, Old Post Office opened in 1885 and served as the home of the U.S. Post Office in Columbus until a new post office and federal courthouse was completed along the Scioto riverfront in 1937.

The current Main Post Office on Twin Rivers Drive was completed a number of years later in the 1950s.

It should also be noted that the post office at State and Third, now the home of the law firm of Bricker and Eckler, was originally only about half the size it is today. A major addition to the building was made in 1915.

To understand a little better how mail was delivered in the 1890s when the Old, Old Post Office was new, we can look to the files of a periodical written by postal workers for postal workers called The Postal Record. It tells us something not only about delivering the mail but also about the people receiving it a century ago:

"Several letter carriers endeavor to have a distinctive knock or ring of the bell on their rounds, and this, persisted in, saves a great deal of time in a day. A carrier on Oak Street in ringing the doorbell gives the bell two sharp rings. The occupants of the house know almost to a certainty who is at the door, and do not stop to right their room or their person as is the case when they are in doubt.

"The use of the whistle also saves time. Our foot carriers have only been using the whistle a couple of years, before that time whistles were only used by mounted men.

"Some of our carriers were furnished buggies by obliging friends at Christmas, with which to convey their large loads and bring in their individuals presents."

Mail delivery was much more personal a century ago. "We mark as follows" "Bell not answered," adding the hour at which delivery was attempted. "No Such Number," "Gone," "Unknown," Refused," "Firm Dissolved," "Dead."

And in a final note, the Record noted, "We don our new uniforms. Memorial Day, May 30. M. C. Lilley &Co. has the contract for the entire lot of fifty. It is the third consecutive contract we have given them, and they have given first class satisfaction." As I am sure, the 50 men wearing them provided as well.

Ed Lentz writes a history column for ThisWeek.