First Rural Mail Carrier in Liberty County

A system of rural free delivery of mail was established by the U.S. Post Office in 1895. It was more than 15 years, however, before the system was implemented in Liberty County.


The first rural mail carrier in Liberty County was J. Madi­son Smith. He was virtually a traveling post office out of the Hinesville post office from 1913 until 1941.


Smith applied to the U.S. Post Office in 1912 to take an examination which would qualify him for the position of rural mail carrier. The position was for a route to several areas of the county, including Taylors Creek and Willie.


Smith scored highest among other applicants for the posi­tion, and was appointed mail carrier in 1913. He moved his family from a Gum Branch farm to a rented house on upper North Main Street, and then to a home he built one block from courthouse square.


The mail arrived early each morning by train in Hinesville from about 1910 to 1919. The postmistress sorted out mail for Hinesville patrons and Smith, and placed all mail for Taylors Creek and Willie in locked pouches which Smith carried in tact to postmasters in those two towns. He then put his mail in delivery order and was ready to commence his work day.


Smith delivered the Savannah Morning News, the Liberty County Herald, and other periodicals on a regular basis. Along the way he sold stamps and money orders, and delivered and accepted registered and special delivery letters and packages.


Smith arrived back in Hinesville late in the afternoon after the second mail of the day had arrived by train in Hinesville from McIntosh. He put his mail in delivery order for the next day, did his paper work, and was then ready to go home. He ate the evening meal, talked with his wife and children, read the newspaper or books, and sometimes played his violin.


Smith was a source of news of the outside world for some of his patrons who never read a newspaper and seldom ven­tured out of the backwoods. He most certainly was the first person to tell them about the beginning and ending of World War I.


In the beginning Smith delivered the mail on horseback. He started using a horse and buggy when the roads were improved. He even used a motorcycle for a while. He was one of the first persons in Hinesville to buy a Model-T Ford to drive on his route.


While his hours were long and constant, Smith neverthe­less took part in several civic activities. He was an officer of Hinesville Lodge No. 271, Free and Accepted Masons, and gave Masonic instructions to many young men in Liberty County seeking membership in the organization. He was one of the first members of the First Baptist Church in Hinesville after it was established in 1937, and donated the church its first hymn books. He was an officer of the New Sunbury Association for many years.


For many years there was no postmaster at Flemington, so Smith would “put up” the mail there each morning. He was well acquainted with J.R. Elarbee , the Willie postmaster who maintained the post office in Zack Futch’s general store, W.P. Gooden, the last Willie postmaster who maintained the post office in his general store, and D.J. Martin, who oper­ated the Taylors Creek post office in his store.


Many changes occurred in Liberty County during the years Smith serviced his postal route. He brought his patrons good and sad news, and thousands of precious parcels from mail-order houses. He became, in fact, an integral part of each of the communities through which he passed over the years.