The Postmaster General of the United States regularly advertised in the Statesman and other Idaho newspapers for bids on delivering the mail between Idaho towns. On May 1, 1875, an ad in the Statesman invited carriers to bid on a three-year contract to carry the mail from Silver City to South Mountain, a mining town south of there that had had its own post office since 1872. The ad was for a weekly trip that would leave Silver City Friday at 8 a.m.; arrive at South Mountain by 5 p.m.; leave South Mountain Saturday at 8 a.m.; arrive at Silver City by 5 p.m.
In April 1881, as winter snows began to melt, G.W. Jackson, a butcher from Rocky Bar, told the Statesman that horses were able to carry the Rocky Bar mail from Snake River as far as Mountain Home. He hoped that horses would be able to make it as far as Dog Creek within the week. From there it would still have to be carried by men on snowshoes. Jackson was down from Rocky Bar to buy sheep. He will drive them on the crust after he reaches the snow line. He thinks he will be able to get beef cattle in to the Bar by the first of next month.
This was not the Mountain Home of today but a stop on the Oregon Trail originally called Rattlesnake Station because it was located where the trail crossed Rattlesnake Creek. In 1878, the postmaster and his wife thought it would sound a lot better to call their station Mountain Home. In 1883, when the Oregon Short Line Railroad was built across southern Idaho, the towns few wooden buildings were dragged down the creek to a location next to the tracks.
After the Idaho Central Railway branch line was opened between Nampa and Boise in 1887, mail from the capital had to go to the mainline at Nampa for transfer to trains. In October 1888, a letter signed Kicker was reprinted in the Statesman: Dear Sir The U.S. Mails are getting to be real good for a business man in Nampa. The I.C. railway brings the mail from Boise at 1:30 p.m. and leaves Nampa at 2 p.m., delivering letters by this train post-marked: Boise City 6 a.m. What show has a man or woman to read and answer a hurried letter of business in 30 minutes? The mail bag had to be asked for by a private citizen and the (citizen) was given the sack to take to the post office, as I suppose the railroad men at this station have too much business to notice such little things as the mails for Nampa people.
In December 1889, the train schedules had changed, but some Boise people complained about having to wait in line at the post office a long time to get their mail. The Statesman reminded them that the mail was due at the Boise post office at 12:30 sun time, and that about an hour was required to sort it, after which the delivery window was opened. For the convenience of those having only call boxes, a side delivery window has been provided where the parties can receive their mail without waiting their turn at the general delivery. If there was confusion over delivery times, its no wonder. Boise was officially on Mountain Time, some thought it should be on Pacific Time, the post office and most farmers preferred sun time, and the railroads ran on their own railroad time.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.