BETHEL — In these days of instant communication through electronic devices, it is important to remember the significance that “snail mail” brought to Bethel when the town’s first post office opened on Jan. 5, 1815, at the Broad Street home of Dr. Moses Mason — now one of two museums operated by the Bethel Historical Society.
That event, which occurred 200 years ago on Monday, symbolized the “march of improvement” that took place throughout western Maine during the first quarter of the 19th century.
In his 1891 “History of Bethel,” Dr. William B. Lapham wrote, “The first settlers of Sudbury Canada (Bethel) traveled on foot, making the journeys through the woods to Fryeburg, Paris, Norway and even to Portland. After roads had been opened, these journeys were made on horseback, a great improvement on the old method of locomotion.”
It was improved roads for traveling that made it possible for Bethel’s first mail delivery to take place in 1815, eliminating the need for its growing population to travel to the nearest post office in Waterford to retrieve letters and the few newspapers being published at that time.
According to Dr. Lapham, “Dr. Mason often remarked in after years, that the most exciting moment of his life was when he heard the post rider’s horn and knew that the first regular mail was about to arrive at Bethel Hill. The excitement and enthusiasm among the citizens was greater by far than when the first train of (railroad) cars reached Bethel 35 years later.
To commemorate the milestone, the Bethel Historical Society plans to re-create the delivery of the town’s first mail next summer when a horse and rider blowing a tin horn will arrive at the Mason House where Dr. Moses Mason’s original post office desk is on permanent display.
The exact date of the event will be announced on the society’s website, bethelhistorical.org, and Facebook page.