Approximately 150 people turned out for the party on the steps of Cheraw’s United States Post Office Tuesday evening. Cheraw Mayor Andy Ingram initiated the event in an effort to show community support for the downtown postal facility and the service of its dedicated employees.
The current post office was built in 1933, according to Harry Spratlin, a regional representative of the U.S. Postal Service. However, as he told the crowd gathered near the front portico, postal service has been available in Cheraw for 213 years. Before the days of the pony express even, mail was transferred by stage coach from New York to New Orleans by way of Cheraw.
Unfortunately, the possibility of closing the downtown post office is still looming. Ingram, and many others at Tuesday’s event, hope the historical significance of the building and the town’s history as one of the most prosperous in the south during the early 1800s, will spark patriotic loyalty within the hearts of those who have to make postal closing decisions.
“In 1789, when the federal government began operations, there were 11 states, less than 2,000 miles of post roads, and only 75 Post Offices,” said Spratlin. “By 1800, there were 16 states, 903 post offices and 21,000 miles of post roads.”
According to Spratlin, who checked his historical facts with local historian Sarah Spruill, “mail was brought to Cheraw by stagecoach until 1856, when the first railroad reached the town. Daily stages passed between Washington, D.C., and New Orleans, with connections to Charleston and regional towns like Marion, and North Carolina towns like Salem (Winston-Salem) and Rockingham.”
Highway 1, connecting Maine and Florida, and running through Cheraw, was not developed as the Atlantic Highway until 1915.
Twice in recent years, Cheraw’s post office was placed on the chopping block. Now, a third time around, it is again being recommended by the U.S. Postal Service that all of Cheraw’s postal activities take place at the annex building on Highway 9. A public forum held last month at the Cheraw Community Center led citizens to believe a final decision on whether or not to close the downtown facility would be made by Sept. 23, 2012.
On Monday of this week, Ingram said, “My understanding is that decision has been postponed.”
Current and retired postal employees were recognized and honored for their years of service at Tuesday’s event. Faithful post office box renters from the community, Sarah Tolson and Reid’s Funeral Home, were recognized for having rented their respective boxes since the 1950s.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.