March 27, 2014

Traces of Laurel: Star Mail Routes



“The postal department would cause bids or proposals to carry mail to be printed on proper forms, which forms were sent to all known perspective bidders and contractors to be used by them for the purpose of bidding on this particular route.  A similar form was used for each additional route in the whole country.  There were thousands of such routes coming vacant each day.”

The bidder had to consider the circumstances (distance, road conditions, etc.) for each route and submit his bid. He had to sign this bid in several places and he was required to fill a bond.  For this there was another form that had to be signed several times as well. Once the bid was awarded, the contractor had to hire someone to deliver the actual mail for a few hundred dollars less than he had bid the contract.  The difference in what the government paid the contractor and what the contractor paid the carrier was the contractor’s profit.  Some contractors had, at the same time, routes in counties adjoining Laurel and routes in states as far away as Maine and Washington.  They may have had several routes within those states, too. 

Many Laurel Countians made their fortune in this way in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Ewell names the following as being among the more prominent: James M. Boreing, Vincent Boreing, Robert Boyd, Capt. Byron, Chris Catching, W.B. Catching, E. A. Chilton, Joseph A. Craft, R.L. Ewell, R.R. Ewell, Dora Faris, G. D. Jackson, James Johnson, Evan Jones, Edward Parker, J.H. Pearl, A.L. Pigg, W.H. Poynter, Charles A. Randall, F.B. Riley, James D. Smith, Tilford Sparks, C.G. Steele, S.G. Steele, W.H. Steele, Presley Stillings, H.C. Thompson, W.H. Thompson and Jeff Yaden.

More on this subject next week.

            • • •             

The Laurel County Historical Society is located at 310 W. 3rd St., London, (formerly the Laurel County Health Department).  The library is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 12 noon.    Call 606-864-0607 during those hours.  Visit the historical society’s website at 

Contact Jan Sparkman at


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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
B. Going to the beach!
C. Kentucky has a lot of wonderful state parks, and we plan to visit a few and enjoy quality family time.
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