Grimshawes Post Office
Thomas Bumgarner completes a money order in this postcard from circa 1930-1945
Grimshawes Post Office today
Backstory and Context
Originally known as the Whiteside Cove Post Office, this office opened on May 28, 1878, and was run by Elizabeth Grimshawe (or Grimshaw) until October, when local miller Thomas Grimshawe, Sr. became Postmaster. Some sources say that his son, Dr. Thomas Grimshawe, Jr., succeeded him as Postmaster in 1902; however, according to research done by the Postal Service, Elizabeth F. Grimshawe was Postmaster from 1893 until 1911. On September 11, 1909, the Whiteside Cove office was renamed Grimshawes Post Office after its first Postmasters. Bessie Pickelsimer (later Bessie Pickelsimer Dillard) ran the office from 1911 to 1914. Warren S. Alexander served as Postmaster from 1914 until 1937, when his wife, Lena, took over. The office was moved one mile in 1946 to land owned by the Alexander’s daughter, Mae Alexander Passemore, and she ran it from the following year until 1952. Thomas E. Picklesimer served as Acting Postmaster until the office was shuttered in 1953 due to a statute, enacted by President Eisenhower, closing all third-class post offices. (Offices were categorized based on postmaster income, which was, in turn, based on revenue.) It was then relocated to the top of Whiteside Mountain and used to sell tickets and postcards. It was moved back to Whiteside Cove Road in 1976 and then to its present location in 1999, when it was restored and given a new roof. It has been open to the public since and remains a popular, if simple (the inside's main attractions are a worn flag and a small chair), attraction. The title of "Smallest U.S. Post Office" is now held by the office in Ochopee, Florida.
The first post offices date back to 1775, when they first became under control of the new American government. By the time the Grimshawes Post Office was founded in 1878, there were over 38,000 post offices; this number peaked in 1901 with almost 77,000. (1878 was also just over 30 years after the first American postage stamps were issued.) Grimshawes was just one of many small post offices throughout the nation before the advent of Rural Free Delivery. While free city delivery began during the Civil War, by 1890, the rural 65% of the American population still had to make a trip to the nearest post office to get their mail. The first RFD routes, including several in North Carolina, were established in 1896. Rural routes cost the post office more to operate and sustain (a $40 million deficit in 1914 alone), but Congress was committed to providing equal services to all Americans at an affordable price. A compromise was reached; routes were standardized and simplified and RFD was denied to patrons within city limits or ¼ mile of a post office. This caused the number of small post offices – especially 4th class offices, often part of other businesses – to plummet, as many rural citizens greatly preferred home delivery over post office pickup. In fact, one postal employee reported to The Boston Sunday Globe that RFD, “cut down the cases of suicide and insanity among farmers’ wives fully 50 percent.”[qtd.15] However, Grimshawes’ patrons kept their office. Various services – such as Parcel Post – greatly increased the usefulness of rural post offices and carriers. Now, customers could receive packages, such as Sears & Roebuck catalog orders, of up to 70 pounds through the mail rather than through an express agency that often only shipped to railroad depots. The year 1953, when Grimshawes Post Office was finally closed, saw the largest single-year drop in post offices since World War I. (However, the number of employees changed very little – meaning the terminated offices were small, with employee losses mostly matched by gains at larger offices.) Today, the United States Postal Service, the semi-independent successor to the Post Office Department, still faces changes in balancing equal urban and rural service with profitability and efficiency; against Government Accountability Office recommendations, it still tries to avoid closing small, local post offices.
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2) First Rural Routes by State - Delivering the Mail and More - Our History, United States Postal Service: About. Accessed February 14th 2020. https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/first-rural-routes.htm.
3) Grimshawes Post Office: Jackson County, North Carolina - Postmasters by City - Postmaster Finder - Postmasters - Postal People - Our History, United States Postal Service: About. Accessed February 14th 2020. https://webpmt.usps.gov/pmt003.cfm.
4) Grimshawes: Smallest Post Office in USA, RomanticAsheville.com Travel Guide. Accessed January 16th 2020. https://www.romanticasheville.com/grimshawes.
5) Lewis, J. D.. Jackson County, NC Post Offices - 1851 to 1971, Carolana. 2007. Accessed January 16th 2020. https://www.carolana.com/NC/Towns/Jackson_POs.htm.
6) Neal, Meghan. Grimshawes Post Office, Atlas Obscura. Accessed January 16th 2020. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/grimshawes-post-office.
7) North Carolina: Dates That First Rural Routes Were Established at Post Offices, through 1904 - First Rural Routes by State - Delivering the Mail and More - Our History, United States Postal Service: About. Accessed February 14th 2020. https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/first-rfd-northcarolina.pdf.
8) Number of Postal Employees Since 1926 - Postage Rates and Historical Statistics - Our History, United States Postal Service: About. Accessed February 14th 2020. https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/employees-since-1926.pdf.
9) Pieces of Mail Handled, Number of Post Offices, Income, and Expenses Since 1789 - Postage Rates and Historical Statistics - Our History, United States Postal Service: About. Accessed February 14th 2020. https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/pieces-of-mail-since-1789.pdf.
10) Post Office, Grimshawes, N.C., Smallest Post Office in the U.S.A. (Local Identifier P052; Accession Number 30450), North Carolina Postcards: North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Accessed January 16th 2020. https://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/nc_post/id/351.
11) Rural Free Delivery - Delivering the Mail and More - Our History, United States Postal Service: About. Accessed February 14th 2020. https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/rural-free-delivery.htm.
12) Significant Dates - Our History, United States Postal Service: About. Accessed February 14th 2020. https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/significant-dates.htm.
13) Stevens, Nye, Natalie Prosin, and Bryant Switzky. Rural and Urban Origins of the U.S. Postal Service, United States Postal Service: Office of Inspector General. August 26th 2019. Accessed February 14th 2020. https://www.uspsoig.gov/document/rural-and-urban-origins-us-postal-service.
14) The United States Postal Service: An American History, 1775-2006 (Publication 100) - Our History, United States Postal Service - About. November 2012. Accessed February 14th 2020. https://about.usps.com/publications/pub100.pdf.
15) Universal Service and the Postal Monopoly: A Brief History - Delivering the Mail and More - Our History, United States Postal Service: About. October 2008. Accessed February 14th 2020. https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/universal-service-postal-monopoly-history.pdf.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grimshawes_Post_Office,_Whiteside_Cove,_NC_(31682865617).jpg; Warren LeMay from Cincinnati, OH, United States [CC0]