Mail Boats of the Rogue
Thursday August 18, 2005
By Alice Mullaly
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
In 1885, when Elijah Price and his family homesteaded deep in the Southern Oregon wilderness of the Rogue River Canyon, regular mail delivery was non-existent. So, he petitioned the U.S. Postal Department to deliver the mail by boat.
But when the Postal Department discovered that only eleven families lived along the river, they said it was uneconomical. But Price continued badgering them for mail delivery. Finally in 1894, the Department said if weekly mail service up the river could be done for a year without costing anything, they would establish the route.
Price's 15-year-old son, Noble, appeared at the Wedderburn, Oregon, Post Office on June 15, 1895, ready to row, pole and tow the family's 18-foot boat up the river to deliver the mail. It took three days, roundtrip. When storms made the river dangerous, the mail was carried along game trails. But Noble never missed a week and did it without pay.
Good to their word, on June 16, 1896 the U.S. Postal Department began regular mail boat service to the new Illahe [IH-luh-hee] Post Office at Price's home. That mail service continues to this day and is also a popular trip for tourists.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Alice Mullaly, the program engineer is Raymond Scully. I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org
Price, Henry Teller. "Up the Rogue River and the First Mail Route," 1967.