Historic Post Offices That Existed in the Bethel/Cruso Area
Post offices played an important communications role in early Haywood County. Poor road conditions necessitated that mail be carried weekly by horseback from Asheville to Murphy and points between. Haywood County's first post office was established in 1831 in Waynesville. Forks of Pigeon, Bethel's earliest post office, came ten years later in 1841. Simultaneous with the arrival of the railroads in the late 1800s, additional post office locations developed in the Bethel/Cruso area: Cecil, Chinquapin Grove, Cruso, Forks of Pigeon, Garden Creek, Lavinia (Inman), Little East Fork, Livingston, Retreat, Sonoma, Springdale, Spruce, Sunburst, and Woodrow. A total of 14 post office operations existed in Bethel during a century's time, beginning in 1841 and ending in 1942.
When Rural Free Delivery began in Haywood County in 1901, the need for so many rural post offices dwindled. A person needed a petition of 100 signatures to request service, thereby allowing delivery close to home without having to travel to the post office for the mail. At this point, mail carriers became more significant in rural regions than postmasters and postmistresses. In addition to letters, rural carriers often relayed news about current events and weather forecasts while also delivering newspapers, magazines, and catalogues. The last post office in the Bethel/Cruso area (for which we have dates), Cruso, closed in 1942. After that date, Bethel/Cruso mail was directed to post offices in Canton or Waynesville while rural delivery continued and expanded.
Information for this report was derived from the following sources:
- Haywood County: Portrait of a Mountain Community, the Bicentennial History of Haywood County produced by The Historical Society of Haywood County, edited by Curtis W. Wood, Jr. in 2009.
- Coltman, Evelyn. Legends, Tales & History of Cold Mountain, Book 3, 2007.
- Pigeon Valley, the history project of Cheryl Inman Haney's 1992 Bethel Junior High School eighth grade class that was reprinted by Bethel Rural Community Organization in 2008.
- Sonoma – Valley of the Moon – Sunburst, a Foxfire-styled student history project by Hugh K. Terrell, Jr.’s Bethel Junior High School eighth grade class. Bethel Rural Community Organization’s Historic Preservation Committee reprinted the book in 2022.
- Norman Long provided information about the Chinquapin Grove Post Office.
- Bill Terrell provided information about the Sonoma Post Office as well as data from the U.S. Appointments of U.S. Postmasters, 1832-1971, and Haywood County Postmasters from 1877-1889.
- Cheryl Haney provided information about Cecil, Cruso, Forks of Pigeon, Garden Creek, Lavinia, Little East Fork, Livingston, Retreat, Sonoma, Springdale, Sunburst, and Woodrow Post Offices based on interviews, family history, original documents, national archives, and the US Postal Museum records.
- Douglas Chambers located photographs of some of the post offices from his digital files.
- Edie Burnette researched Branson’s North Carolina Business Directory from 1865 to 1896 regarding locations of Forks of Pigeon, Garden Creek, Sonoma, and Springdale Post Offices.
- Bill Holbrook provided information about the Woodrow Post Office and provided U.S. Appointments of U.S. Postmasters, 1832-1971.
- Carol Litchfield researched the Appointments of U.S. Postmasters, 1832-1971, to determine that the location of the Pigeon Valley Post Office was in Clyde rather than in Bethel and that the Ivy Hill Post Office was in Waynesville rather than in Bethel.
- Carroll Jones provided information about the Forks of Pigeon Post Office.
- Diana Fulbright Berg provided data about the Cruso Post Office as well as the 1927 and 1980s photos.
- Evelyn Coltman compiled and wrote the website information on Bethel/Cruso Post Offices.
Cecil Post Office
Cecil Post Office was situated on the Little East Fork of the Pigeon River. The last postmaster, William H. Green, and his family also operated a store in the community.
Dates of Operation: 1898-1914. After 1914, delivery moved to Sunburst Post Office.
Postmasters/Postmistresses with dates of appointment:
Louisa G. Green (October1, 1898)
Elbert P. Haynes (October 13, 1905)
George Franklin (December 12, 1906)
William H. Green (June 27, 1912)
Chinquapin Post Office
Chinquapin Grove Post Office, in addition to being a mail drop, was originally a school as early as 1867 and was later used as a home. Location was Mountain Grove Road. Norman Long, current owner, has moved the structure to a location adjacent to its original site and has restored it as a mini-museum with memorabilia from its school, post office, and homestead past. Norman Long who restored the Chinquapin Grove School recalls that a postman stopped at the school and picked up letters and postal items that were left there for delivery to areas outside the school community. Letters and postal items sent to residents around the school were left in the school for pick up by those residents.
Dates of Operation: 1875-1883
Chinquapin Grove School/Post Office