Neither rain, sleet, snow nor dark of night should keep any fellow time traveler from visiting their favorite, local award-winning museum.
That famous reference to the United States Postal Service highlights a brand new exhibit now on display at the DeSoto County Museum.
The original Nesbit U.S. Post Office mail sorting desk is fast becoming a popular exhibit at the museum thanks to the generosity of Lynn Ford, administrative assistant with the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors.
“When they built the new Post Office, they had the original mailbox slots that they were going to get rid of, and my mother, Margaret Billingsley, got it,” said Ford, a longtime faithful member of the Nesbit community. “They had a little bitty lobby in front of the Post Office and a half door to get into it. That’s how they sorted the mail. That’s how small Nesbit was back then.”
Ford said the old mail sorting desk still stirs fond memories.
“I remember going down to the Post Office as a child,” Ford said. “Mr. Lex Wooten was our mailman.”
According to DeSoto County Supervisor Mark Gardner, who wrote a history of Nesbit several years ago, the name of the U.S. Post Office at Nesbit was misspelled “Nesbitt” by mistake. For a time, the interstate and state highway road signs incorrectly spelled the name of the town as such until the mistake was corrected by an act of the U.S. Congress.
In 1973, the U.S. Postmaster at Nesbit was H.L. Presley. The old post office, which had been built during World War II, was replaced in 1974 by a more modern facility, and in fact, that structure was replaced by an even more modern Post Office, nearer to the interstate.
U.S. Post Offices in DeSoto County have a long, colorful and rich history. In 1846, the first U.S. Post Office was established at Olive Branch, which was originally called Watson’s Crossroads. In fact, U.S. President Andrew Jackson began his second term in office some 14 years before the Olive Branch Post Office opened to the public.
In 1886, the U.S. Postmaster at Hernando was D.M. Slocum, who had received his appointment just a year earlier. The new-fangled idea of prepaying postage of two cents a letter had not yet caught on with the public. To make matters worse, three-cent coins were in short supply and the Post Office apparently had difficulty in giving change for five cents.
Letters soon arrived without postage, and Postmaster Slocum had no other alternative but to advertise these letters as being sent without proper postage and they were sent to the “dead letter” office in Washington, D.C.
To make matters worse, mail was often picked up by train, and was separated as the train traveled down the track and was dropped off in each town without stopping.
Inadvertently, if the mail did not get properly thrown off, the postmaster was often obliged to “walk the tracks” to find the local mail.
The practice gave new meaning to the phrase “making tracks.”
Speaking of making tracks, the Time Traveler and the folks at the DeSoto County Museum hope that each of you will visit us soon. Just this past week, we had visitors from Maine, South Dakota, California, Texas and Arkansas, and most rewarding, individuals from just around the corner who told the Time Traveler they had driven past the museum on several occasions and never stopped in to check out all the amazing displays and exhibits.
The DeSoto County Museum, which was just voted as being among the top two tourist attractions of the entire county in the annual “DeSoto’s Best” competition, is more than happy to provide an excursion back in time. And best of all, it’s free!
ROBERT LEE LONG is Curator of the DeSoto County Museum.