That Wasn’t Hoffmans Ferry!

Hoffmans FerryJust one last mention of Hoffmans Ferry – a story from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 31, 1894, in which our favorite largely lost community figures at least slightly. The Eagle tells the tale of the history of the Post Office, as it was related by Postmaster Andrew T. Sullivan. Part of the story included the beginning of railway postal service inaugurated over the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad between New York City and Buffalo in 1868. Like many startup enterprises, this one was not entirely thought out, and its employees were not necessarily trained. Sullivan said that “With very few exceptions the clerks appointed to this line did not know a postal car from a last year’s bird nest; some of them had never been over the entire route. The service was started in haste and very little time was allowed to prepare schemes or instruct the clerks in their duties; about all that could be done was to furnish a list of the railroad stations in their order.”

Sullivan said there were three clerks on that inaugural run, one of whom had never seen a postal car before, was unfamiliar with the stations, and had no understanding of which mail should be put off the train at the various stops. The other two weren’t much better informed. “When the car arrived at Albany an immense quantity of paper mail was undistributed. A council of war was called and the following novel plan was decided upon. The clerk before mentioned stationed himself in the door when the car left Albany and gazed anxiously ahead. Coming in sight of Schenectady, he called out to his companion on the paper case, ‘Tom, here is a good sized town, give them two bushels,’ and into sacks was hastily thrown about that quantity of mail without regard to where it belonged, and off went the mail at Schenectady. The same thing was repeated at Amsterdam, Fonda and Little Falls, the amount of mail put off corresponding as nearly as possible with the size of the place. There is a small station between Albany and Utica known as Hoffmans Ferry. The clerk in the door watched anxiously for the station and presumably the ferry.

“At last he caught sight of a man crossing the Mohawk river in a skiff. Assuming that this must be the ferry, he called out ‘Tom, hurry up with that pouch.’ The pouch was thrown off in the bushes about three miles from the station, but was located the next day and delivered at the post office. Approaching Utica, the size of the place seemed to warrant the putting off of about five bushels of paper mail; so at Syracuse and Rochester. At Buffalo the clerks ended their weary trip, sending into the Buffalo office all the mail remaining in the car at that point. The most of the mail put off at the stations referred to was returned to trains bound North and South, to be again disposed of in like manner, so that it is safe to say that some of the mail that left New York on the morning of July 9 did not find a resting place inside of two weeks. Superintendent R.C. Jackson, who I am pleased to say is still connected with this service, with his usual forethought, had sent a circular letter to every postmaster on the line of the route, informing him of the situation, and that for a time he must expect more or less confusion and irregularity in the mails, but that in a short time arrangements would be perfected and matters satisfactorily adjusted.”

Sullivan concluded “The railway mail service has progressed rapidly since then ….”



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