There has been a U. S. Post Office in Marianna for many years, particularly noted in photographs and written history since the turn of the century. The first one, in 1900, was housed in the area about where The Gazebo Restaurant is today and its location was obviously then, as today, marked by an American flag flying proudly.
It is also noted in Shoffner’s history that Marianna was chosen as one of the two stops between Pensacola and the Apalachicola River by the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad Company in 1884, which was owned by the parent company, the L&N Railroad. This made the delivery of mail to t much more regular. Some of the other Jackson County communities which had a post office established between 1876 and 1900 were Graceville, Cottondale, Sneads, Grand Ridge, Cypress, Aberdeen, Alliance, Bascom, Dellwood, Parramore, Paront, Kynesville, Alford, Bumpnose, Sills, Port Jackson, Longview, Lotus, and other small groups of inhabitants who congregated into communities for the purpose of harvesting the vast virgin timberlands and working the turpentine industry in the area. Farming was a major industry, growing cotton, watermelons, poultry and some livestock production. The train personnel hanging the mail bag on a hook on a post as the train came by small communities has been depicted in many movies. Old-timers associated with the trains quickly verify that it happened every day, all along the route.
It was also reported by Milton Smith in his writings that, around 1905, the Marianna Post Office was housed in a portion of the two-story wooden building located where the Daffin Building is today. In 1926, as The Federal Building was being built, we have a copy of a letter where R. D. Daffin wrote the Postmaster General of the United States, making him aware that the lease would expire on February 2, 1926 on his building being used as the Marianna Post Office, and he would be willing to lease it further to them for another 24 months, or any portion thereof, at $125 per month. He further states, that the Government would have to repair the boxes and other post office fixtures in the building, and keep them up, and to furnish heat, lights, water and janitor services in the building. He says, “that since the present lease was made, both the streets on which the building is located have been paved, and the expenses of water, lights and heat, etc., have consumed the rental to the point that I do not realize enough out of the rental to pay the taxes on the building, which taxes are constantly increasing from year to year. I shall expect possession of the building on February 2, 1926, unless the above proposition is agreed to.” We would assume that the Postal Department continued to lease that property, as The Federal Building was under construction and was completed in the summer of 1928. (We do not know the Post Office location referred to in this letter.)
It appears that there had never been organized City delivery of mail prior to 1926, as we have a copy of a June 29, 1926 letter from the Post Office Department in Washington, giving the Marianna Postmaster six pages of directives he must follow to establish City Delivery of the mail. It appears that he was authorized to have two regular carriers hired by August 1, 1926. He goes on to state “that City delivery may not commence until at least 85% of the patrons, both business and residence, shall have provided suitable receptacles for their mail. A slot in the door will serve the purpose, and is preferable. Under no circumstances will mail be delivered to a patron who fails to provide a receptacle and all who have not done so should immediately be notified to that effect. Fifteen days prior to the date fixed for the inauguration of the service please report to this Bureau the exact progress made in this direction, giving the total number of stops and the number which have been equipped with receptacles. Failure to comply with this requirement will necessitate either postponement of establishment or complete withdrawal of authority therefor. The carriers must not deliver mail at the side or rear doors of the residences, above the second floor of office buildings not provided with elevator, or to separate suites or rooms in apartment houses.” Rural Free Delivery had been established throughout the United States in most areas by 1900, and it would be assumed that some sort of rural delivery was being undertaken in our area. By 1910 there were 41,000 RFD carriers in the country, serving 993,000 miles at a cost to the government of $36,915,000. By 1930 there were 43,278 carriers, serving about 7 million families at a cost of over $106,000,000. In 1913 Parcel Post was added to the mail service which allowed delivery of packages and the distribution of newspapers and magazines. Mail-order from catalogs became possible at this time. This was a tremendous asset for rural customers and this service added millions of dollars in sales of products nationwide from the rural customers.
It appears that the U.S. Government acknowledged a need for a Federal Court Building in Marianna and purchased the property at the corner of Lafayette (Fayette) and Caledonia Streets. In early photographs, there appeared to be a large two-story building on the property which was either a very large home or an apartment building. Since only the roof is visible in the photographs we have, which were taken from the top of the Court House, it cannot be determined exactly what building was there, but our 1917 photograph shows that there is a cleared lot at that location.
From the photograph, you are looking south. You can see the M. L. Dekle General Store and can easily understand why it had the reputation of being “the largest business in Jackson County.” South of the open area in the center of town, now known as Confederate Park, is the original Chipola Hotel. This photograph allows one to comprehend the enormous size of the two-story wooden Chipola Hotel structure, which was soon to be moved back on the Chipola Hotel property to allow for the construction of the present building, completed in 1928. To the left of the photograph one sees the building which now houses Edward Jones Investments and on the rear of that building, the advertisement for Chero-Cola, “Pure Wholesome and Refreshing”, costing 5 cents. It can be noted that at this time the buildings there were only one-storied. Market Street is immediately north of that row of buildings. Facing Market Street is a long row of business buildings, the first one now housing Hinson Insurance Agency. You can see that the electrical lines are running across the center of “The Plaza”, as that vacant property was called at that time. As has been noted previously, there are telephone wires hanging loosely from the same poles as the electrical lines.
The gentleman and lady standing on the vacant lot are unidentified, but one would assume that they had some interest in the large two-storied building which appears to have been removed from the property.
A series of articles will be continued to show the progress of the 1928 Federal Building as we share the photographs taken by the Contractor, Charles Weitz and Sons, as the building comes out of the ground to show the basement developing into becoming the front portion of the beautiful two-story building we see and enjoy today.
Note: Information for this series of articles are taken from Jerrell Shoffner’s Jackson County, Florida – A History, from Wikipedia and from correspondence and photographs found in the Marianna Post Office archives, which were shared with the Chipola Historical Trust in 2007. The over-85-year-old-photographs tell the story of the construction of the 1928 Federal Building/Post Office complex. The original photographs are currently hanging in the office of the Marianna Postmaster. The Chipola Trust was very fortunate to be allowed to add these photographs and a number of other valuable items to their historical collection.