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Post Office History


On Nov. 1, 1879, Isaac Stewart submitted the original application for regular postal service on Milton Penland’s land. It served 300 inhabitants. After Reconstruction, postal service had been discontinued at nearby Ledger, Wing, Estatoe and Minpro in favor of a popular system known as Rural Free Delivery. 


On Nov. 13 of that year, Stewart became the first postmaster. He located the office in his general store at a place on the property called Flat Rock because of a large flat rock situated there. The site was also known as Penland Rock and from that the facility was named Penland Rock Post Office. Because it caused some confusion, the word "rock" was later deleted.

A Confederate veteran of Scottish extraction, Stewart fell ill in 1887 and was replaced by Harriet Hensley, (who was the great great grandmother of Penland’s current postmistress, Rebecca Davis) as of June 18. She also operated a big boarding house at Penland. Her husband, Saulamon, was sheriff of Mitchell Co. Her father, Aaron Burleson, an ancestor of Postmaster General Albert S. Burleson, who served during the Wilson Administration, was killed in an Indian massacre on the headwaters of Cane Creek. Hensley served at Penland for 5 months.


Tilmon Penland, a relative of Milton Penland, was third postmaster, and last to serve at this location.

On July 7, 1891, the location was changed to a place then known as Henline Hill, a mile east. On the 27th, Charles Sparks became postmaster. On Nov 5, 1900, the site was moved still another mile east and on the 16th, his wife Nancy succeeded him.

The sixth postmaster was James Hoilman as of October 2, 1902. On Sept. 5 of that year the post office was moved, for the fourth time, to the community then known as Bailey Station on the north side of the railroad right of way and served 800 customers. This relocation changed the name of the town to Penland, where the post office is located today.


One day that same year, James Hoilman, then postmaster, became engaged in a dispute with Bill Connolly, co-owner of the store, over an article Bill had sold in the store. They walked over to the nearby railroad trestle, still arguing. There Hoilman pulled out a pistol, shot and killed his adversary, then fled. Months later he was apprehended in Canada and returned to Penland for trial. Of course, this ended his postal career.


On January 22, 1908, Burges Bailey became the seventh postmaster. He was a relation of the Deer Park Baileys. Baileys Peak, which can be seen from the front post office window was named for his grandfather, John Bailey. 


The eighth postmaster was Claude Radford as of April 10th, 1914. He died of a virus while postmaster. His ten year old daughter died as well. He was only 28 years old.


The ninth postmaster, Newton Pittman, had a competitior across the railroad, Carolina Mercantile, owned by Andrew Tainter. Pittman was postmaster on October 23, 1919. His house burnt down while postmaster and he moved to Spruce Pine to open a store, thus losing his position as postmaster.


When Will Pitman became the 10th postmaster on Jan 9, 1934, the post office changed location for the final time. Mr. Tainters Storeroom For Ladies' dresses became the present post office. This is the upper half of the post office. The lower half had been the office of the Bailey Lumber Company. Pitman was the only postmaster to retire having served for more than 28 years, and was the co-owner of the Carolina Mercantile Company. 

The eleventh postmaster was Robert Duncan, as of February 28, 1962. He was also owner of the grocery store connected to the post office. His wife was his clerk as were all the former postmasters’ wives.


Carlene Bailey was the twelfth postmaster as of September 11, 1963.

In the left hand corner says Doug Long, 9/28/67.

Over the door to the General Store it says Charles W. Edwards Groc. Edwards Groc.

Rebecca Davis, below, was selected as postmaster December 27, 1980 and serves today. Davis, a native of Penland, is the great, great granddaughter of Harriet Hensley, the second postmaster of Penland.

Much of the equipment and many of the postal boxes retained from the 1879 office are still in use. Original double doors with top glass panels, two-over- two sash windows and freight doors remain. Around 1934 a shed roof addition was built above front and south elevations. Inside unpainted walls of wormy chestnut, covering the entire building, are still visible.


Furnishings are generally irreplaceable. For example, the main counter is 42" tall, built with historic millwork and customer mail slots are unique. Postmaster Will Pittman made the cabinets and desks that are still in use today. The only other such matching type is contained in historic museum display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. 

An old manual typewriter and an ancient weighing scales rest on the counters. A black safe, no longer used, is also in the post office. It is an original safe from the 1800s and is very, very heavy. It is reinforced with horse hair and concrete. The sorting table is original and it has been so worn down the grain rises in relief. The mail window and mailboxes are original as well. 


Until the 1970s, the building was a combination general store and post office. It was a big, open room with dishes, groceries, clothes, etc. There was a gas pump outside for refueling, and a pot bellied stove for warming up by. It was a social center for the community. To this day, the post office is still a meeting place for the neighbors. 


At present the Penland School of Crafts is the Post office's largest customer.

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