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JIM: Early mail delivery; the old stage coach; Mr. Rhorer robbed

There lurks in the musty, dusty pages of the News any number of gems worthy of the retelling to a new audience. Now and anon, this old blind hog from north of the Green River stumbles across an "acorn," but rarely one of such appeal as this amazing jewel from the December 29, 1920 Adair County News The piece is unattributed but may be the work of longtime News man J.E. Murrell, who was born in late 1849 or 1850. -Jim


Tales of long ago: early mail delivery to Columbia; implementation of the stagecoach line; and the great stagecoach robbery.

Before giving a history of this old time vehicle, we will give a little writing of how Columbians received their mail before the stage coach was introduced.

In 1854 the turnpike from Campbellsville to this place was completed, and a short time before that year our mail facilities were very poor and slow. Our mail from Louisville came via Elizabethtown, and from that point it came horseback twice a week. A mail once a week came from all the adjoining towns. Soon after we commenced receiving two mails a week via Elizabethtown, a semi weekly mail was started from Glasgow. We were a very small boy at that time, but we remember the carrier from Glasgow handled the Louisville papers which he received at Glasgow and peddled along the route between the two towns, and generally reached Columbia with several that he sold upon the square.

In olden times nearly all the mail carriers, excepting the one who brought the mail from Glasgow, were kept over by Mr. Andrew Russell, the father of the late Judge W.E. Russell. The mail carriers were partial to Columbia, and when a rain came before leaving this place, it is said that they would ride to the first stream and return saying that creek was not fordable. Their statements were generally accepted, and they were permitted to remain here another day, waiting for the stream to run down, as they claimed. On the other hand it is said when they were coming to this place, finding the streams past fording, they would swim their horses in order to get here.

We did not commence to receive a daily mail until after the turnpike was completed, and soon after the pike was opened mail facilities became better and the stage coach was put on and a mail daily reached us from Louisville and from the upper counties.

During the Civil War, Thomas & Beckney were the mail contractors from Lebanon to this place, and during their reign is as far back as our memory goes. Mr. Thomas lived at Danville and Mr. Beckney at Shelbyville. They put on coaches which were conveyed by four horses, and stands where the teams were changed, every six miles or eight miles.

It is remarkable the number of passengers who would get in and on the coaches. The insides packed as close as sardines in a box and the top and boot the same way. We remember of seeing the stage leave Columbia one morning with thirty-two passengers and they were carried to Lebanon, the nearest railroad point.

Guerrillas were thick during the war and often a guard of soldiers went on the hack, to protect the mail and express.

A short time after the Bank of Columbia was robbed by the James and Younger Boys, and its cashier, R.A. C. Martin, killed by one of them, the stage coach was robbed about two miles this side of Campbellsville. At that time the coach left here at 1 o'clock in the morning. On the same night a highwayman had secured lodging with Mr. J.A. Johnson, who lived not far from the pike, a half mile this side of the Green River bridge.

The stage was due to pass this point about daylight, and the highwayman, for such he proved to be, told Mr. Johnson he wanted an early start. He was on his horse on the pike when the coach came up. He did not order it to stop, but galloped in front, and when he reached a secluded spot, at the point designated, he dismounted, went on to the pike, ordered the driver, who was Bob Borders, and the passengers to get out. Our recollection is there were three passengers, three men and one woman. One of then men was Judge M.H. Rhorer, now of Middlesboro. (At the time this occurred, Judge-to-be Moses H. Rhorer was about 30 years old.)

The robber ordered the men and woman to stand in line, and at the same time keeping his revolver playing upon them. The passengers were not armed, and the robber soon got their valuables, in the way of money and jewelry. Judge Rhorer lost a gold watch valued at one hundred and twenty-five dollars, some money and a lot of blank checks on the Bank of Columbia. The mail sacks were also cut open and the registered letters taken. The robber then got on his horse and backed into the woods, keeping his revolver pointed at his victims until he got out of sight.

It has never been known who perpetrated this robbery, but it was believed at the time he was a former member of the James gang. Two weeks after the robbery some checks that were taken from Judge Rhorer, reached the bank here filled out for certain sums,. and sent by a bank in Southern Kentucky. At the time this robbery occurred the stage line was owned by Geo. W. Borders, of Campbellsville.

A brief entry in the July 30, 1913 News bade this dry-eyed homage to the changing of the guard: The old stage coach is evidently gone from the pike forever. The automobiles are doing good service and they are here to stay. The time is so much easier and quicker, it would a difficult matter to get the traveling public to again take the hack. -JimA favorite quote from Jim: Life is for enjoying, not just getting and working, and getting and working.(From a line spoken by the character Tom Bledsoe in the movie "Songcatcher.")

This story was posted on 2010-12-09 04:57:06
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