Connecting Minnesota's farmers to the world
The Farmington, Minnesota, post office had been in operation for almost three decades in 1884, when Hamilton Harris Judson was appointed its ninth postmaster. He took his job seriously, arriving at 7 AM seven days a week and staying until 10 PM. During harvest season, he kept the post office open even later to accommodate area farmers.
In August 1896, Judson and Israel Herrick, publisher of the Dakota County Tribune, were asked to design several rural delivery routes in the Farmington area. The U.S. Congress was testing the concept of Rural Free Delivery--an expansion of postal duties that meant direct, daily delivery to farmers. The Farmington post office was only the second one in the nation to attempt Rural Free Delivery.
Judson and Herrick submitted three twenty-five-mile routes to Congress, and all were accepted. In early 1897, a fourth route was added. Rural Free Delivery in Farmington was off and running. The Dakota County Tribune wrote, "A promiscuous variety of mail boxes may now be seen near the entrance of door yards in which the mail carrier collects and delivers mail. We hope this experience will be a successful one as it is very handy to have our mail delivered daily." Newspaper publisher Herrick knew a good thing when he saw it, too. "Rural mail delivery will begin in a short time now," he wrote in the November 19, 1896, issue of the Tribune. "Subscribe for a daily newspaper now and have it left at the house every day. To new subscribers, the Tribune will give the daily Minneapolis Tribune and the Dakota Country Tribune one year for five dollars."
The Farmington experiment was a success, paving the way for other rural Minnesotans to experience the convenience and reliability of Rural Free Delivery. Hamilton Judson kept at his job until 1914. "Mr. Judson steps down and out with a record rarely attained by anyone, with none better," wrote the Tribune. He died six years later. His obituary said it best: "Hamilton Harris Judson, although modest of manner and declining in accepting honor where honor was due, was the greatest of all our citizens." Today, the Farmington post office is named for Judson.
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