The first U.S. post office in Concordia Parish was opened in 1813 in newly named Vidalia, originally known as “Concord” by the Spanish.
James Dunlap was the first postmaster.
Joseph Dunlap was the second.
Samuel Thornberry, the third, resigned in 1815.
Afterward, a fourth postmaster was named, Joseph Vidal Jr. He was the son of Vidalia's founder, Vidal Sr. But it’s unclear whether Vidal Jr. ever officially took the position.
According to Robert Dabney Calhoun’s history of Concordia, the parish was apparently without a post office until the 1840s.
The postmaster was one of the most important people in a frontier community. Getting the job required political connections.
The local congressman, the outgoing postmaster and local politicians all had some influence in deciding who got the job. Starting in 1836, the President, as a political favor, often appointed postmasters at major post offices.
According to the U.S. Postal Service, the post office “often was kept as a sideline to the postmaster’s primary occupation, such as store keeper.
“The postmaster had to keep the Post Office open during normal business hours and, if mail was delivered on Sunday, for one hour after the delivery of mail. If a church service was going on, the postmaster had to wait until it concluded and then open the office for an hour.
“This decision dated back to the 19th-century controversies over the drivers of mail wagons blowing on a horn or a trumpet as the wagon came into town. Some ministers complained that the men would rise up, leave the church, and head for the Post Office, where they would visit with each other and even play cards.”
The fact that Concordia did not have a post office from 1815 to around 1840 became a major issue in a lawsuit in the late 1830s.
So how did Concordians get mail during that period?
That question is answered in a lawsuit from the files of Stacy & Sparrow, a Concordia law firm in the 19th century. The legal matter also involved a Natchez attorney named William Ferriday.
In this case, there was a basic question of whether the defendants had been properly notified -- by post -- of a bill due a New Orleans mercantile firm, a bill the defendants claimed was endorsed by their attorney, William Ferriday, not by them. It amounted $10,876.28.
The two defendants also claimed they never received notice from the plaintiff (and creditor) that the bill was due.
The plaintiff claimed, however, it had mailed two letters involving the matter from New Orleans -- one addressed to "Natchez" and the other to the "Parish of Concordia."
The two defendants in the case -- John Routh and Austin Williams -- were both residents of what is today Tensas Parish but still part of Concordia in 1838. They said the two important letters, both sent from New Orleans and intended for the defendants, were delivered to the wrong place – the Natchez post office.
One letter was addressed to Routh, the other to Williams.
During the winter, spring and fall seasons, the two men lived on their plantations on Lake St. Joseph in present day Tensas Parish, but resided near Natchez in the summers. Since Concordia had no post office, the men said they received their mail on the Mississippi side of the river but not Natchez.
Concordia's Mississippi River shoreline stretched 140 miles. There were post offices across the river from Concordia at Fort Adams, Natchez, Rodney and Grand Gulf, but Natchez was considered as the most central location for Concordia residents to get their mail, according to testimony provided by post office officials.
The defendants, however, said that because Natchez was so far from their Lake St. Joseph homes, they received their mail from Grand Gulf, which was about seven miles distance. Several witnesses for the defendants said that Grand Gulf and Rodney, a mile and half below St. Joseph, were much closer "to the majority of the population" in Concordia than was Natchez and that letters addressed to them through the Grand Gulf post office "were received by them" there.
But a man named Lafferandine, who clerked in the New Orleans' post office for many years, testified that "letters simply directed to the Parish of Concordia were always forwarded by that post office to Natchez."
Woodson Wren, who served as postmaster of Natchez in 1839, said the Natchez post office was "the nearest to the majority of the people, and where the greater part of the inhabitants of Concordia received their letters during the years 1838 and 1839; that there was no post office in Concordia for years, and the nearest one on the Mississippi side was Rodney, but Natchez was the most convenient and central one for the Parish of Concordia, the most business place, and the one of greatest resort."
Wren also testified that John Routh had a post office box in Natchez although Austin Williams did not.
All of this information, crucial in the lawsuit, went all the way to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
The High Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff.