With the closing of the Middleburg post office this month, residents of that small western Carroll County town now have to drive down the road to Uniontown or Keymar to pick up their letters, mail a parcel or register an important packet.
One thing they won't be able to do is to pick up the latest town gossip or keep up with local events listed on the wall of the post office that served as the unofficial meeting place and town hall for the community. The trend toward post office consolidation, postal zip codes instead of postmarks, and sharp Postal Service cost-cutting has finally caught up with Middleburg.
For 177 years, Middleburg has had a post office, located in a half-dozen buildings in the town but always at the center of community life. That's even before the postmaster general was a member of the president's cabinet. And it was two decades before Carroll County was created. The Middleburg post office was one of the first in the country to get a paid mail carrier, C.A. Harvey being hired in 1887 for $184.63 a year.
Most people in the Baltimore metropolis today get their mail delivered to their home without giving it a second thought. They don't usually have to make a stop at the post office, not when they can buy stamps at the supermarket, get a mail order at the convenience store and post letters in a street-corner collection box.
Rural Free Delivery service brought the post office to the country dweller nearly a century ago, with the horse-drawn "post office on wheels." No longer did people have to travel to the post office to pick up their mail. Carroll County played an important role in that development, being the first subdivision in the United States to have countywide RFD service in 1899.
Middleburg was a typical turnpike village in the early 1800s, with a tavern for rest and refreshment located about 10 miles from the last stop along the Baltimore-to-Hagerstown toll road. The original post office sprang up soon after Christopher Stauffer laid out the town in 1812.
Like the general store, the movie theater and other public meeting places long taken for granted, the hamlet post office is disappearing, making way for new facilities to serve a different type of community with different needs.
The signs of change are already apparent in Middleburg, where some folks have put up mailboxes by the road to get home delivery, instead of driving to their out-of-town post office.