Fossil, Oregon – Mayville Rural Station

Smaller communities often use the post offices of nearby cities and no special indication (other than perhaps the return address as in this instance) that they originated from outside the city is evident in the postmark. There are occasions however when outlying facilities had their own canceling device even though the mail was routed through the larger post office.

Mayville Rural Station

Mayville Rural Station

In this case, the postmark reads “Mayville Rur. (rural) Sta. (station)” along the bottom of the datestamp in addition to the standard town name of “Fossil, Oregon” along the top. The post office began operation in October 1884 with Samuel Thornton as postmaster. I’ve been unable to find the date of final operation for this station in the literature I’m familiar with.

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Fossil, Oregon – Postage Dues

Postage due stamps are also part of the postage stamp stock the postmaster at Fossil, Oregon can use. To reduce the time and effort of canceling stamps, the same precancel device as used on regular postage stamps (see the article on Fossil, Oregon precancel stamps) was used on postage due stamps.

Fossil, Oregon Postage Due Cover

Fossil, Oregon Postage Due Cover

The first class surface letter rate increased from 10¢ to 13¢ on 31 December, 1975. This cover is dated 11 January, 1976 and has a manuscript marking indicating three cents is the amount of postage still due. A total of three cents in postage due stamps was applied to conform to the new rate.

U.S. Post Offices with Paleo Related Names

Many cities have names which are or include references to paleontology based on the local terrain or history of the area. Naturally, post offices within these cities carry their names in hand or machine postmarks, precancels, etc. and these are quite collectible. One problem is finding examples but the greater problem is in knowing which names to look for.

precancel type 1

Type 1

I’ve been asked which ones I know of, so the following list of names is what I’ve found to date, excluding names of scientists. This list may be of some assistance to you when you’re looking through stocks. I’d be pleased to add to this list should you know of any further examples.

City/Post Office Name, County, State, Years of Operation

Dinosaur, Moffat, Colorado, 1966 – Open
Fossil, Lincoln, Wyoming, 1888 – 1945
Fossil, Roane, Tennessee, 1887 – 1904
Fossil, Tarrant, Texas, 1880 – 1884
Fossil, Lincoln, Wyoming, 1886 – 1887
Fossil, Wheeler, Oregon, 1876 – Open
Fossilville, Bedford, Pennsylvania, 1874 – 1936
Mammoth, Pinal, Arizona, 1887 – Open
Mammoth, Mono, California, 1879 – 1898
Mammoth, Shasta, California, 1907 – 1921
Mammoth, Shasta, California, 1923 – 1925
Mammoth, Edmonson, Kentucky, 1881 – 1881
Mammoth, Ozark, Missouri, 1902 – 1955
Mammoth, Madison, Montana, 1877 – 1931
Mammoth, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, 1885 – Open
Mammoth, Lipscomb, Texas, 1890 – 1894
Mammoth, Juab, Utah, 1890 – 1973
Mammoth, Kanawha, West Virginia, 1894 – Open
Mammoth, Natrona, Wyoming, 1923 – 1924
Mammoth Cave, Calaveras, California, 1883 – 1887
Mammoth Cave, Edmonson, Kentucky, 1842 – Open
Mammoth Spring, Fulton, Arkansas, 1879 – Open

Fossil, Oregon Return Receipt

The ‘Return Receipt’ (RR) Service provides verification to the sender that an article they mailed was delivered. The service began 1 July 1863 and was used for registered mail only until 1 January 1913 when it also was available for insured mail. Until 15 April 1925, no additional special service fee was paid for this service and the penalty clause on the card served to pay the return postage fee.

Delivery is acknowledged through the use of postal form (card in some cases) 3811 which notes to whom the item was delivered and the date. It later included the date of mailing as well. On receiving the item, the recipient signs and dates the return receipt and hands it back to the postal clerk, thereby acknowledging receipt. This service is available to the public, but is also used for ‘Official Business’ mail between government offices which is more desirable and scarcer than commercial use.

Return Receipt - postal form 3811

Return Receipt – postal form 3811

The more interesting part of this particular form however is the on the opposite side of the card as the article in question was sent to the Wheeler County Clerk in Fossil, Oregon.

Return Receipt Card used in Fossil, Oregon

Return Receipt Card used in Fossil, Oregon

The postal clerk in Fossil applied a 9 bar killer handstamp, dated 23 August 1922 at 9PM, to validate receipt of a registered article number 14167. The instruction to do this is contained in the square box “Postmark of Delivering Office and Date of Delivery.” (It’s interesting that a postal employee would be working that late in such a small town.) This form was then re-mailed, postage paid, under the authority of the “Post Office Department – Official Business” corner card text and penalty clause text in the upper right corner. The form was returned to the original sender in Seattle, Washington.

Machine Cancel – Fossil, Oregon

Cities with paleo-philatelic related names are often found with the city name in a hand cancel device. There are also other devices used to cancel mail such as hand rollers for large flat items, precancel devices and automated letter canceling machines as examples.

Fossil Oregon - Machine Cancel

Fossil Oregon – Machine Cancel

This postal card from Fossil, OR (03/30/65) to the Sunset Magazine company in Menlo Park, CA mailed at the domestic postcard rate of 4 cents, was canceled by running it through an automated machine along with other letter mail.

Tortuga Local Post – Snapper Creek, Florida

This cover was mailed from Snapper Creek, FL (Mar 30, 1976) to San Diego, CA at the domestic first class postage rate (25¢). The Snapper Creek post office is located in a suburb of south Miami, FL near the creek that originates in the Everglades and empties into Biscayne National Park Bay.

The Tortuga Local Post was a private delivery for a Miami, Florida resident taking mail to the local post office. The cancellation device includes an image of the local Snapping Turtle (do NOT put your finger in front of this guy’s beak). The image on the Local Post stamp is of an Archelon missing a flipper and is taken from a well known line illustration appearing in various classic fossil books. The value of the issue (500) is denominated in ‘terrapins’, a fictional monetary instrument. In actuality, no payment exchanged hands for the service of transporting the mail to the Snapper Creek post office.

Tortuga Local Post First Day of Issue

Tortuga Local Post First Day of Issue

The U.S. Postal Service dating device is a modern single ring. The private post dater is a pictorial four bar killer device commemorating the First Day of Issue for the Local Post stamp.

O.C. Marsh, Chief Red Cloud and the Thunderhorses

The American west was a fertile landscape for fossil hunters of the late 1800s. Remains of fish, giant shells and bones were recognized as fossils by geologists and surveyors preparing the untamed land for the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s. They reported their findings to scientific journals and sold articles describing their experiences to newspapers in the east. These enticing discoveries also had their hazards as the American Indians living in the areas were unwelcoming hosts to these pale-faced newcomers.

American Indian

American Indian

A rush to uncover western fossil riches began in 1871, the same year Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon were being explored. Reports of undocumented fossil types by these new expeditions lured major scientists into the great outdoors regardless of the hardships. One of the most renown of these new explorers was Othniel Charles Marsh, a professor of paleontology at Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut.

O.C. Marsh of Yale University

Othniel Charles Marsh of Yale University

Marsh explored many western sites with mixed results after receiving various geologic reports and maps. On hearing of interesting samples found in the Dakota badlands, he decided to explore the area in November of 1874. This move into the Wyoming Territory was accompanied by a full entourage of wagons and a number of hired hands to do the lifting and digging.

The starting point for this expedition was an Indian agency not far from a railhead belonging to the Northern Pacific Railroad. The agency was named for Chief Red Cloud, the local Oglala Sioux war leader and chief. Chief Red Cloud lead the resistance during the Indian wars at Powder River hunting grounds where the U.S. Army was soundly defeated. After this conflict, he settled near the agency after the army agreed to close forts in the area and spent his remaining years mediating differences between the white man and the Sioux.

Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Sioux

Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Sioux

Evidence of gold quartz had also been found in earlier expeditions and that news brought many unwelcome fortune hunters onto Sioux lands. Marsh arrived white skinned and a stranger to the area. To the Sioux, these two traits marked him as another gold seeker. Some were so upset by his presence, especially by the number of wagons and men he brought with him, that they demanded the local Indian agent tell him and his party to return to the train and leave the area.

Marsh, a stubborn man by nature, refused to leave and insisted on meeting Red Cloud to discuss the purpose of his expedition. On hearing of this white man’s refusal to leave, even after being told to do so by the Indian agent, Red Cloud’s curiosity outweighed his distaste and he agreed to talk. The meeting resulted in Marsh obtaining Red Cloud’s permission to look for fossils on Sioux lands. The Sioux were also familiar with fossils and called the remains ‘Thunder Horses’ in recognition of their size.

Using his maps and following Red Cloud’s instructions, Marsh found several wagon loads of fossils and returned to the agency so the Indians could examine the rocks and fossils. After seeing that no gold was secretly hidden and Marsh had kept his promise, Red Cloud was impressed with his honesty and invited him to visit the nearby Sioux encampment.

While in the Sioux encampment, Marsh viewed food and supplies provided by the U.S. government’s Bureau (Office) of Indian Affairs and became outraged after seeing spoiled foodstuffs and poor quality goods in terrible condition. He heard accounts of general corruption among U.S. government officers and agents. Returning east, Marsh reported on ‘our vile bureaucrats’ to anyone who would listen, but few did.

Office of Indian Affairs Official Mail Penalty Cover

Office of Indian Affairs – Official Mail Penalty Cover *

The matter did not end there as Red Cloud sent further information to Marsh in the Spring of 1875 indicating no supplies had been provided to the Sioux after Marsh left the agency. Public reaction was immediate when Marsh reported these further activities to the New York Herald newspaper resulting in a series of articles outlining the misdeeds of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Shortly thereafter, President Ulysses S. Grant “regretfully accepted” the resignation of Christopher Delano, U.S. Secretary of the Interior. A full investigation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs followed and Red Cloud’s Oglala Sioux finally received the subsistence aid they were promised.

Red Cloud was impressed with Marsh’s continued efforts and named him “the best white man I’ve ever seen”. Further explorations by Marsh’s workers were always accompanied by Sioux braves to protect and guide the diggers. In 1880, Red Cloud visited Marsh in New Haven and the two men became fast friends.

The cover illustrated below was posted from the Red Cloud Agency No.2, Nebraska on June 25, 1875 (year date in manuscript) and is addressed to Professor O.C. Marsh at Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut.

Letter to O.C. Marsh from the Red Cloud Indian Agency

Letter to O.C. Marsh from the Red Cloud Indian Agency

The script docketing on the side indicates the letter was posted by H.E. Farnam using an imprinted envelope of J.W. Dear, an Indian trader at the agency. This likely indicates the content was not trader or agency business, but rather an envelope used on behalf of a third party.

As the contents are no longer with the cover, the following is speculation based on historical information. Very little mail was sent from the Red Cloud Agency addressed to Marsh. This cover correlates with the reported springtime message sent by Red Cloud to Marsh and may well have been the one asking for assistance with his continuing problems with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It’s a gem of a cover and historical testimony to Marsh’s presence and activity in Wyoming. end of article

* Office of Indian Affairs penalty cover courtesy of Lester C. Lanphear III