Rural Free Delivery was only 10 years old when the North Wilmington Post Office hired its first RFD carrier in 1906. Prior to 1896, people living in rural areas, 65 percent of the U.S. population, had to go to the post office to pick up mail. There was delivery only in cities.
Congress authorized Rural Free Delivery in 1893, and the first delivery routes were established three years later in West Virginia. By 1905, there were 32,000 RFD routes.
Herb Foskett, Wilmington’s first RFD carrier, delivered mail in a wagon drawn by two frisky horses. His route included most of North Wilmington. Foskett lived in the oldest house in North Wilmington, the 1685 Tweed-Manning house on Ballardvale Street.
The North Wilmington post office at that time was in the railroad station.
Foskett was a printer, with a shop right at his house. There are some town booklets still in existence giving his name as the printer.
Foskett continued the deliveries for only a year. His horses were quite spirited, and one road in particular gave him a problem. It ran out to Wilmington Junction from Ballardvale Street, almost opposite his home. His problem was that the low branches along that road kept hitting him in the face. There were a half-dozen families living at the Junction, where the Salem & Lowell Railroad crossed the Portland Division of the Boston & Maine.
Like all roads in Wilmington at the time, Ballardvale Street was just a dirt road. It ran for 2.7 miles from Salem Street to the Andover town line.
After only a year of mail delivery, Foskett hung up his mail sack, sold the horses and turned his full attention to printing.
The Tweed-Manning house was sold to James Tweed in 1799 and then to Levi Manning in 1831. Manning was still listed as owning it in 1900 with 51 acres. The 1910 valuation list has it owned by Foskett. It stood at a curve on Ballardvale Street, north of the old railroad bridge. Neither the house nor the curve exist today. The road was straightened during the construction of Route 93 and 125, about 1958. The house was torched by an arsonist on March 13, 1966.
Many years later, Compugraphic Corp. erected a four-story building across the street from where Foskett had his print shop. Compugraphic manufactured phototypesetting equipment. Foskett worked with hand-set type.