Days Gone By - stories from the past

Magnolia Springs, Alabama has had delivery of mail by water for one hundred years

Magnolia Springs, a small town along the Gulf Coast of Alabama on the Magnolia River, has a unique United States mail delivery system that is one hundred years old. The mail is the only river route mail delivery in the continental United States.

Magnolia_Springs_in_Baldwin_County_Alabama Nov. 1928 (ADAH)

Magnolia Springs, Baldwin County, Alabama November 1928 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

The river mail delivery system was started in 1915 because the people of the community had a difficult time traversing the muddy clay road to get to the post office, even on horseback. There are a few summer water mail routes in the country on lakes and rivers but Magnolia Springs has the only water mail route that operates year round.

Magnolia Springs is a very old town located in Baldwin County that developed from a Spanish land grant in the year 1800. The Magnolia River was originally called River de Lin, or River del Salto. The largest enterprise in the area was the turpentine distillation.

House in the historic area of Magnolia Springs, Alabama by Robert Gamble 2003 - Alabama Department of Archives and HistoryHouse in the historic area of Magnolia Springs, Alabama by Robert Gamble 2003 – (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

During the 1819-33 time period a brick factory along the south river bank supplied brick for construction of Fort Morgan at the mouth of Mobile Bay.

The name Magnolia Springs came from the ever-flowing springs and the towering canopy of magnolia trees.

The town  rapidly became a primary destination for families who fought on both sides of the War Between the States due to the healing powers of the springs in the area.

The following article appeared in the Chicago Clini: And Pan-therapeutic Journal, Volume 18, 1905

The Waters at Magnolia Springs (Alabama

A point which seems to have escaped the attention of many students of American mineral waters, is the presence in some parts of Alabama of waters most remarkable for their low minreralization. We have already called attention to the small amount of mineral matter in a water found at Citronelle. One of the most remarkable waters, however, in the way of absolute purity is that at Magnolia Springs, in Baldwin County. This water contains but 1.401 grains of mineral salts to the gallon—to all practical purposes a natural distilled water, possessing every element solvent and eliminating property of distilled water without the objectionable features which scientific investigations have found it. It is upon this low mineralization that the Poland Springs, of Maine, and the Chippewa Springs, of Wisconsin have based their curative claims. While it is erroneous to assume that these pure, lightly mineralized waters represent the only valuable mineral or medicinal waters, they certainly possess solvent qualities which make them ideal in the conditions of faulty elimination common to over-fed, sedentary workers. The facilities at Magnolia Springs for the care of patients and guests are excellent while the amusements and diversions are such as to assure a pleasant and beneficial winter holiday under ideal conditions.

St. Pauls Episcopal Chapel Magnolia Springs, 1962 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)St. Pauls Episcopal Chapel Magnolia Springs, 1962 (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

The beautiful St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was consecrated in 1902 after being built from pine timber taken from the land where it now resides. The Chapel is listed with the National Register of Historic Places and the Baldwin County Historic Development Commission.

Today, nearly two hundred mailboxes hang out over docks on the river awaiting the daily mail.

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  1. Melanie Aycock Witt heres you a new way to deliver the mail. lol

    1. My cousin told me about this place when we were in Gulf Shores over the summer. We talked about going and visiting it but we never did. Next time we will have to do it. Thanks for posting this. I love this kind of stuff!

  2. When my grandparents lives over there that was the best time of the day to watch the mail person drive the boat to pier and when you got mail she would flip the mailbox up so if you didn’t have any you didnf walk all the way out there, well now that my gtabdoarents have passed and all the grandkids are grown our kids now get to witness it during the summer

    1. My Mother carried the mail by boat along that area, I believe around the early 1940’s. Never could get records from the postal system. To long ago they said.

    2. I’m not sure when they built the house over there I believe the late 70’s early 80’s but I know that was the best thing ever. I was always made to put a life jacket on just to check the mail.

  3. New mail route Tara Hyde LOL !

  4. Well I do have vessels license. …lol

  5. Weldon Bane & Susan Bane

  6. I tried telling someone that this was the only one and they argued so much I just let it go. I’m sharing. Maybe they will see it.

  7. Mary Ellen – read this !

  8. Maggie Woodley

    1. It’s funny that you found this because I was planning on paddling it today! The rain is finally holding off. I love that river and town Ford Nixon

  9. Sounds like the mail route in Fannie Flag’s book “A Redbird Christmas “

    1. Wow, I love Fannie Flagg!! 😀 😀

    2. Love that book. I read it every Christmas.

    3. I love the book & that was the first thing I thought about!

    4. That book was loosely written about Magnolia Springs and some of the people who live there.

    5. I had always thought it must be Magnolia Springs. One of my favs.

    6. This is the mail route that Fannie Flagg (Patricia Neal) spoke of in the book. She lived on the Magnolia River for several years.

    7. I thought of Fannie Flaggs book too

  10. And it’s only 15 minutes away from here! Beautiful!

  11. One of Fannie Flagg’s books had this mail delivery system! I think it was Red Bird Christmas?

  12. When I lived there in the 60’s I rode with the mailman a few times he let me put the mail in a few boxes, also he delivered rain or shine

  13. I can remember when Bill Collins family ran the route years ago.

  14. Selena Folsom aren’t you from Magnolia Springs?

  15. A route for you Melanie Aycock Witt or Shelia Hyde Goodwin. Vicki and I love Magnolia Springs. It’s one of our favorite communities.

    1. Next time we go to the beach we are visiting this place. I would love to see them deliver.

  16. Enjoy watching Mark or Joe run the route. Gives me an excuse to visit the dock.

  17. My first 10 years were in Magnolia Springs (1940-1950). I am related to all the Keith’s ,Thomas’s Filmores, and Harrisons as well as others. We lived with my grandfather–David Lee Keith on a farm on Norris Road next to the Rhoades, Norris and Clemmons farms. . .My mother, Nell Keith James, was a mail carrier in the early 40’s and her route was the Magnolia River. I have a photo (somewhere) of her operating the mail boat. She picked up the mail at Moore’s Grocery, gas food and Post Office. The building is still there Feel free to contact me. Ann Slay is my sister

  18. I lived on the river for a year with my uncle in the early 1980’s. I can still recall the mail carrier bringing the mail to our pier. There were many times when the mail carrier would give our dog, Bridgette the mail and she would bring it up from the pier to us in her mouth. What a fabulous memory.

  19. My brother and sister-in-law lived there in the early 70’s.

  20. Our family has been living in Magnolia Springs since 1914. Roots go way deeper into Baldwin County.

    1. Know any Lamberts in Baldwin Co?

    2. I remember an elderly Schindler couple in Magnolia Springs from when my father was pastor of the church there. Their daughters were very active in the church.

    3. The couple were my Grandparents (Della and Louis) I remember, as a boy, your Dad coming to vist. Everyone loved Bro Shell. The daughters were my Aunt Anne Lipscomb and Aunt Ruth Underwood. Thanks for the comment.

    1. Want to get all the pics out of our road and dock with mailbox.

  21. If i ever get to move back to the gulf coast, that is where I am going

  22. If in the area, try Jessie’s. Good food and atmosphere. Spring is right across the road.

  23. Thanks for sharing. Interesting .

  24. I have a friend on this route!!!

  25. Michael Schwartz Brandon Schwartz

  26. I have seen this ,when I lived down there, I though it was neat

  27. It is such a beautiful place to paddle. The water is always cool. And you can get way back down the stream where there are no motor boats. It’s so peaceful and quiet.

  28. My sister & I went there last June.It’s beautiful.

  29. Ruth Machen Love. This is like the book you loaned me!

  30. Wish I could see this. Peggy Miller

  31. Saw a story about this town on Absolutely Alabama!!! Delightful!!!

  32. It is actually Fish river that enters the bay near Magnolia springs. Beautiful river and unique scenery.

  33. I saw this and they do deliver mail by boat , the people that live there has their mailbox’s on their docks

    1. My sister and her husband are one of the fortunate ones that still gets their mail like this

  34. My brother has a home on Magnolia River and they still deliver mail by water if you so desire! I grew up there! Home away from home! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  35. What a beautiful place to live! My husband and I were married in the church pictured there.

  36. That’s the location mentioned in Fannie Flags book Redbird Christmas

    1. Carolyn Schatz ironically, many of the characters in the book resemble actual residents of Magnolia Springs.

    2. Loved that book. So warm and inspiring.

  37. Love this place and Bon Secour.

  38. Interesting! I could live there!

  39. I have always loved Magnolia Springs. My grandparents lived there (if you’ve seen the house with the silo that was their original home). They moved across the road to the house on the river. I loved getting the mail off of the wharf. I dreamed of being the river delivery postal lady. I always thought I’d retire there, but we had to sell the house in order to support our parents care in the last years of their life. Sadly, that happens to many family homes. I’m satisfied where I am now, but still love Magnolia Springs and treasure my visits with friends there. Blessings to all, Sarah

  40. Did some work there back in the day…liked it alot

  41. […] Magnolia Springs, Alabama has had delivery of mail by water for one hundred years […]

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