A “Star Route” Very Much Earth-Bound

Poway mail

Poway Progress, July 14, 1894


“Star Route” might sound today like an astronomy term or the title of a science fiction film. But in the 1890s in San Diego County and elsewhere in the USA, it designated mail delivery routes not serviced by railroads, and that still covered a lot of territory.

“Not all of Uncle Sam’s business in the matter of carrying mail into and out from the San Diego Postoffice is done by the railroads; in fact the stage lines carry a great deal of it….” began an article in the June 12, 1890, San Diego Union.

“All stage routes throughout the United States and in fact all mail routes off the line of railroads are denominated ‘star routes,’” the article stated. It then went on to explain the name as derived from the * symbol (looks more like an asterisk to me, but maybe too long and less colorful a word) which marked postoffices getting their mail by stage rather than by train.

In 1890, Star Route 46-386 serviced the Escondido area. The mail “leaves San Diego every morning except Sunday morning at eight o’clock for Escondido and offices along the route. Returning the mail arrives each day except Sunday at 4 p.m.,” according to the Union.

“Over this line mail is sent for Poway, Bernardo and Escondido,” stated the paper. There was also tri-weekly service on that route from Poway to Stowe and from Escondido to Mesa Grande.

Interstate lines and smaller local companies and individuals bid for the various routes. The Union noted that the contractor then for the San Diego-Escondido route was one “J.V. Hicks and two stage coaches are on the line each day.”

Contractors could change fairly frequently, and the vehicles used as well. A notice in the weekly newspaper Poway Progress had this to say of the same route in July of 1894:

“The mail carrying is in new hands now, Mr. Cook’s time being expired. The new contractor has put on two nice three-seated and covered rigs that have the appearance of comfort for travelers. The Stowe line has also changed hands, Mr. W. F. Hewlett having the contract to make three trips weekly.”

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6 thoughts on “A “Star Route” Very Much Earth-Bound

  1. When we moved here in 1947, we lived north of Escondido on Conway and Lehner and it was a Star Route mail address..Being only in Grade School (Lincoln), I thought Star Route was something special.

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