you ever find a letter sent from Goliad
during the early days of the Civil War, hold onto it. Pasted on the
envelope might be one of the rarer philatelic items known to collectors-a
The United States issued its first postage stamp in 1847, a couple
of years after Texas became one of the states of the union. That was
the same year the old Spanish town of Goliad got its first post office,
though mail service in Texas dated back to the days of the
republic. After statehood, the federal government delivered mail
to the recipient based on weight and distance, the price of a letter
ranging from 2 cents to 10 cents.
When Texas seceded to join the Confederacy early in 1861, U.S. stamps
continued to be used until June 1 that year, more than a month after
the war began. Since the Confederate government in Richmond had not
gotten around to printing stamps yet, some Southern postmasters printed
their own for a while. In Texas, seven post offices did that, including
For some reason, Goliad folks tended to use them more than residents
of the other Texas towns, making the locally printed stamps more common.
In this sense, however, common is a very relative word. Goliad stamps
are still rarer than twice-a-day home mail delivery. Well, that never
happens anymore. But if you ever do run across a Texas-issued Civil
War stamp, chances are it will be one sold in Goliad.
Generically, these rare stamps are known to collectors as "Postmaster
Provincials." Only 38 Southern cities issued them.
John A. Clarke was Goliad's postmaster before, during and after the
war. The stamps he issued were produced in a variety of colors, including
black, gray, rose, blue and green. The green stamps are the scarcest
of the scarce. Denominations were 5 and 10 cents.
As the Goliad Advance Guard pointed out during the Great Depression
in 1929: "If you had a green Goliad stamp and it was in fine condition
on the original envelope, you would have no trouble in selling it
for enough to buy a new automobile with the proceeds."
When that story appeared, a few old timers still remembered the days
of the Civil War and might even have had some of the stamps squirreled
away. If any of those stamps surfaced today they would be even rarer.
Only seven of the 5-cent Goliad stamps are known and only four of
the 10-cent stamps.
In 2012, a New York auction house sold a rose-colored 5-cent stamp,
on its original light blue envelope, for $37,500. A 10-cent gray Goliad
stamp fetched $22,000 and a dark blue 5-cent stamp went for $10,500.
That comes to $70,000 for three small pieces of paper.
No matter what kind of stamp was affixed to the envelopes in the mail
pouch, carrying the mail was a risky business in Texas until well
after the Civil War. Along the state's western frontier, mail riders
who wanted to make their deliveries and keep their scalp had to be
keenly aware of their surroundings.
Before the war, a company of Texas Rangers under the legendary Capt.
John S. "Rip" Ford patrolling in South
Texas had an unusual encounter. When the rangers spotted a solitary
rider in the distance, they thought he was an Indian and gave chase.
The lone rider, who in reality was a postal carrier, took the charging
rangers as Indians and spurred his horse into a wild gallop.
During his frenzy to escape the "Indians," the mail rider lost or
dumped his mail bags. When the rangers rode up on the bags and realized
their mistake, they picked them up and galloped off again to apologize
and give the mailman his bags back.
"Come get your mail," one of the rangers yelled when they got close
enough. "We are not Indians."
But the mail rider kept frantically spurring his horse and the rangers
decided that following him was not worth jading their horses. Even
so, the frightened mail carrier didn't slow down or stop until he
got to Goliad. Safely back in town, he proudly proclaimed that he
had outrun a wily Indian raiding party.
"They couldn't fool me with their English," he said.
Of course, he was going to have to start looking for his jettisoned
The use of Goliad stamps was about as short-lived as the Ranger's
chase of that postal rider. The Confederacy finally printed stamps
in October 1861, making the provincial stamps obsolete. In fewer than
four years, the Confederacy and its stamps had both become obsolete.