Family memorabilia: Letter mailed in 1946 delivered to Black Mountain address

Ty Roush
Black Mountain News
An envelope stamped Dec. 3, 1946, addressed to Bill Henderson's father.

BLACK MOUNTAIN - Bill Henderson was four days old when a letter addressed to his father, William Griffin Henderson, was mailed Dec. 3, 1946.

Just over 74 years later, Henderson’s mail was finally delivered.

Henderson received a call March 5 about a letter that had been lost through the Gaithersburg, Maryland, mail system. After the post office researched Henderson’s father and mother, it found a contact listed for Bill.

The letter, addressed to a “First Baptist Church,” was connected to Henderson, also listed with a contact address for another “First Baptist Church.”

“I was astounded and had a very animated conversation with (them), but (they) did most of the talking because of his excitement about the way his distribution center very rarely sees any kind of mail of that nature,” Henderson said.

Henderson said he was told the letter was the oldest piece of mail ever delivered from that post office.

Two employees at the Gaithersburg post office noticed the letter after it had been rejected by its automated processing system. After reading the date of the stamp, it was passed through to management. 

“In a short while, as I began to thank (them), I got a lump as big as a volleyball in my throat and I choked up,” Henderson said.

“I, on the other hand, went crazy when I read it,” Henderson’s wife, Rena, said.

The letter discusses Bill Henderson's birth four years prior to the letter being sent.

The letter opens with “Dr. Grif” and closes by congratulating Henderson’s father with the birth of a newborn son. “We are so happy for the arrival of a boy,” it reads.

Henderson knew about the man who sent the letter at a young age.

“I’ve heard about this man all my life, who gave dad his first job,” Henderson said.

Reading the letter, however, was a different experience.

“It was like reading a letter from an old friend out of my family’s past,” Henderson said. “I never met this gentleman, but I’ve heard about him all my life.”

Bill Henderson and his wife, Rena, receive the letter at the Black Mountain post office.

As Henderson and Rena received the mail at the Black Mountain-based post office, mail workers made their way from the back of the building to watch as Henderson undid the envelope. They stood as Henderson read the letter, and watched as Henderson closed in reading about his birth.

“I can’t believe this,” Henderson said as he moved his finger under the envelope’s opening, and again when he finished reading.

There are plans to have the letter framed as a piece of family memorabilia, Rena said. It is on its way to be shown to family members who live close to Washington D.C. Both Rena and Bill will meet with the mail workers who found the mail.

The Hendersons left the Black Mountain post office still in shock, despite learning of the letter three days earlier. 

“Can you believe it?” Bill said. “It’s not something anyone could plan on.”