Cain's Store Post Office and Mill Springs Campsite

Historical Marker #2438 commemorates the Cain’s Store Post Office, which was originally located at the junction of KY 80 and KY 37, about twelve miles east of Somerset in Pulaski County.

In 1863, the U.S Post Office Department approved a post office to be located in Smith W. Cain’s store. Christopher Gossett was appointed its first postmaster on March 30, 1863. The Cain’s Store Post Office was one of the earliest post offices established by the USPS in the western part of Pulaski County. Before 1863, mail was delivered to the Waterloo post office.

Post offices did not always deliver mail to households or businesses directly, but usually only from post office to post office. In some cities, personal delivery was available for an extra two cents or via a private carrier such as the Pony Express or Wells Fargo. According to one story, free home delivery for certain cities began during the Civil War as a way to manage the long lines of women hoping to receive a letter from a husband or son who was off fighting. Rural post offices remained the center of mail delivery since rural home delivery did not begin until 1896.

Cain’s Store was a community focal point where customers did postal business, bought groceries and supplies, and visited with neighbors. Country stores served their communities as an economic and social institution, selling a variety of goods and providing a meeting place and source of news for an often remote community. Since the branch was established during the Civil War and both Union and Confederate supporters resided in the area, the war and news about local soldiers were most likely main topics of conversation.

Historically, prospective postmasters or patrons suggested post office names, which were approved by the Post Office Department. Besides names of local or famous people and nearby features, the name of the served place or community was often proposed. The Cain’s Store Post Office was near several families surnamed “Cain” and was often called Caintown. Cain’s Store was the official postal address used on the mail until it closed in 1983.

Historical Marker #2438 also recognizes the location of a Union campsite before the Battle of Mill Springs. Union Colonel Robert McCook’s 3rd Brigade used Cain’s Store as a headquarters on January 16th, 1862. The 9th Ohio and 2nd Minnesota infantry regiments were stationed at this location with McCook. On January 17, these troops marched almost ten miles to join the Union forces already fighting at Logan’s Crossroads, which is now the community of Nancy. On January 19, these troops fought in what became known as the Battle of Mill Springs. The Ohio and Minnesota regiments arrived at a crucial point in the battle and strengthened the Union line. The Union victory in the Battle of Mill Springs was the first in a series that destroyed the Confederate line of defense across southern Kentucky.