Organized in 1901, the Bethesda Telephone Company (BTC) kept its switchboard in the August Swanson home. In 1911, the company voted to publish a directory of its 16 lines, and to improve the house to include a cistern, a coalhouse and chickenhouse and a 12-foot deep cave. A new switch was installed in 1921, and was later moved to an office in 1929 which cost under $4,000 to build.
In 1953, BTC wanted to develop a better system with a higher standard of phone service, but with less than 100 customers, it wasn't financially or physically feasible to establish a dial exchange. Local customers stepped in, and buying stock that averaged $300 per customer, footed the bill for a new modern dial exchange that was in operation by March 1, 1955. In 1967, BTC merged with FMTC.
New Market, IA
New Market thrived and reached a peak population in 1920 of 745 residents. In 1899 three area farmers formed the first telephone utility called "Farmers Mutual Telephone Company". There were 90 subscribers on three lines with a small switchboard hung on the wall in the corner of the Harris Hardware store.
In 1902 a lot was purchased for $67.50 at the site of the present building. By 1911 there were nineteen lines serving all the subscribers with the switchboard in a small wooden structure. In December of 1945 the last train of the Keokuk and Western rolled through town witnessed by C.L. (Roy) Herron who, as a child had witnessed the first train make its way through New Market.
In 1962 the company had grown and now served 92 miles of rural lines plus the cable in town at which time the company consolidated and became known as the New Market Telephone Exchange.
In 1974 the company merged with FMTC of Stanton and the new dial system was installed thus ending the days of dialing "central" to make a call.
The Farmers Mutual Telephone Company of Stanton, Iowa was organized in 1901 as the Telephone Central Association. The first office was in the home of August Olseen at the corner of Broad and Elliott Streets. Daughter Lydia Olseen retained the position of Chief Operator until she retired in 1955. In 1911, the name was changed to Farmers Mutual Telephone Co. In 1919, a resolution was passed that all talking cease at 9:00pm from Oct 1 to May 1 and May 1 to Oct 1 at 10:00pm. This was to lighten the work of the operators.
In 1946, a new switchboard was installed which allowed subscribers to simply lift their receivers from the hook and eliminate the necessity of ringing by hand. This action triggered a light on the switchboard so operators knew a subscriber wanted to make a call.
In 1956, FMTC purchased a part of Halland Terrace Park, located on the main business street, for $200. A new building was built in 1957 and dial operation began in January 1958.
In 1969, installation of underground cable was started for all outside plant and was completed in 1970.
During the 1980s, the company installed cable television systems in New Market and Stanton. In 1985, a digital switch was installed in Stanton, with service expanded to Bethesda the following year and New Market in 1991.
Records indicate the original company was formed about 1901 or 1902 by approximately 400 farmers contributing $20/each and operated as a partnership until 1925. In March 1925, the Villisca Farmers Mutual Telephone Company (VFMTC) was organized as a coop but no stock or memberships were ever issued. The office and operators were located over Muller's Clothing Store.
In 1933, VFMTC offered Northwestern Bell Telephone Company, which was located directly across the street, $4,000 for their plant in Villisca. In 1934, a special meeting was held and a vote called for the purchase of the Bell Telephone Company resulting in 13 'no' and 7 'yes' votes. Board President Omer Day offered his resignation and walked out. Following meetings unofficially elected Malcolm Poston as President.
In 1935, Manager E.N. Square made $100/month and the operators received from $15-40 depending on seniority. In 1936, the board was again in favor of submitting a bid of $2,500 to purchase the Bell System in Villisca. In 1937, a letter was received stating the purchase from VFMTC to Northwestern Bell was completed.
In 1940's Annual Report, there were a total of 822 telephones - town individual & party line - 431 with 17 extensions and rural - 374 with 30 rural lines switched. There was 271.5 miles of aerial wire included in 4 counties. COE was valued at $3,333.30, plant at $3,000 & tools, materials & supplies at $1,260. In 1943, a pickup was purchased for $827.13. In 1946, the managers wages were increased to $150/mo, bookkeeper's to $100/mo and lineman to $115/mo. Overtime was paid over 40 hours per week. A new switch was ordered at a cost of $2,700 plus $250 for installation & freight.
In 1949, a letter was written to the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), USDA in Washington, DC regarding a loan for a plant upgrade & expansion. The company had approximately 700 phone lines with 400 lines in surrounding areas. The rural plant would need to rebuilt and $50,000 was estimated to be the amount needed. A week later, the board moved to apply for authority to issue $100,000 in stock. The memberships was looking into the present location of Swift Produce as a site for the new telephone building. The REA approved a loan in the amount of $313,000 but made several stipulations. After many meetings & discussion, the board turned down the REA and secured a smaller, private loan in the amount of $150,000 from Stromberg-Carlson. This loan would be used to purchase the new building and update equipment and plant facilities. This new plan would be much more economical and would not result in substantial increases to the customers.
In 1955, plans for consolidation with Nodaway Telephone Company were started and finalized in 1959. Many changes were made in the 1960s including paying dividends to the stockholders. In the 1980s, Manager Phil B Garland retired for health reasons and his son, Phil D. Garland was hired as General Manager. In 1985, the company erected a mobile tower and was in the process of burying aerial cable and fiber optics installation was started in the 1990s.