Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Friday, November 6, 2020

More Telephone History


As a follow-up to the recent report documenting the development of telephone technology in Sherburne County, a collection of documents highlighting the day-to-day operations of the telephone companies came to light.  The by-laws and expectations of users of the telephone company provide interesting insight.  The rules and bylaws from the Meadowvale Rural Telephone Company, and the Haven Rural Telephone Company provide details of construction as well as telephone etiquette for the 1910s and 1920s.  these documents provide some enlightening insight into early Sherburne County.

The Meadowvale Rural Telephone Company organized in 1905 with a strict set of bylaws and rules of etiquette.  Article 2 of the bylaws set down strict penalties for failure to follow the rules of the company: “Should any members of this company neglect to keep their phone in order or willfully disobey the rules or bylaws or do anything to hinder the harmonious working of such lines, the directors may disconnect their lines from the system.”   The bylaws went on to state, “Phones are not intended for playthings.  Parents are earnestly requested to prohibit hallowing, whistling, or singing in the phone by children and others or in any way obstructing the line to the great inconvenience and annoyance of those who have business to transact.”

Haven Rural Telephone
Company incorporation
Finally, the bylaws emphasized the telephone as a tool for business.  Article 5 of the bylaws stated, “Business must always have preference to mere pleasure or amusement.”  The rules also limited conversation time, “No one shall be entitled to the use of the line for more than five consecutive minutes especially when someone else is waiting to use the line.” 

Equally interesting, the contract between the Haven Rural Telephone Company and Northern States Power Company, signed in 1924, details the construction requirements.  The telephone lines installed by Northern States extend from the St. Cloud city limits to the town of haven.  Along the line the company agreed to use 20-foot cedar poles with five feet of creosote to prevent rot.  The agreement went so far as to specify the sized of galvanized nails and the types of insulators used on the poles.

The contracts, bylaws, agreements, and meeting minutes provide remarkably detailed insight into the operations of the rural telephone companies and the habits and behavior of Sherburne County residents and their early use of the telephone.  Documents such as these serve as a valuable resource to understanding Sherburne County

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