New Market Telephone Article
submitted by: Linda Kestner:
back to Taylor County, Iowa

Newspaper article (paper unknown, may be the Clarinda paper, March 1975)

NM phone exchange marking 75th (and last) year

When frost is out of the ground, work will start in New Market on the final step towards converting the telephone system to dial, and “ringing central” will be only a memory.

The New Market Telephone Exchange will be merged with Farmers Mutual Telephone Co of Stanton.  Already, a survey has been done in New Market, patrons selecting their new color dial phones and assured that each will have a private line.

Thus, on the 75th years of telephone service in New Market and vicinity, a tremendous milestone will be reached.  From 90 patrons along three lines in 1900, the New Market exchange grew until the system is served by 92 miles or rural lines and the cables within the city for homes and businesses – the new telephone book containing about 500 listed numbers.

Some of the highlights of the history of the New Market exchange, compiled by Mrs. Robert Malcom and Mrs. Merle Harland:

In 1899, Charles Hook, Charles Clark and Charles Combs, farmers living north of New Market, organized the Farmers Mutual Telephone Co.

Clark drove many miles with horse and buggy to get members.  Weekly meetings were held at a school house and those interested reported on their progress.  T. A. Harris, 84, remembers attending with his father, and has given part of the information concerning the early history of the telephone company.

Charles Combs was appointed to go to Chicago and buy 100 telephones from the Stromburg-Carlson Co and to pay cash for them.

The 90 patrons were on three lines in 1900 and by 1906 there were 16 lines and by 1911 there were 19 lines.  The town of Hepburn was the first to make a rural line to the Mill at Hawleyville and New Market also made one to the Mill.

A small area was partitioned off and made from barn boards in the corner of the Harris Hardware where a switchboard was hung on the wall.  Miss Lennie Harris, daughter of the store owner was the first operator.  This building was located just north of where the present Rose and Tuttle Lumber Yard is.

Clark was the first manager and Miles Shore was appointed to the office in 1918.  Each telephone line elected officers, constructed and maintained their own lines until about the year 1950.  They also collected the dues which were $1 per share for many years.  The annual line meetings were a social event with the families invited and oyster soup was a favorite.

In 1902, the company purchased the lot where the present switchboard is located, for $67.50, from Mr. D. H. Ware, and a small four room building was erected to house the switchboard.  In 1907, the lot where the present manager’s shop is located was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. H. E. Tomlinson for $75 and in 1920 the present building was erected for housing material and to act as a place for the board meeting.

In 1923, a fire destroyed the four room house but the switchboard was saved so it was placed in the storehouse until another building could be constructed.  In 1924, the present house was built by Elmer Eighmy and Claude Moorman at a cost of $2400.  Two men were hired at 50 cents an hour to dig and make the cave at the same time the house was built.

Robert Malcom has served as manager for over 30 years.  Jim Brooks was manager from 1937 to 1940 then Bert McCarl from 1940 to 1941 and Bert Terry from 1941 to December of 1943 when Malcom took over.

In 1959-1962, after Iowa Power and Light came to everyones house, the telephone lines became so noisy that one could not hear over them and the company decided to metalasize all lines.  Malcom with part time help from Bradley and Darwin Larson completed the work in 1962.

At this time all lines emerged into one central unit and reincorporated with the name of New Market Telephone Exchange.

Mrs. Malcom has served as secretary for more than 15 years.

Mr. and Mrs. Malcom have edited their last telephone book, a striking farewell with brilliant red cover and historical information as well as the directory.

Twenty-eight operators have served New Market during the 75 years, often the operators being a couple.  Listed in the new book are:

Lennie Harris, 1900; M/M Lee Lathrop, 1902; Ward Roberts, 1905; Walter Stewart, 1906; E W Squires, 1907; Irene and Edith Hamilton, 1908; Elli Clark, 1910; Ed Mankle, 1910; Jay Squires, 1911, Ed Mankle, 1911, J E. Mitz, 1913; A E Minard, 1913; C Jones, 1913; Josie and Ed Mankle, 1914; L R Gray, 1917; W H Raynor, 1918; Lawrence Davison, 1919; Ella Campbell, 1920; Ed Murren, 1921; Riah House, 1922; G Davis, 1923; M/M Ed Murren, 1925; M/M Byron Williams, 1954; M/M Cecil Gwynn, 1957; Los Payne, 1962; M/M Bradley Larson, 1963; Marge Hutchison, 1964; Mildred Jamison, 1973.

Complete record has not been kept of the assistants, but those who are known include: Ruth and Helen Campbell, Ethel Cavender, Opal Brown, Bessie Godfrey, Lenora Hargis, Irene Richey, Doreen Drennen, Elaine Sharpe, Verla Malcom, Janis Hutchison, Ruth Pratt, Mary Anderson