Originally published in 1999.
During the 1930s the people in rural America wanted to have the modem convenience of electricity to their homes and farms. In 1935 the United States Congress passed the Rural Electrification Administration Act which provided the funding to utilities at a low interest rate. At that time, less than 11% of the farms in the United States had electricity. In the state of Indiana, the cooperatives were to be called Rural Electric Membership Corporations. - The State Farm Bureau took on the task of organizing the state into Rural Electric Membership Corporations.
With the help of the local Farm Bureau, an organizational meeting was held at the Romney School on August 15, 1938. About 40 people from the northern half of Montgomery County and the southern half of Tippecanoe County attended this meeting and were asked to sign as incorporators. Wilson Taylor of the Statewide REMC also attended and discussed how to organize a local district corporation under the Indiana Rural Electric Membership Corporation Act. This group elected the first Board of Directors: John H. Bone, Ray Fisher, John Frantz, Howard Newton, Earl Patterson, Roy Wells and Lewis J. Withrow.
Local meetings were called in each township to secure members and report back to an area meeting held at Linden School on August 26, 1938. By this time more than 1,000 people had paid their membership fees. At this meeting, the following directors were added: John Cassida, John P. Foresman, Jesse P. Graves, Will A. Gray, John Kerkhoff and Clarence A. Sennett. A few months, later when the residents in northern Tippecanoe County and Fountain County signed up for membership, Lawrence Layden and Guy Simpson represented those areas respectively. Reid Paddack took
Ray Fisher's place on the board shortly. At this meeting incorporation papers were prepared.
The name chosen for the corporation was Tippecanoe and Montgomery Rural Electric Membership Corporation. In time the name was shortened to Tipmont REMC at the advice of the Rural Electric Administration (REA). REA designated our project as "Indiana 55 Tippecanoe".
Tipmont REMC was incorporated May 10, 1939. At the first Board of Directors meeting John H. Bone was elected President; Howard Newton, Vice President; and Roy Wells, Secretary-Treasurer.
Verl Hiatt was sent by the Statewide REMC to prepare project maps. Mr. Hiatt became the project superintendent and later the first general manager of the cooperative. He served in that capacity for approximately 18 months. Right-of-way easements had to be signed by the property owners and then the area cleared of trees and brush before the staking of the lines could be done.
Putman and Woolpert of Dayton, Ohio, a REA approved engineering firm, was selected to stake all the lines. The first stakes were set on August 1, 1939, and the first pole was set about October 1, 1939. REA had to approve all construction projects before starting. Honold & LaPage Inc. of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, built the first 180 miles of lines.
All the holes for the poles were dug by hand, and the lineman had to physically climb poles to attach wires. The lineman wore straps and safety belts when climbing poles. Paul Antle was hired to do the maintenance work. He served as interim project manager. As the cooperative grew, there was need for a line superintendent and Antle served in that capacity until his death in 1962.
Mary E. Shanklin was employed as the first bookkeeper and stenographer. As the project grew, more office employees were hired. Among them were Susie Antle, Fred E. Baber, Lela Imler, Martha Montgomery, Margaret Phipps, La Vern Rickey and Claude Smith. The cooperative lost several male employees who served their country during World War II. Some of the early maintenance and field employees were Kenneth Hartman, Wallace Hood, Andrew Johnson, Roy Meharry, Russell Payne, George Simmons, Buren C Stewart, Ed Street, Roy Wells, and James Wright. Some of these men worked on getting rightof-way easements signed so the poles could be set and lines constructed while others did wiring inspections and hooked up services to the primary lines. In a recent interview with Roy and Mary Ellen Meharry, Mrs. Meharry remembers the times she and Susie Antle would go with their husbands to hold the flash lights so the linemen could make repairs during night time outages.
As the cooperative grew, the Board of Directors was faced with a lot of major decisions, such as office space, purchasing office equipment and vehicles, protecting legal documents, line materials, type of transformers and meters to be used. They chose Duncan meters since they were manufactured in Lafayette.
The Board of Directors felt the members needed to know what was happening at their cooperative monthly, so they began a newsletter. In November 1940, they offered a prize of one free electric bill (not to exceed $5.00) to be given to the consumer who submitted the best name. The winning entry was Tips of the Month, submitted by Robert Berry of Hillsboro.
In 1943, the Board purchased the Battle Ground service lines from the Southeastern Power Co. The purchase price was not in excess of the per member cost of our present existing lines less the cost of re-building the lines to be purchased.
In the fall of 1947, a two-way radio system was installed between the office and the trucks. Prior to that time, the linemen would go to the local telephone office and call the Linden office to see if there were any more outages in the particular area before they left.
The Board voted to purchase the stock of Montgomery Light and Power Company which included the towns of Linden, New Richmond and Wingate and the surrounding rural area in 1947.
By the mid 1960's, the cooperative was really growing in Tippecanoe County. At this time, the Board of Directors felt the need of having service trucks dispatched from the northern part of the county to Jessen the response time during outages. They purchased land along county road 600 N and built a garage/warehouse that houses the trucks, material and equipment to provide faster electrical service to the Tippecanoe county residents. At the present time, nine employees work directly out of the Battle Ground office.
The middle and late 1960's brought many changes to the electrical industry. Total Electric Living homes, home electronics and all kinds of small electric appliances were being marketed. Our Board of Directors felt the need to add a home economist to the member service staff to answer questions and promote the use of the new appliances. The home economist not only went to the area schools, but she attended many meetings and organizations to teach consumers all about these new "gadgets" everyone was wanting. New homebuilders sought her advice and expertise to help them plan and build state-of-the-art homes in the rural and suburban communities.
Up until the late 1970's, designated people in the community took outage calls. The members would call their area trouble call reporter and then the trouble call reporter would report information to Tipmont REMC. The reporters, who took outage calls all times of the day or night, were not on Tipmont REMC's payroll. These people felt it was their civic duty to make sure that they supplied the line crews with all the necessary information so their neighbors could have their electricity restored quickly. Often, the trouble call reporters would call their neighbors back with the information they found out regarding their outage. By 1999, Tipmont REMC had grown to become the 5th largest REMC in Indiana, serving 18,072 meters and more than 15,500 members.