Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA


March 30, 2012

History of telephone service in Appanoose County; Easter eggs still available to purchase

CENTERVILLE — The early springtime weather sure has been enjoyable. Some people say we may have a cold snap to interrupt this stretch of good weather. We just have to hope we do not get any late spring snow storms like we have experienced in the past.

The recipe for this week is one we used to make when we went camping. We also used to make this when we had our Chuck Wagon Cookouts with our old, high wheeled wooden wagon in our back yard, with a nice campfire going. We used to set up an iron tripod over the campfire and hang the Dutch oven with a bail handle on it, over the fire, or you may make this on the regular stove in the house. It is called:


Pioneer Stew


1-½ pound of stew meat, cubed

3 cups of water, to start out

¾ cup of chopped onions

1 teaspoon of black pepper

2 teaspoons of salt

1 carrot diced up

8 potatoes cubed




Brown the meat in your Dutch oven, until nearly done. Add three cups of water, onions, salt and pepper to taste. Let that all come to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender, adding water as needed.

 Add carrots and cook them about 10 minutes. Then, add the potatoes and add enough water to cover everything in the pot. Cook approximately another 20 to 30 minutes more. Once it comes to a boil, again and the carrots and potatoes are tender you, may remove it from the heat. This should serve six to eight people.      

Today no one gives a second thought to making a telephone call or having access to one, with just about everyone now having their own cell phone and individual telephone number.

There was a time though, when having a phone was kind of a luxury and status symbol. In the old days, a person may have to go to a local business and use their phone to make a personal call, or go to a neighbor’s house and use their telephone.

Phone service first arrived in the state of Iowa way back in 1879 but its use was limited.

At first there was the Centerville Telephone Company. They franchised a company called the Exline, Iowa Telephone Company. By Aug. 9, 1900 the Centerville Telephone Company evolved into the Appanoose County Telephone Company.

The founder and first president of that company was C.A. Farrington.   E.E. Bamford was vice-president and T.M. Farrington was the secretary and treasurer of the company.

That phone company began in a one-story building and by November of 1900 they had 300 subscribers. For everyone to get their phone service, wooden poles had to be erected and lines had to be individually ran to every customer’s location. In town each month, someone walked from house to house to collect your payment for the telephone service. The rates in those days were $1 for residential service and $2 for a business per month.

The town of Exline’s original Exline Messenger newspaper had a brief article about telephone service in their July 23, 1909 edition. It stated: The Farrington Telephone system is making some repairs on their lines. Poles in Exline this week that are now new and longer are being put in.

By the year of 1914, Charles A. Farrington, who was the pioneer in the local telephone exchange, expanded his company that was then housed in a brand new fire proof building.

 In November of 1916, residents of Exline were paying their phone bills to the Farmers & Merchants Mutual Telephone Company in Cincinnati.

By 1946 there were 2,700 subscribers to the local telephone company in the county and by 1947 two more switchboards were added, at a cost of $10,000 each. That brought the company’s number of switchboards up to 11.

The customer base began to grow and by 1950 there were 3,000 subscribers to the service. In those days some people that lived in the town of Exline, had two telephones. One to make local calls within the Exline area and another phone to call into someone that lived in Centerville.

The phones in those days were big wooden models that hung on your wall. They had a removable ear piece that hung on the left side of the wooden phone, with a long attached wire. The mouthpiece stuck out from the middle of the phone. You had to hold the ear piece to your ear to hear and speak directly into the large metal, mouth piece. There was also a wooden shelf on the front of the phone, in case you needed to write down a message for an incoming caller.

The phone numbers in those days in Exline, were something like, R- 2512.   To call someone, everyone had their own ring, such as one short and two longs. You cranked a lever on the right hand side of the phone with the required number of rings and then you picked up the ear piece to listen to the operator when she answered. You would then tell the local operator whom you were trying to call and she would connect you to that person.

Back in the 1950s just about everyone was on what they called a “Party Line.” That meant there could easily be 25 other telephone subscribers on the same line.

Even though they could tell it was not their ring, people would quietly pick up the line and listen in to the conversation sometimes. People would hear some interesting news or local gossip by doing that. Then, they would slowly hang up their ear piece.

If you complained to the phone company about people listening in to your phone conversation, you were told those subscribers had paid their dues and could listen in if they wanted to.

The town of Exline had its own telephone building in those days, where the operators had their switchboards. It was located just west, across the alley, from what is now the driveway entrance into the Exline Community Center.

A big, false fronted, old style, western type of building used to sit on that location that housed their office.

Local ladies in Exline worked for the phone company as operators, helping the customers to complete their calls. As times changed, the phone office in Exline was eventually closed.

The telephone company in the area continued to upgrade through the years as the Farrington Family continued to own it.

By 1960, Centerville received dial telephone service and eventually the rural areas with phone service, were also upgraded.

Eventually, the Appanoose County Telephone Company was sold.

A company called the Iowa State Telephone Company, then took over operation of the local phone service.

By the 1970s, the Continental Telephone Company of Iowa took over operation of the phone service and they had their phone company building along West Maple Street. During the 1980s the company was known as Con-Tel.  

By the 1990s the company was sold again to a regional phone company and the Centerville office was closed. It was then known as GTE-Midwest, with their offices located in Texas and their business inquiries handled by offices in Missouri.

By the 2000s the local phone service was again sold. At that time an Iowa based company then bought the service and it was called Iowa Tele-com, with its headquarters located in Newton.

By the end of that decade, the company was again sold and is now owned and operated by a company called Windstream, based out of Little Rock, Ark.       

Now today, a lot of people do not even have what some call a “land line” with a regular old fashion phone hooked to the wires in your home.

There are quite a few people now, who have given up their home based telephone service and have gone to just having cell phones.  

In the old days, if you were lucky enough to even have a house phone, everyone had to use it in the family. Now every member of the family, usually has their own cell phone anymore. So, people can be reached and make calls from just about everywhere they go.

The electronics involved in cell phones has kept evolving, with more technology being used in very small, hand held devices. The modern cell phones are like having a mini computer in your hand with access to world wide information.

 Just think it all evolved out of the experiments of Alexander Graham Bell and his quest to help hearing impaired people to hear better. The first word ever spoken over this new invention from Bell to his assistant, Watson, was, “Watson, come here.” So, phone service has come a long way.

Last weekend’s dinner that the Exline Recreation Committee put on was a success. There was a nice turn out for the event. The Easter eggs that the Royal Neighbors of America, Exline Chapter 3000 sold, also went very well.

If you did not make it to the dinner but would still like to purchase some eggs which the  Royal Neighbors were selling that day, they are still available to buy.

This coming weekend, the Exline Royal Neighbors, Chapter 3000, will be having their last chance sale. The remaining Easter eggs with the prizes in them, that did not sell at the dinner last weekend, are still available.

This will be your last chance to be able to buy the Easter eggs this Saturday, March 31 and Sunday, April 1 at the Exline Old Country Store. They will sell the Easter eggs for both days, beginning at 8 a.m. until the store closes at 7 p.m., or until they run out of eggs. The prizes in the eggs, will cost $1 a piece or six for $5. There are some really nice prizes available. They could range from $1 up to $50 inside of the egg.  The actual prize you could win, may not necessarily be right inside of the egg itself.

Also do not forget, this Sunday, April 1, the Exline Church of Christ, will resume having their Sunday evening service again. It will held at the church, beginning at 5 p.m. each Sunday. Sunday School is held at 10 a.m. each week, with the regular church service to follow at 10:45 a.m.    

We would like to extend a welcome to, two new residents of the Coal Miner’s Commons houses on Main Street. James Campbell and Marilyn Wright have recently moved to our town.

Remember this coming Wednesday, April 4, the monthly birthday celebration will be held at the Exline Old Country Store. Cake, ice cream and coffee will be served to everyone in attendance to honor of everyone locally that is having a birthday or anniversary this coming month.

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The Iowegian wants readers to think about the solicitation ordinance that will prevent groups or individuals from entering a roadway to solicit money. The Centerville City Council in June by a 5-0 vote passed the first reading of just such an ordinance. Public pressure and during a subsequent special meeting, the council voted 3-2 to table the ordinance. A second special meeting to discuss the solicitation ordinance is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7 at City Hall. So, the question of the week is, "Do you or do you not support the ordinance to prevent solicitation of funds in city streets?"

A. I support the ordinance
B. I do not support the ordinance
C. Not sure
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