History: Spencer Telegraph & Telephone Companies
Surnames: Wendell, Fowler, Soles, Larson, Schofield, Cool, Ebs, Tesmer, Brown, Fenhouse, Molle, Hoops, Martin, Borth, Damon, Justman, Hermanson, Welch, Orgish, Lederhouse, Christopherson
----Source: Spencer Centennial Book, 1874 – 1974 (Spencer, Marathon County, Wis.) pages 77-78
G. Wendell had the first telegraph office in the village. Since all lines were downed in the big fire of 1886, they were afterward repaired and placed in the Blackstone House. In 1899 a direct private line was strung from the depot to the home of the station agent, F. E. Fowler, and was connected to the local lines.
The first telephones in Spencer were cooperatively owned. The only Bell telephone was located in the hotel. Later the Clark County Telephone Company of which Dr. Christopherson of Colby was president, took over the lines and it was called the Spencer exchange. The Clark County Telephone Company, a part of the Consolidated Telephone Co. of Wisconsin, was sold to Commonwealth General Telephone Company in 1919. General Telephone Company acquired the Spencer Exchange through its purchase of Commonwealth some time later.
About 1908 Dr. F. A. Soles had a small switchboard installed in the living rooms of his home. Twelve people (most of them rural residents) subscribed to this service. Dr. Soles desired this means of getting quick information as to the location of a patient and the nature of the illness or accident. Prior to this farmers drove to town to “fetch” the Doc. as they said. Within the next two years an enlarged switchboard was installed in the waiting room of his office suite, with Mrs. Soles in charge. Eva Reas Larson and Calla Damon Schofield were the operators.
When Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Cool purchased (in 1913) the building in which Dr. Soles had his office suite and family living quarters, Mrs. Cool became the local manager and served in that capacity until 1926. Operators working for her were Mamie Cool, Dora Ebs Tesmer, Bessie Brown Fenhouse, Lila Molle, Adelia Hoops Huber and Valda Martin Borth. When this building burned, the exchange was moved to a small building on Wisconsin Street, a former livery stable office.
In 1926 Mrs. Soles resumed her duties as chief operator with the following operators: Laura Hoops Wry, Lydia Justman Hermanson, Berth Orgish Lederhouse, and Gail Welch. Mrs. Soles served as chief operator until the dial system was installed in 1930, the equipment was located on the second floor of Graves Mercantile Store.
The following news item appeared in the Spencer Record of December 4, 1930:
“Spencer today became one the first villages in this section of the state to discard the local telephone exchange in favor of the dial system. The first message under the new order was sent at seven o’clock by the village president, H. A. Martin, to Mrs. Elizabeth Soles, retiring chief operator of the Spencer Exchange. Mrs. Soles, who was the first to make a telephone connection in the local exchange, was also the last to perform that duty.”
General Telephone Company of Wisconsin provided Spencer direct Distance Dialing (D.D.D.) service in 1964 and upgraded the exchange to a maximum four customers per line in 1972. As of December 1973, total Spencer Exchange telephones numbered 13,011.
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