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Clearfield County

 

Clearfield County Pennsylvania

Present and Past

 

by

Thomas Lincoln Wall

 

Chapter 09

 

Copyright

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Clearfield County Pennsylvania

Present and Past

 

by

Thomas Lincoln Wall

Ex-Supervising Principal

Boggs Township Schools

 

Library Edition

Published by Author

 

Copyright 1925

by

T. L. Wall

 


 

Transcribed for the Clearfield County PAGenWeb Project by

Ellis Michaels

 

 Chapter 09

Pages

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CHAPTER IX


Means Of Communication.


     The Radio. Among the different means of communication used in our county, the Radio is the newest, the farthest reaching and the most wonderful of all.


     Not long ago, our people who have radio sets, were among the thirty million who heard the president give his inaugural address in Washington. The radio is the latest feature of inventions and improvements that seem to be bridging space and shortening time to get us all closer together. It seems to be of peculiar value to those who live back from other means of communication, but who by it are put in touch with the great world.


     The Telephone:—Bell. "When one stands today in a Bell Telephone Central Office watching the nimble fingers of the young women operators at work, one has a feeling that here before his eyes is beating the pulse of the community. These capable young women, dexterously completing telephone connections are weaving the magic spell of communication that makes "talking neighbors" of telephone subscribers in New York, Chicago and San Francisco as well as the relative or friend in the next block.


     "Tons of telephone equipment, miles of wire, forests of poles are required to keep these voice highways open. A

 

 

 

 

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comprehensive picture of the amount of this equipment may be obtained when it is realized that the Bell Telephone Co. of Pennsylvania is now using six central offices for Clearfield county. The offices at Curwensville, Houtzdale, Clearfield, Osceola Mills and DuBois are used exclusively for this county while the offices at Philipsburg and Falls Creek are used partly for Clearfield and adjacent counties.


     "There are approximately 5000 local calls and 200 out- of-town calls handled each day by the pleasant voiced operators in these offices. The telephone wires are strung on 14,800 telephone poles. About 4000 of these poles are the property of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, the Parent Company of the Bell System, and carry the long distance lines. At present the county has 3385 Bell Telephones in use and telephone engineers estimate that the next four years will show an increase of around 125 telephones each year.


     Alexander Graham Bell. "It is in reality not so many years past as history goes that a tall young professor of linguistics, Alexander Graham Bell, discovered the telephone in a noisy machine shop off Scollay Square in Boston in 1875.


     "For three years the invention had baffled him, and eminently fitted as was Dr. Bell for the discovery that he made, there were disappointments, delays and apparently insurmountable obstacles that had to be overcome before the telephone was born.


     "After the invention, there were still the difficulties of marketing it and putting it into general use. People thought it a freak of electricity, a bit of 'black magic', and a 'toy' that would have no practical value. Various theories sprang up to explain it. These theories often foolish, were not alone held by the uneducated, but by the scientist as well. A mechanic from Harrisburg attempted to explain it by saying that a hole through the wire acted as a speaking tube.

 

 

 

 

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     "In spite of the coolness of the scientific world and in spite of the lawsuits that questioned the validity of Dr. Bell's patents, the inventor and his loyal supporters, Gardiner Hubbard and Thomas Saunders, continued their efforts to have their dream fulfilled and to see the telephone in general use.


     The Telephone in Clearfield County. "In Clearfield county a progressive people soon saw the advantages of a new device that carried the speaking voice. The Town Council of the City of Clearfield passed a resolution on August 1, 1881, giving to the Central Pennsylvania Telephone and Supply Company the right to use right of way over streets and alleys subject to the control and direction of the Council.


     "The document was signed by Samuel I. Snyder, Burgess, and attested to by J. F. Snyder as Clerk. The first exchange was located in the office of Squire Daniel Connelly in a one story frame building on Second Street, the present site of Lehman's Barber Shop in the Snyder Block. The first exchange girl was Miss Catherine Connelly daughter of Squire Connelly, now Mrs. M. J. McGannon of DuBois.


     "For many years a one-position board was operated at 110 So. 2nd Street, a house that was owned by the Irwin Estate. Miss Mary Irwin and her sister, the late Mrs. Lillie Loeb were the operators.


     "Around 1901 the office was moved to the old Keysone Building, which is now the Masonic Building at the corner of Second and Locust Streets.


     "Some of the earliest telephone subscribers were: The County National Bank, Wallace and Krebs, Orvis and Snyder Frank Fielding and A. W. Lee.


     "In 1906, the switchboard in Clearfield was moved to the central office building at 110 Locust Street which is the present location.


     "In the rest of the county, toll lines by this time had

 

 

 

 

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joined together the principal towns. At DuBois, as early as August 1885, the Town Council gave the Central Pennsylvania Telephone and Supply Co. the right to operate a toll station that was a connecting point for toll lines between Clearfield, Curwensville and Luthersburg. This office was located in Dr. Pettigrew's Drug Store on the corner of Long Ave. and Brady Street. The name of this latter thoroughfare was later changed to Courtney Street.


     "Ten years later, in 1895, with 120 subscribers, a switchboard for local connections in DuBois was established at Long Avenue and Brady Street, but it was not until the following year that the local and toll switchboards were joined. In the meantime, toll lines had also been run from the toll board to Reynoldsville and Brookville.


     "Some of the early subscribers in DuBois were the B., R. & P. Railroad Company, John E. DuBois the founder of the town, and The Deposit National Bank. Mrs. Lukehart was the first operator.


     Improving the Telephone. "Telephone engineers during these latter years had been busy all the time, working on appliances to improve transmission. The original iron wire grounded circuit was replaced by a return metallic circuit. Iron wire had given place to a phosphorus bronze wire and later to copper. The "grounded" circuit was discarded because of transmission difficulties. The end of the wire that was grounded to permit the current to return to the source through the earth caused trouble because of induction absorbed from the earth and the air.


     "As early as 1881 the American Telephone Company was formed, and this association of telephone companies supplied the need that was felt in the Bell organization. After the incorporation of the parent Bell system, a unified and national service was possible. A service such as we have today could not be created over-night, but the year 1881 marks the begin-

 

 

 

 

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ning of the dream that has now resulted in country wide connection between subscribers to telephone service in the Bell System in the United States as well as connections with Canada, Cuba and the Cataline Islands of the Pacific.


     "Telephone engineers had been working for years on the problem of correcting difficulties that were encountered; the size and quality of the wire were characteristics that had to be considered; relaying stations and loading coils had to be invented to increase the intensity of voice sounds when they became weak after traveling over miles of copper circuit. All these difficulties were finally overcome, the first transcontinental conversation became a matter of history and the modern efficient and nation-wide Bell System which we use today resulted."


     Huntingdon and Clearfield Telephone. There were 4269 subscribers of the H. & C. Lines in 1924. In the same year there were almost six million and fifty thousand calls over the 3332 miles of wire and the nine (9) exchanges in the county. These lines were supported by 15,220 chestnut poles.


     A number of rural lines are connected with the H. & C. System, and this company does a lot of the local business, having a majority of the house phones in the county on its lines.


     The H. & C. connects with the Sommerville line in and around DuBois. This line also extends into Jefferson county.


     Town Lines. The first telephone franchise given by Clearfield Borough, was by ordinance passed August 1, 1881, authorizing the Central Pennsylvania Telephone Company to put up their lines on the streets.


     The first exchange was opened on the old Western Hotel Corner, the one story frame building standing about where Lehman's Barber Shop now stands on Second Street, nearly opposite the County National Bank.

 

 

 

 

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     Daniel Connelly was in charge of the office and his daughter, Catherine Connelly, now Mrs. M. J. McGannon of DuBois, was the first operator. The Central Pennsylvania Company afterwards came under control of the Bell Telephone Company.


     Rural Telephones. There are rural telephone lines in the county connecting many farm and country homes. These rural telephone lines are generally connected with either the Bell or H. & C. or both. However the service in many instances is not the best, because the poles and wire require continual watching and repair which is expensive and so is often let go.


     The first rural line in the county, was organized and put in operation by 12 farmers in the Grampian Hills, Penn Township, on May 21st, 1904. The first cost was about $16 cash each, the subscriber furnishing his share of poles and doing his share of the work. There was at first no exchange. Later others wished to join onto the line and were allowed to do so at about the cost rate, but it soon became necessary to have an exchange and was thought best to connect up with the commercial companies, and this and keeping up repairs made cash assessments necessary. The Grampian Hills line was chartered in 1906.


     The success of the first venture made other neighborhoods anxious to organize companies, which has led to the building of the numerous rural lines that now cover the county.


     The First Telephones. The first actual use of the telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell (first exhibited at the Centennial in Philadelphia, in 1876) in Clearfield county was a test talk, to show its use, over a Western Union wire between Tyrone and Clearfield.


     About 1878 or 1879, a wire was put up and used for con-

 

 

 

 

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versation for about half a mile between Miles Wall's and S. L. Kester's in the Grampian Hills. A short time later a line a mile long was put up between the farm houses of Joseph and Elisha Davis. These lines had no batteries and simply depended upon the wire being a good conductor of sound. There was a "head" at each end of the line, in which the wire was fastened. To attract attention at the other end of the line, it was necessary to tap with a pencil or mallet on the "head." However, when it was a dry day and everything was right, quite satisfactory conversation could be carried on over these lines.


     Boys know how to make "tin can lines" by pasting strong paper over the tops of two tin cans that have had the bottoms cut out and connecting the cans with a long string fastened in each paper "diaphragm."


     First Commercial Telephone Lines. In 1881 the Curwensville Telephone Company built a single wire telephone line from Curwensville to Cherry Tree, with boxes, mostly in store rooms, in the towns and communities between. This was probably the first commercial line of much extent in the county. The stock holders lived in Curwensville, Cherry Tree, and the towns between. The Capital Stock was $7,500 only. Connection was soon after made with the Central Pennsylvania Telephone Company at Clearfield, which began operating at nearly the same time.


     The rates were fixed by the directors based on the distance used. Anyone "rubbering" could hear every one talking on the whole line from Curwensville to Cherry Tree! Crude as it was, it was a wonderful convenience, especially to lumbermen, as by its use, a trip of many miles could be saved.


     The operators at the different boxes were paid by retaining ten per cent of receipts. The charge for talking from

 

 

 

 

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Curwensville to Cherry Tree was 45 cents, other distances less in proportion.


     As the right of way was given free, and most of the poles were contributed, the first cost was not great. Then the officers served without pay and no dividends were ever declared. The first year, there being little cost for upkeep, the income probably netted 25 per cent on the investment, but each succeeding year the upkeep increased while as lumbering decreased the receipts became less, so eventually when capital and surplus had been used up, and the day of its usefulness was over, the poles were cut down and the wire "confiscated" by the residents along the line for clothes line, etc. No money was made out of the line directly, but as a community project it was worth while.


     The Telegraph. The telegraph was in its time a great invention and continues to fill a particular place, especially where privacy of communication is necessary.
The first telegraph line is believed to have come into the county with the first railroad, that is some time after 1863. The two great telegraph companies will now accept messages to all parts of the world.


     The Mail. Although the mail was the first concerted and organized means of communication in the county, it has made wonderful advancements within a comparatively few years. With the many trains coming into and passing through the county every day, the delivery of mail from 2 to 4 times a day in the towns and to or near almost every house in the country districts at least once a day by Rural Free Delivery, we may well understand what an extremely important place the mail fills in our affairs.


     The airplane mail may be seen passing over the central and northern part of the county on its route across the continent every day. The night airplane service was established July 1, 1925. There are a number of emergency

 

 

 

 

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landing fields, equiped with powerful revolving lights, in different parts of the county.


     Swift trucks now meet main line railroad trains at Tyrone and bring the early morning mail and newspapers to the county seat.


     It is but a few years since the mail was first delivered by carriers in towns, before which time everyone had to visit the post office and call for his or her mail. There are now seventy-one post offices in the county.


     Rural Free Delivery. The first two Rural Delivery Routes in the county were established out from Grampian; September 1st, 1900.


     When the petition for this route was gotten up in 1897, there had been only fifty thousand dollars voted by congress for an experiment in establishing a few routes for carrying mail to country people. Some rural people refused to sign the petition, because they said it would ultimately add to their tax. One rather progressive man said he would sign it, but "his folks had business at town, (one and one-half miles) most every day anyway, so what was the use!" Any way however, "we would never see it in our day." Even the postmaster said it "could never be done, it would break the country up!"


     The petition went in in 1898, but the Spanish War coming on that spring, the matter laid over for two years, before it was taken up and granted. An interesting fact in regard to one of these first routes is that the mail is still carried by the first man to actually carry it.


     As Columbus said in answer to some one who said "the discovery of America was easy,"—"It was easy after someone had showed the way," so a rural mail route actually being in operation, it was comparatively easy to see its advantages and to apply for and secure others, so that now the county is almost completely covered with these rural routes. In 1925

 

 

 

 

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there are 38 rural delivery mail routes in the county.


     Star Routes. Before railroads were built into the county, all mail had to be brought in by mail carrier, who either rode horseback or drove a stage and also hauled travelers. There are people yet living in the county who can remember when they got their mail once a week each way.


     Indeed it is not so many years since there were four stage lines out of Curwensville. One of these went to Indiana three days going and three days coming back with the mail. This line went through the intermediate towns along the way and was their only way of communicating with the outside world. For years the mail was carried by stage from Clearfield to Karthaus.


     First Post Offices. The first mail route in the county seems to have been started in 1805, over the old state road, mail being carried by a man on horse back between Bellefonte and Meadville. The pioneer contractor was James Randolph of Meadville. There were then no post offices in Clearfield county, in fact there were none between Bellefonte and Meadville.


     The first post office in the county seems to have been Reedsboro, kept by Alexander Reed, where the Mitchell Stone House Farm now is, in 1813. Mail rates were then based on distance carried: from eight cents for under forty miles to twenty-five cents for four hundred miles for a single sheet letter. Mail for this office was carried over the mountain from Bellefonte, by way of Philipsburg and on northwest to Franklin, the round trip being made in a week.


     Caleb Bailey was employed by Robert Stewart, contractor, and carried the mail in 1817 and 1818 between Bellefonte and Franklin, making the round-trip in a week on horse back. A post office was established at McClures and called Pikeville in 1818 and at Curwensville in 1821. Thomas

 

 

 

 

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Hemphill was the first post master at Clearfield. At first the mail was brought down from Reedsboro to Clearfield by carrier. U. S. Postage Stamps were not used until 1845.


     Travelers Brought the News. In those early days one of the reasons why a traveler, even though a stranger, was made welcome, was because he always brought some item of news, generally by word of mouth, but none the less appreciated.


     Clearfield County Newspapers. There are now ten newspapers in the county, three dailies and seven weeklies, as follows:


     The Progress, Clearfield, evening.


     The Courier, DuBois, morning, established 1879. The Express, DuBois, evening, established 1883. The Republican, Clearfield, successor of the Pennsylvania
Banner, first paper in the county, 1827, weekly


     The Raftsman's Journal, Clearfield, founded in 1854, weekly.


     The Herald, Curwensville, weekly.


     The Times, Mahaffey, weekly.


     The Leader, Osceola, weekly.


     The Standard, Coalport, weekly, established 1885. The Citizen, Houtzdale, weekly.


     These papers have a combined circulation of several thousand copies.


     They possess a wonderful opportunity for education, if properly used.


     The first newspaper published in the county was the Pennsylvania Banner, started in Clearfield in 1827, by George S. Irvin and Christopher Kratzer. It was printed on a press of Mr. Kratzer's own invention and construction.


     The name has been changed a number of times in the years that have gone by until now the Clearfield Republican is its legitimate successor.

 

 

 

 

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Other newspapers that have had their day are: The Clearfield Democrat, The Clearfield Whig, the Clearfield Citizen, later changed to Clearfield Democrat. Multum in Parvo, The Public Spirit, Clearfield County Times, afterward changed to the Curwensville Herald, The County Review, The Osceola Reveille, The Houtzdale Squib, The Houtzdale Observer, The Houtzdale Mining Record, The Enterprise, The Clearfield Monitor and possibly a few others.

 

 

 

   

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Ellis Michaels, Clearfield County PAGenWeb Archives File Manager

 

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