Reservation Telephone Coop


Reservation Telephone Cooperative

The Reservation Telephone Cooperative, like the McLean Electric Cooperative, was born in Roseglen, North Dakota. It was the offspring of local initiative and federal financing.

The old telephone system that served the Roseglen area out of Ryder was the Queen City Telephone Company, which had been organized in Ryder in 1907 by L.S. (Spence) Officer and I.E. Officer, who was the first manager of the company. Lines were built into the East Roseglen area from 1911 to 1914, and extended into the new Reservation area in 1917 and 1918. One line served the entire east Roseglen community, which included, at one time, twenty-eight telephones. After the Reservation was opened and settled, another line was built to serve western Roseglen, while the Roseglen State Bank was served by a private line. After the bank closed, that line was used by the C.A. Olson Store.

The private line was a metallic, or two-wire circuit, but the two farm lines were grounded, or one-wire systems. When REA came in 1947 and 1948, these lines were more than thirty years old. They were hard to maintain then, and the high voltage REA interference made them noisy and harder yet to keep up.

There were advantages, however. Each subscriber heard all of the other rings on his line and could listen in (rubber) at any time. That was one way of keeping up with the news of the day. The Ryder operators were invaluable, as they provided countless services to their patrons. For instance, if a Roseglen lady wanted to talk to her husband who was in Ryder, they would often call all around town until he was located. Also, the operators could ring all of the phones on the line at the same time, to give a fire alarm or other general information. The daily grain market changes were given in this way, as well. Ten short rings was the signal for someone in each farm house to drop whatever they were doing and dash for the phone. Telephone rates were very low, only $1.50 a month for rural party line phones.

However, the old lines became harder to maintain and use as the years went by. This was true too, of all of the similar farm telephone systems that operated out of neighboring communities.

REA was doing such a good job of helping farmers provide themselves with the electricity they needed so badly, which was something the private companies could not afford to provide for them. In 1950, Congress amended the REA Act to provide federal government financing of rural telephone systems as well.

The telephone amendment to the REA Act gave existing companies six months preference in securing REA loans for rural telephone service. When that six-month period was over, several Roseglen people, among them Julius Mattson and Donnell Haugen, decided that it was time to act.

They invited representatives of the phone companies serving Parshall, Plaza, Makoti, Ryder, Van Hook, and the Sanish communities, as well as the Garrison-Emmet farmers, to a meeting in Roseglen in January of 1951.

At this meeting, it was decided to organize a rural telephone cooperative that would serve the entire area along the Soo Line, from Sanish to Douglas, and down to Emmet, and to ask for an REA loan to build a modern, up-to-date, telephone system. A temporary board of directors was selected, consisting of Donnell Haugen from the Roseglen area, John Conklin from Garrison-Emmet, George Klemenhagen of Makoti, Wayne Jones of Ryder, Robert Van Eckout of Plaza, John Hanzel of Parshall, and Bill Nissen from the Sanish-Van Hook area. It was decided to call the new company the Reservation Mutual Aid Rural Telephone Corporation, as it would serve much of the Fort Berthold area, and because it was organized under a state mutual aid statute.

Garrison Dam was being completed at the time, and New Town was planned to replace Sanish and Van Hook, as these communities were to be put underwater by the Garrison Lake, so it was necessary to build the first new dial telephone exchange in New Town. This was completed in 1954, and the event was celebrated by holding the co-op's annual meeting at New Town that year.

In the meantime, the originally planned area of service had been expanded to include Keene and Arnegard, west of the Lake, as well as a large rural area in the Kenmare community, reaching to the Canadian border. Douglas was the last locally owned farm system to be acquired and made part of the Reservation Cooperative system.

The company's new office building at Parshall was dedicated in 1957. Senator Milton Young was the keynote speaker. In this year, dial telephone service began in the Roseglen exchange.

In 1960, the company's name was shortened to Reservation Telephone Cooperative.

The tenth annual meeting of RTC was held in Roseglen during 1961. On the committee in charge of local arrangements were Beulah Hill, Irene Austad, Lydia Daleness, Burton Youngs, and Irwin Nelson. This was one of the best attended and most interesting meetings ever for RTC.

The coming of the Minuteman Missile construction program to the Reservation area in 1960, 1961 and 1962 brought increased work, but also increased revenue to RTC. Seven of the fifteen launch control centers in the Minot Minuteman complex were served by the Reservation Telephone Cooperative.

In 1964, the Northwestern Bell Telephone Company sold their long distance lines along the railroad to RTC. Substantial new revenue came to the cooperative through this acquisition, as well as the ability to provide direct distance dialing (DDD) for subscribers in seven exchanges, including Roseglen.

In 1967, at the time that the Roseglen Golden Jubilee book was published, RTC was making plans to convert its entire system to one-party operation, which would bring private line service to every subscriber, with more than ninety percent of its lines in weatherproof buried cable.

The directors of the Reservation Telephone Cooperative in 1967 were Donnell Haugen of Roseglen, John Hanzel of Parshall, John Conklin of Garrison, John Rowe of Plaza, Floyd Hauge of New Town, Lyle Washburn of Keene, and Silas Nass of Coulee. Gary Lerberg of Parshall was the cooperative's secretary and attorney, and Fred Ahlgren of Parshall has been the company's manager of operations since 1952.

Altogether, Roseglen can be proud of having a large part in the organization of Reservation Telephone Cooperative. It is one of the best managed and most forward looking cooperative telephone companies in North Dakota.