I have come across many independent telephone systems in rural parts of Indiana incorporated during the early 1900s. The Peoples’ Cooperative Telephone Company, headquartered in the village of Bowers, Montgomery County, Indiana, was incorporated on January 8, 1902, and reincorporated on November 10, 1922. This is an unusual example because the company stayed in existence to 1945. Most of the independent telephone companies lasted maybe ten to twenty years. Also, many of their incorporation papers would have dozens of subscribers’ signatures, whereas this document was signed only by the five directors and did not include the rest of the subscribers to the telephone system. Also note that this incorporation document was very primitive; I doubt if a lawyer was ever consulted.
“The said Corporation proposes to establish, maintain, and operate Telephone lines and Exchanges in the counties of Montgomery and Boone in the state of Indiana, with exchange at Bowers, Indiana. [ Bowers was a railroad stop and was also named Bowers Station.]The amount of capital stock of this company is $600.00, and is divided into 150 shares.” The 1922 reincorporation explained that each share cost $4.00. Also, the 1908 corporation report stated that the use of the system for each subscriber was raised to 10 cents. I wonder if that meant 10 cents per call?
The original directors of the Company were Martin L. Clouser – a farmer who lived in Thorntown, Montgomery County, and was the manager of the Company through 1940 when he was 70 years of age. His wife Goldie was the Company’s bookkeeper. John H. Hutchison – in 1903 he was listed as the Postmaster of Bowers with an annual salary of $138.95. He later moved to Morgan County, Indiana, where he worked as a farmer. Lewis Kirk – he was a farmer and machinist who owned several thrashing machines, and also an oil drilling business. George W. Deck and Marshel Hampton were farmers in Bowers.
by Robert F. Gilyeat, an Indiana State Archives volunteer