By W. C. Wyckoff

Away back in 1888 through the enterprising and always up-to-date Postmaster, F. E. Barber, Rock Rapids took the first step in the Lyon County telephone business, when the Acoustic telephone line was built between the postoffice and the Burlington Cedar Rapids & Northern Depot.  The telephones at that time were just sprouting and were very different from the up-to-date telephones now.  When a call was to be made a small hammer was used to strike the button in the center of the telephone, which gave the alarm at the other end.  Talking was quite difficult in windy weather, but gave good satisfaction when it was quiet.  Not long after this the wide-awake High Sheriff, J. D. Wilson, purchased eight phones and tried to organize a company, but capital was somewhat afraid to venture as the Bell patents were at that time in court, and no one could tell what the outcome would be.  What the court did is evident by looking at the telephone situation today.

In 1895 the Clark Automatic Telephone Company was granted a franchise to construct a telephone exchange in the town of Rock Rapids, and installed forty-five phones on the automatic switch, which was operated until 1897 when the exchange was purchased by the Rock Rapids Telephone Company and increased gradually until at present there are over 180 telephones in use in the exchange.

W. C. Wyckoff, who had charge of the trouble work for the Clark Automatic people became manager of the Rock Rapid Telephone Company and Carl Shannon was the “hello boy” for nearly seven years.  Other operators were C. H. Smith, Barney Ketterman, Bessie Kelso and Adam Rowe as night man until his death in 1903, since when W. S. Funk has dealt out service during the dark hours between 10 p.m. and the awakening of the farmers in the morning.

In June 1896 the Western Electric Telephone Company put in a toll line connecting the towns of Sheldon, Matlock, George, Edna, Rock Rapids and the towns in the West part of the county.  Then farmers between Doon and Rock Rapids organized the Farmers’ Mutual Telephone Company and a line was built from Doon to Rock Rapids.  At Inwood there were several wire fence lines that finally were converted into regular telephone lines on poles.  Last year farm lines were built all over the county until nearly two hundred farmers now enjoy the use of the telephone.  Exchanges are also operating in Larchwood, Doon, George and Inwood.  Larchwood and Doon being automatic exchanges.  George had an automatic switchboard but have changed to the manual board.  An exchange is now being built by Wm. Nall, of George, at Little Rock and will soon be in operation.

At the present time there are over 500 phones on the various exchanges and farm lines in Lyon County, and I leave it with my readers to prophesy what number will be in use at the end of another five years.

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