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Moments In Time: June 21, 1901 Covington Telephone Company Chartered

Moments In Time

June 21, 1901: Covington Telephone Company Chartered

 

Telephone service came to Covington sometime between 1893 and 1896. Its beginnings are a bit confusing and obscure. But it appears that, by 1896, there was one phone line available in town for public use – a long distance circuit all the way to Atlanta – and that Southern Bell had begun building a full-fledged exchange in Covington.

The exchange was installed in the back of Mr. Charlie Dennard’s store in the Shepherd Building, where the long distance

Wooden Wall Phone

phone was already located. Response to telephone service was fairly enthusiastic. By 1898, there were 34 subscribers in Covington and Oxford.

The Southern Bell system connected local subscribers with 95 other towns and 3 states. By 1899, there were three public pay phones – one at the Southern Bell central office, one at Emory, and one at J.Z. Johnson’s store in Oxford. Other subscribers included Butler & Fowler millers, the Clark Banking Company, Mrs. L.E. Flower’s Hotel, and the “Covington Star” newspaper bragged that it had four telephones.

By June 1900, the number of subscribers had grown to 49, including Porterdale Mills, Western union Telegraph, Fowler brothers, the “Enterprise” newspaper office, and the residences of E.W. Fowler and N.S. Turner

In 1901 Southern Bell was growing rapidly, and instituted the first night service. But that year also brought them a competitor.

A group of very savvy Covington businessmen saw how lucrative this booming new telephone business could be and founded the Covington Telephone Company in 1901 with 46 phones. They stated that they anticipated having 80 phones on line shortly. And, indeed, by December, they had over 100 subscribers. Carrie Lassiter was the operator, and Clifford Peek was the night operator.

But Southern Bell was too well established and too far advanced in the business for any competition to survive. Thus, after only a few years or operation, our new competitor was absorbed into the Southern Bell monopoly.

Little did the entrepreneurs and leading businessmen of Covington know the gigantic proportions to which Alexander Graham Bell’s namesake would grow when they chartered the Covington Telephone Company on June 21, 1901. Today – a Newton County Moment In Time.

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