Between the years of 1918 and 1920 telephone service expanded rapidly in the Stanley area. Small telephone cooperatives were organized in the farming communities. These telephone cooperatives usually served small area of mutual interest. Switches are provided at certain points where connections could be made with other lines.
Probably the most used of these switches was the Epworth switch where an area north of Parshall connected with the Midway Telephone Co. line in the Epworth and Beldon area. The switch at the Roy Anderson farm north of Epworth also made connections with the Midway Telephone Co. and the lines of the Palermo Farmers Telephone Co. and the Central Telephone Co. of Palermo.
The Halvorson switch at the George Halvorson farm made connections between the Palermo Telephone Co. and through the lines of the Stanley North Line Telephone Co. Other Co’s in the Stanley area were known as the Fairview Farmers Telephone Co. serving the south and west of Stanley. The Union Telephone Co. served areas south and east of Stanley. The Stanley short lines Telephone Co. served the area west of Stanley. Later 3 more cooperatives were added these were know as the Alger Telephone Co. Rose Bud Telephone Co. and the Idaho Telephone Co. These telephone lines were a very valuable service to the Stanley area. They were used for visiting and for summoning help in emergencies. Also used by the merchants of Stanley for advertising.
The one wire lines using the ground to complete the talking circuit and a magneto generator for signaling worked quite well. A coded signal was used to signal subscribers. For instance if your number were 1f111 your ring would be 1 short one long and one short on line number one. If you needed assistance or wanted to make an announcement you would crank out 6 long rings (a general call) – this would summon all subscribers on your line to the telephone.
The first commercial telephone co’s in the area were the North Western Bell Telephone Co., the Queen City Telephone Co. of Ryder serving the Ross area and the Dakota Western Telephone Co. of Williston serving Palermo through the Sunny Central Exchange.
George W. Wilson founder of the City of Stanley established the first telephone service in Stanley. Mr. Wilson installed a more modern switching system with a central battery and a 2 wire circuit for talking and signaling.
Switching service was then provided to the rural area lines through this switchboard in Stanley. Later a switchboard was installed in Palermo by the Sunny Central Telephone Co. and connections were made to Stanley through the Halvorson Switch.
The economic recession and the drought years of the late 1920″s was a very difficult time for these companies. The Queen City Telephone Co failed leaving Ross area without telephone service. Later the Sunny Central Telephone Co ceased operation leaving Palermo without service.
Mr. Wilson made his daughter Florence half owner of the Stanley exchange and she was in charge of the switchboard and bookkeeping for many years. Among other early switchboard operators at Stanley were Evelyn Warren, Evelyn Wakefield, and Helga Mikkelson.
Some early operators at Palermo were Grace Ecklund and Edith Halvorson who operated the switchboard 24 hours a day for a salary of $35 a month. However, her earnings were reduced some because she had to pay for half the coal used for heating the building.
In the year 1930 the Stanley Telephone Exchange was sold to W.g. Matson of Pelican Rapids, Minnesota who at the time was employed by the North Western Bell Telephone Co. working out of Fargo, ND as a Toll Line Inspector Engineer.
A common battery switchboard was installed and the local lines were rebuilt partly with material purchased from the receiver of the Queen City Telephone Co.
The drought continued and the farm-line Companies were in badly need of repair. The switching charge of $0.50 per subscriber had to be cancelled for 1 year in order to make this money available for repairs. The owner-operatorof the Stanley exchange had to take the night shift at the switchboard besides doing the repair work and bookkeeping and doing repair work on the North Western Bell Toll lines in the area. Collections were difficult and a device known as “teletimer” was installed on some telephones. With this device a subscriber could purchase service by the hour. For instance, by depositing a five-cent piece in the teletimer the subscriber paid for 6 hours of service in advance on a private line residence phone and 3 hours on a Business phone. As far as is know Stanley was the only place in ND where this type of service was provided.
As economic conditions improved the telephone system in Stanley expanded rapidly. The years 1935 to 1950 saw a 300 percent increase in telephone lines connected to the Stanley switchboard. In 1952 the subscribers of Stanley were given the option of having there service converted to dial operations at a higher rate. However they chose to retain the common battery switchboard service. Dial service was later provided at an optional basis whereby subscribers could have either. The switching between the types of service was handled at the switchboard. Dial service gained favor quite rapidly and later full service was provided.
By this time telephone service had been restored to the Ross area by the Reservation Mutual Aid Telephone Co. and also in the Palermo area by the Palermo Farmers Telephone Co. Both areas received service through the Stanley Exchange switchboard.
* In 1962 the Stanley Exchange was sold to Joe Wilhelmi and James Wilhelmi who began operation under the name of Midstate Telephone Co.
A more modern dial switchboard was installed. The company acquired all the small cooperative telephone companies and replaced the open wire circuits with underground cables. Connections to direct distance dialing was made available by contract with the North Western Bell Telephone Co. in 1968. Also in the 1960’s the exchange of Portal and York was purchased Medora was purchased in 1958 by James Wilhelmi which had 32 lines and the monthly rate was $3.25 Midstate Telephone has been thru a large amount of change since then and still continues to change and grow with whatever service is being demanded.