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Rural Electrification Act brought sweeping change to America’s heartland


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EW today fully appreciate the challenges overcome by previous generations to energize America’s heartland. It should be noted, as well, that a little boost from the federal government helped create an opportunity that was a long time coming.


The Rural Electrification Act will go down as perhaps the most important piece of legislation in the development of rural America. The act allowed the goverment to offer low-cost loans for the purpose of bringing electricity to the countryside for the first time.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the stage for the act’s passage on May 11, 1935, when he issued an executive order that created the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). The REA was part of a relief package designed to stimulate an economy still in the grip of the Great Depression. On May 20, 1936, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act, making the REA’s promise of long-term funding for rural electricity a reality. The act addressed a serious need. When the REA was created, only 10 percent of rural Americans had electricity. This lack of power prevented farmers from modernizing their facili- ties.


Nevertheless, privately-owned utility companies, which provided power to most of the country, were not eager to serve the rural population. These companies argued that supplying rural areas with electricity was not profitable. The lack of attention from private companies led farmers to form non-profit coopera- tives to implement electrification even before the REA. But, without the government’s assistance, these organizations lacked the technical and financial expertise they needed to succeed. Creation of the REA changed the way that cooperatives worked. Most significantly, the government aided farmers by granting cooperatives low-cost loans. Through these loans, cooperatives would acquire the equipment necessary to supply farms with electrical power. The REA also helped farmers develop assembly-line methods for electrical line construction with uniform procedures and standardized types of electrical hardware. The result was that more and more rural Americans could afford electricity. By 1950, 90 percent of American farms had electricity. The REA no longer exists in its original form. With the


reorganization of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1994, the REA became the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). In addition to helping provide rural areas with electric and telephone service, the RUS took over the USDA’s water and sewage programs and helped more than 20,000 rural communi- ties obtain modern water systems.


Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative became an REA borrower upon its organization in September of 1938.


A proud homeowner reads her electric meter.


Cabin on the lake


“My grandmother and granddad, Louis and Nora Daugherty, bought a lot on Grand Lake. The lot was on West Bay, facing Governor’s Island in the area of Ozzy’s. They built a cabin and it was the only cabin in the area. There was no electricity. My grandmother cooked on a woodburning stove with a hot water tank on it. I remember watching her cut kindling with a hand ax to feed the stove. When we came to the lake we had to stop at the hardware store to buy kerosene in order to burn our lamps. We would buy coal for our potbelly stove for heating. When the sun went down you got ready for bed. I would guess about 1950-52 they ran a line and put a pole in for electricity.”


Stan Bruce Monkey Island


Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative would like to hear from members who were with us when we incorporated back in 1938. If you have a story to share about the arrival of electricity in north- east Oklahoma, please contact us by email at: publicrelations@neelectric.com, or by mail at:


Northeast Oklahoma Electric Cooperative Attn: Public Relations Department P.O. Box 948 Vinita, OK 74301


We look forward to hearing from you!


January 2013 5


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