If you lived in southeast Iowa 75 years ago, you would have experienced a darkness at night so complete it might frighten you now. Except for the feeble orange glow from a lantern carried by a farmer tending his chores, there was no light. If you did not live in the city back then, you were a second-class citizen, and all of your work had to be done by hand. You had no electricity.
In 1937 farmers began to organize themselves to put together an electric cooperative; board members went from door to door encouraging people to sign up. By June of 1938, 530 members had signed applications, with 291 located in Henry County and 239 in Jefferson County. On July 15, 1938, the first official board meeting of Access Energy Cooperative (originally known as S.E. Iowa Cooperative Electric Association) was held in the Henry County post office. We can thank the following original board members for their dedication to establishing this cooperative:
Parke F. Cornick, Mt. Pleasant; Jay R. Canby, Mt. Union; F.J. McCormick, Mt. Pleasant; H.G. White, Rome; Karl W. Kneen, Mt. Union; Frank J. Walz, Lowell; Herman Wolf, Winfield; H.V. Baker, Mt. Pleasant; and Everett Scarff, Wayland.
Warner A. Russell was approved as the project superintendent. The first office for the cooperative was opened up in October 1939, in the Brazelton Hotel Building, and the first poles were set by hard working men with very limited equipment.
This cooperative was founded in 1938 to serve the needs of its members. We still exist 75 years later to serve the needs of our members. Our mission is to provide safe, reliable, efficient service and environmental responsibility. Our employees and directors work hard to honor that mission every day.
Throughout this year, we will be talking about what it was like in the beginning of your cooperative, how we have gotten to today, and where we are going tomorrow. If you have any stories or photos that remind you of how life was when you first experienced receiving electricity, please share them with us, and we will share with the rest of the cooperative members.
Access Energy Cooperative was founded by people and hard work. It is still operating today, by people and hard work. Let’s celebrate our 75 years of history together this year!