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Bulloch History with Roger Allen - Excelsior EMC forms out of the New Deal
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Roger Allen

    The "Rural Electrification of America" became the watchword of the mid-1930s as part of the New Deal. In 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order creating the Rural Electric Administration at his summer White House in Warm Springs, Ga.
    The Rural Electrification Act of 1936 loaned money to rural electric cooperatives, public utilities and private power companies to encourage the provision of low-cost power to rural and especially remote areas of the United States.
    In Georgia, that meant establishing electric membership corporations, headed by locals who provided their communities with electric power. It wasn't until a 1939 issue that the Bulloch Herald could report the first of these "electric wires" was strung in the county.
    A new company was formed to tackle this daunting project: the Excelsior Electric Membership Cooperative, located in Metter. The company officers were President J.R. Vaugh, Vice President J. Floyd Nevils, Secretary K.J. Arthur Floyd and Project Supervisor Cleo E. Mills.
    Almost immediately, 1,130 residents signed up to be connected to the new service. The company announced plans to string 250 miles of line, with another 150 miles of line to be strung after that.
    The newspaper informed its readers that the new power lines ran from the first Excelsior EMC "Sub-Station" near Mrs. A.E. Brannen's home all the way to Highway 46 near Pine Lodge.
    According to the article, some 150 miles of "right-of way" were cleared for the erection of the poles and lines, and hardware was placed on about 125 miles of poles.
    Julian Tillman, the electric contractor hired to do the job, sent out a crew of six linemen and four helpers to erect the new Excelsior EMC's rudimentary power grid. The first phase of the project consisted of 291 miles of lines to be erected at a cost of some $290,000.
    Tillman's men ran the first 32 miles of wire in five days. The first regions to get these new power lines were to be the communities of Adabelle and Register.
    According to the March 16, 1939, issue of the Bulloch Herald, Tillman's men had erected 248 miles of line approved for the first phase of the project. With this success, it was decided to add another 187 miles of additional power lines in Bulloch, Candler and Evans counties.
    On Feb. 1, 1940, the Bulloch Herald announced that Excelsior EMC had arranged to demonstrate the benefits of this new electric power.
    Thelma Wilson, a Rural Electrification Administration home economist, held meetings at several locations with area housewives, where she showed off electric household appliances, from the electric clothes-washing machine to the latest in electron irons.
    Also, the "Farm and Home Traveling Demonstration Coach" crisscrossed the county's back roads. Operated by Joe McGee, a former Georgia Farm agent, the vehicle could seat as many as 20 people. His job was to show how electricity could simplify life on the farm.
    Inside, he had an area with all of the electric kitchen appliances set up, which he demonstrated to the farm wives. He also had numerous farm implements on hand, which he demonstrated to farmers.
    For the first months of the new electric grids operation, the power consumption of an average Bulloch County electric customer amounted to only 16 kilowatts per month, but within six months, that amount had almost doubled to an average of 29 kilowatts.

    Roger Allen is a local lover of history. He provides a brief look at the area's historical past. Email Roger at rwasr1952@gmail.com.

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