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Lincoln, Maine

A Town of Hearty, Resilient Souls

Telegraphs & Telephones

Responses from students in Mr. Koscuiszka's class can be viewed below:

Katelyn Trask & Andrew Fortin
"Research your topic and summarize the ‘who, what, when, and where’ in the form of a few paragraphs"

There is evidence that the first telegraph lines in Lincoln were installed some time in the 1850s, after the Maine Telegraph Company was founded in 1848. The most common place to find a telegraph in Lincoln was at the railroad station.

Telephone operator's building, Lincoln, ca. 1940
Telephone operator's building, Lincoln, ca. 1940

Item Contributed by
Lincoln Historical Society

In 1898 the New England Telephone & Telegraph Company brought the first telephone switchboard to the town of Lincoln. This switchboard was located on Plumly Block, which now is the area where Rite Aid is located today. Jennie Thomas and Anne Carrington were operators for the small switchboard. When the buzzer rang to tell them that someone was calling they would connect the call. In the first few years of the switch board being here, there were six subscribers, John MacGregor, Dr. L.H. White, the Pulp Mill, the Lincoln House Hotel, Maine Central Railroad, and W.F Lovejoy. In 1904, Mr. Plumly gained his first regular operator, Miss Edith Trott.

In January 1906 a new switchboard was installed by the New England Telephone & Telegraph Company. In February of that year the telephone company made Lincoln the toll center for this division. This division included the towns of Olamon, which only had one phone at the pay station, Passadumkeag, one phone at the pay station, Burlington, Enfield, Montague (now known as West Enfield), Howland, Winn, Kingman, Drew, Wytopitlock, Prentiss, Carroll, Springfield, Lee, and Medway.

Being a toll station for all these towns, calls were taken in and out. This became too much work for one person to handle. So, on March 1, 1906, Mrs. Taylor, a supervisor from the Bangor office, was sent to Lincoln to help instruct people on how to operate the new switchboard. The job of a telephone operator was a little more difficult in the olden days. Each call was timed. When the call began, the operator would put a ticket into the slot below a dial. Then the operator would pull the left handle. When the conversation was finished, the handle, when pulled down, would make a print on the back of the ticket indicating how long the conversation had lasted. For example, if Line 21 called Line 51, and Line 51 was busy, then operators had to wait until Line 51 was clean, then call Line 21 back and connect the call. Usually when people called central office they would ask for the specific name of a person instead of the line number. This sometimes would get very confusing for the operators. These operators were paid a minimum of $2.00 and a maximum of $18.00 per week, depending on the job they did. The use of a switchboard operator came to an end in Lincoln on November 13, 1953.

Logan Booker
"Compare/contrast your topic (the telegraph) in the past and in the present"

In the history of Lincoln, the telegraph was used very little but was still used occasionally. As you can assume, most of the telegraph in Lincoln were owned by important businesses or railroad stations. Later on, there were others who subscribed to the telegraph. Mr. Robinson dispatched a message to Bangor for them to send a fire engine because the town of Lincoln was in extreme danger of being engulfed in flames.

In the present time, we do not use the telegraph for communicating because we now have telephones, cell phones, e-mail, text, etc. If we did not first have the telegraph, inventors would probably never have had the genius ideas to create these things. It would still take weeks, if not months, to talk to one person.

Aaron Osborne
"Compare and contrast your topic (the telephone) in the past and in the present"

Back in the 1800s the telephone was not like it is today. For example, they had to physically connect the wires together when two people wanted to talk to each other. Also, there had to be two people on shifts working the connections. When they connected the two lines the operator put in a type of time card, and the operators would get paid from two to ten dollars per week. In 1912, Kelly Thibodeau became the first girl to work in this Lincoln office. Also in 1912 Frank Bixby installed a pole changer, which is electric, and took the place of an operator. In the office it could get very confusing trying to remember everyone’s number to connect the two.

The Telephone
The TelephoneDrawing by Andrew Tash

Now the telephone is electronically connected to everyone, even people you don’t need to call. So as long as you have electricity, you can call anyone who has this phone line. Also, cell phones travels through the air and to a tower, which is connected to other phones. People who work with the phone line are only really working for the power company because that is how the lines are connected.

Cassie Conroy
"Describe your feelings, or the feelings of someone living at that time when a certain event happened"

On June 21, 1887, at about 10 o’ clock at night, a message from the mayor was received announcing that the village of Lincoln was on fire. An engine was wanted from Bangor. The whole village was in great danger and would burn to the ground if help were not speedily had. If the message from the Lincoln fire department, by the telegraph, had not been received by the Bangor fire department, then everything would have been in a great deal of danger. Very few goods were saved, but the town’s records and letters in the post office were saved without any damage to them at all. The blaze came unexpectedly, right before the 4th of July celebration. The village of Lincoln is very fortunate for the wind not blowing, because the fire could have spread and caused more damage than what was already caused.

Chris Champion
"How did this topic impact the town?"

The first form of a telephone to come to Lincoln was a switchboard on Plumly block in 1898. In January 1906 a new switchboard was installed. The New England Telephone Company had to send a person named Mrs. Taylor to help instruct people on the switchboard. How the switchboard worked was that the operators would take a ticket when a conversation was started. Then they timed the conversation. The ticket was put in a slot below the dial, and then they pulled a handle to their left. Then when the conversation was over, the operator pulled a lever to their right. Then it printed the time of how long the conversation took place on the back of the tickets. This switchboard helped us learn more about communication, and it allowed us to have the communication we have today.

Brian Gorrell
"What if the telegraph never existed?"

It would have been a harder life because the telegraph was used to communicate. Life without fast communication would be hard also. If there’s something bad about to happen people need to know immediately to spread word of needed help or evacuation. We have so much mass communication today that it shouldn’t be a problem. We have all these communication devices today from the telegraph first being in existence. Different places, towns, countries that do not have this kind of communication are, in some ways, kind of in trouble. Everyone needs to be able to communicate with others.

Paige Morrison
"What if the telephone never existed? Explain the consequences to the town."

If the telephone never existed, the town of Lincoln wouldn’t be able to communicate with people as fast. And, if there was an emergency, like a fire, you couldn’t call the fire department. Before telephones came to Lincoln many people wrote letters to each other, or attached notes to pigeons. Some people used Morse code. If they wanted to get information out fast, then they told the town messenger, who would go around the town shouting the message to everyone. The telephone came to Lincoln in 1898, and people have been using it ever since. The first form of a telephone came to Lincoln by the switchboard on Plumly Block. In 1905 there were seven telephones in Lincoln. In 1906 there was a new switchboard installed by the New England Telephone/Telegraph Company. The telephone is very useful to the town of Lincoln. If it never existed, then we would probably still have a town caller and would still be writing notes.

Works Cited

"The History of the New England Telephone and Telegraph Co., Lincoln." 2nd ed. Vol. 1. Lincoln: Lincoln Historical Society. Print. Ser. 3.

King, George R. “Lincoln Light Power CO.” Lincoln Historical Society (1993): 252-54. Print.

Whig and Courier. 1887th ser. June.21 (1887). Print.