Sunday, October 22, 2017

Early electric company powered Frederick

 

   Foster-Harris Company sold electricity in 1906


   In 2017 we take electricity for granted.

   We all have electricity in our homes and businesses, and with the flip of a switch we can be assured that there will be light.

   It hasn't always been that simple.

   When the area that is now Tillman County was opened to settlement in 1901, new towns sprang up on the open prairie and the providing of electrical power was an early commercial enterprise. In Frederick, that power was provided by the Foster-Harris Gin and Electric Company. The company built a power plant near the railroad tracks on West Gladstone Avenue where they generated electricity by burning coal. Nearby on North 8th Street (where the Pioneer Townsite Museum is now located) the company also operated an early cotton gin.

   The Foster-Harris company strung electric power lines up and down Frederick streets. Not every building was wired for electricity, but city residents who were prosperous enough to afford electric power could purchase the service.

By the early 1920s, the City of Frederick had taken over electric services from the Foster-Harris enterprise.

   A 1916 industrial edition of the Frederick Daily Leader told the history and service of the Foster-Harris Gin and Electric Company.


Foster-Harris Electric Plant on West Gladstone in Frederick, 1916

From The Frederick Leader county industrial edition, July 21, 1916

A light plant that gives real service

One of the first requisites of a well regulated and progressive city is the maintenance of an adequate lighting system under the management that always takes into consideration how the best possible service can be given the consumers of electric current.

The Foster-Harris Gin and Electric company, of Frederick, is a corporation owned exclusively by J.T. Lively, R.J. Harris and S.J. Mathies, and is under the management of R.J. Harris, who has spent the greater part of his time in the gin and electrical business. Only two members of the firm are located in Frederick, R.J. Harris and S.J. Mathies. Mr. Mathies has charge of the office and book work of the company. He is secretary-treasurer of the company. The uptown offices of the company are maintained in the State Guaranty bank building, in the rear of the Corner drug store. Mr. Lively, the other member of the company and also its president, lives in Seymour, Texas, where he conducts the largest dry goods and department store in that city.

The first lighting system to be started in Frederick was established by this company early in the year 1906. At that time it installed a small, 35 killowatt machine, attached to a 60-horsepower engine direct. This plant was established at the gin, which was built in 1905. Shortly after its establishment, however, it was soon learned that, with the rapid strides the city was making towards progress and upbuilding, it would be but a period of a few years until the plant would be inadequate to handle the current necessary to furnish the patrons light and power. The company has continually been adding to and building until today it has two 150-killowatt machines, with two engines large enough to pull the load. In fact, this plant is one of the best equipped in the state at the present time, being built in duplicate throughout, which almost assures the patrons that they will never be without light and power with a possible exception of a few minutes at a time. The duplicate plants are operated alternately and both are kept in excellent repair by the manager, Mr. Harris, who is noted for his upkeep of the machinery, both of the electric company and the gin.

In addition to the excellent machinery equipment of this company it now has about seven miles of standard copper transmission lines to various parts of the city, and is constantly adding additional lines as the occasion demands. In fact at the present time this company can give its service to any residence in the city.

The number of patrons that this company has in Frederick is in keeping with the excellent service accorded by the company. There is not a business house in the city that has any use for lights at all which is not equipped and using the current of the company. In the principal residence sections of the city the current is used. Of course, as in all cities, there are homes that are not wired for electricity and never will be, but, taken as a whole, the larger percent of the residences in the city are today lighted by electricity.

In addition to furnishing electricity to the residence section this company also furnishes power to three elevators, an ice cream factory, two shoe repair shops, two newspaper offices, one machine shop, a broom factory, repair shop of one gin, besides its own, two meat markets, two bakeries, three picture shows. In fact, any institution that could use electric current to an advantage as a power has motors installed and is using the current of this company.

In addition, the company furnishes power to light the streets of the city. At the present time a system of street lighting is being installed which will call for 35 street lights, which will be of the latest improved Mazda type. This will place adequate street lights in every portion of the city. The rate charged by the company for the lighting of the streets is as low as good business judgment will permit.

The street lighting is always maintained to the highest degree of efficiency.

R.J. Harris, the manager, is responsible in large measure for the good service that is given by this company. He is constantly at the plant looking after the machinery, keeping it in excellent repair in order that it will do its maximum work. He is known by everybody to be an expert in this line. His son, L.G. Harris, is the chief electrician and is credited with being one of the most proficient men in the southwest. He has been with the company about eight years and has given very efficient service during that time. Mr. Harris, Sr., takes great pride in the upkeep of the grounds around the plant and has built small parks near each. It is a pleasure to make a trip to the plant and see the artistic manner in which they are kept up. Mr. Harris devotes his time to the making of an ideal electric and gin plant for Frederick. Mr. Harris and his family came to Frederick from Seymour, Texas, in 1905 and he has been a town booster and builder ever since coming here and starting the first light plant.

S.J. Mathis, secretary-treasurer of the company, came to Frederick in 1907, to take an interest in the company.  He has constantly been in charge of the offices of the company since that date. He is congenial and pleasant to deal with and is imbued with that spirit of progressiveness which is characteristic of the business men of Frederick and Tillman county. He never fails to put forth any available effort to improve the town and contribute liberally towards any enterprise for the upbuilding and growth of the southwest.

The company employs four men through the entire year at the light plant and from 10 to 12 during the cotton season at the gin. They are all efficient in their line and expert workmen.

The gin operated by this company is one of the modern gins of the county. It is equipped with the latest ginning machinery, Pratt Huller gins, and each year additional equipment is added to make it modern. Last year, which was a short season, this gin ginned in excess of 1,400 bales, which is better than the average gin in the southwest. This is also under the management of R.J. Harris, who takes the same care of the machinery as that of the light plant. The company also traffics in cotton, paying the farmers the highest market price and giving them a good class for their product.

While the beginning of the electric service in Frederick was nothing that could be compared with today, there is not now a city in the southwest that can boast of a better lighting system nor a company conducting a system that will do more for the growth and progression of a city than the Foster-Harris Gin and Electric Company.


NOTE: No address is given in the 1916 article. The 1919 city directory, though, lists Harris Gin, 202 N. 8th.



2 comments:

  1. Just ran onto your blog. Great article here.

    In parts of Oklahoma, there was no electricity until about the seventies because it was to hard to get there to certain parts.

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  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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