Pioneer Texas Telephones

Location: 111 West Robinson, Cleburne

The first telephones in Texas, in 1878, connected the "Galveston News" with the home of its publisher, Col. A. H. Belo. Galveston also had the first exchange, 1879, and first long-distance line, which ran to Houston, in 1883. Cleburne phone service began 1882 when Automatic Telephone Company opened. In 1897 Southwestern Telegraph and Telephone Company (which later joined Bell System) started another firm. It built city's first long distance line, 12 miles to Alvarado junction. Monthly rates were $2 to $3. About 1904, the Automatic Telephone Company installed some of first dial phones in U.S.- fifteen years before they were used successfully elsewhere. But in 1912, problems forced the Automatic Telephone Company to close. Near turn of century, rural areas often used barbed wire fences for phone lines. Even urban homes shared party lines, each one having its special "ring". Circuits joined a main switchboard manned by one operator "central"--- the hub of local news. "Central" always knew where to find town doctor and was a clearing house for funeral plans. The unemployed could ask her who needed workers; she advertised by ringing all phones to read announcements. Many small towns regretted losing her services when dial phones came into use. By 1966, Texas had 4,474,722 telephones, 134 companies. Incise in base: Early travel, transportation and communication series erected by the Moody Foundation.

Source: Texas Historical Commission