Bob Mitchell: Cassville's electric service

Wednesday, July 13, 2016
Bob Mitchell Ozark Views & Comments

This area, Cassville included, could have missed the boat when it came to electrical power through Rural Electrical Administration (REA) advantages due to a controversy involving the service 69 years ago. The city of Cassville, and a short outreach into neighboring areas, was once served by Missouri Southern Public Service Co. (MSPSC), owned by a Kentucky holding company.

At that time, there were 208 miles of lines and 1,139 electricity customers. Today, there are more than 11,000 customers on Barry Electric Cooperative.

Back to Barry Electric coming into the picture, the buyout of MSPSC was a highly controversial move because the manager here was Jim Dopp, who was highly involved in the community and provided good service. It helped that his son, Carl, was an outstanding basketball player. Carl's departure to Joplin by joining Empire District Electric resulted in the Joplin basketball team inheriting one of the top players in the region.

Mrs. Dopp, also a popular person, became one of the top housemothers on the Missouri Southern campus when that college became a reality.

The Dopp family lived at the corner of Second and West streets, ironically in the same house as his successor purchased when he arrived on the scene.

High school graduation

The purchase of the electrical company by the electric cooperative occurred in April 1947, the year I graduated from high school. The purchase price was meager in today's market place at $361,499.73. Today, Barry Electric is spending at least $25 million for the installation of fiber optics that isn't going to cover the entire service area.

Company changes in electrical service included some area into which New-Mac Electric, out of Newton County, had built lines.

That change, once some people got over their problems with MSPSC leaving the area, put 208 miles of line in the system, including some service toward Exeter, a few services toward Washburn and Pioneer and New-Mac lines, which were located in Barry County.

George Robbins came to Cassville as the first cooperative manager and the service area began its growth. Robbins was also a community-minded person. He served as chairman of Cassville's first zoning and planning commission.

A 12-year wait

Cassville's missing the boat possibility was when REA, which had been established by Congress in 1935 by the Roosevelt administration. Barry Electric Cooperative was the next-to-last electric cooperative to be formed in Missouri. The very first loan through the government was $177,000 to construct 375 miles of lines.

The area's economy was quickly enhanced by the existence of three appliance dealers who were anxious to serve those just receiving electrical power with new appliances. Electricians also became quite available to provide wiring in homes and businesses that would be trading electric services for lamps, lanterns and candles.

Three appliance dealers served the basic trade area: Miller Furniture and Appliance, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Rufus Miller; Hutton Electric, in a partnership of Oscar Hutton and Johnny Tucker; and Golden Rule Appliances, owned by Bill Carney.

Miller, who laid claim as being the largest appliance dealer in Barry County, frequently received railroad car shipments of appliances in the later years of the Cassville and Exeter Railroad.

It wasn't unusual for Miller and Carney to snipe at each other through their advertising efforts.

Today's cooperative

Widely known as one of the most efficient cooperatives in Missouri these days, Barry Electric, because of its compactness and efficient operations, in the days of industrial development, was highly valuable when contacting a source of employment for the area. The advantages and service installation for a new manufacturer, and more importantly, rate structures, placed Cassville in a position of dominance on a number of occasions.

In the nearly 70-year history of the cooperative, there have been only three managers, Robbins as the first, followed by two who came up through the ranks of the operation. First of these was the late Joe Preddy (who began his employment out of high school as a printer's apprentice at the Cassville Democrat) and the present manager, Bill Shiveley.

A tip of the hat

It's been a while since a Tip of the Hat has been issued by this column, so one must go out to Emmanuel Baptist Church, located on Old Exeter Road in Cassville, for their presentation of the Flag of the United States of America on Independence Day. Their placing of small American Flags all along the street boundary of their property was a welcome addition to the presentation of the Nation's Emblem for the July Fourth holiday.

This, added with Irwin-Easley American Legion's placing the flags on power poles in the main business district of town added to the holiday observance.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat.