Memories of Telephone Company in Vergas, Minnesota

Note:  If you can add to this information, please email me at linda@detroitlakes.com

Vergas Telephone Company

Vergas Telephone Company was organized October 15, 1909, with authorized stock of ten thousand dollars.  The original incorporators were W. B. Carmen of Detroit Lakes, and James Nesbitt and A.G. Schwartzrock of Vergas.  In 1916 the stock of the company was owned by L.W. Oberhauser, A.G. Schwartzrock, P.F. Schroeder, James Nesbitt, C.D. Chaffee and Mrs. Charles Hoffman. Originally there were 124 subscribers of the company including 37in the Village of Vergas and 87 in the surrounding townships of Candor, Dora, Edna, and Hobart.

C.D. Chaffee was the first lineman.  He was married to Emma Harthun in 1910.  They had an apartment on the second floor on Main Street.  The building was destroyed by fire and later replaced by a two story frame structure in which the Hinze Meat Market was located.  The telephone office was also moved there, and between the two, they operated the switchboard, line and repair work.  The managers were James Nesbitt, who was in partnership with Charles Peterson of The Welcome Store, and Charles Scharf, who was cashier at the Farmers State Bank.  Joe Mistelske also owned and operated the company for 15 years. 

The first operators were Bertha Filbrandt and Esther Abrahamson, with Joe taking the night calls. In 1928 Armin Dey purchased the Telephone Company from Joe Mistelske.  He was married to Alvina Sonnenberg in 1934.  They lived above what was then known as the Dey Store, with the telephone office as part of their home.  Margaret Wagner was the first full-time operator.  Mrs. Dey was the bookkeeper and part-time operator while raising two children, Judith and Daniel.  Mr. Dey did the line and repair work.

Subscribers kept increasing and often there were from 10 to 15 phones on the same rural line.  This made it a real "Party Line" for rubbering and often four to five joined in the conversation. Ten short rings were used to make special announcements.  The rate at this time was $1.25 for residents and $3.25 for business places. 

To supplement their income, Mr. Dey started an electrical business, often working from 10 to 16 hours a day, answering telephone or electrical trouble during the day or night.  In 1947 an automatic switchboard was installed which meant new phones with dials and a rate increase. Don Zitzow, who had been employed by Mr. Dey since 1946, took over the electrical business in 1965.The Telephone Exchange was sold to East Otter Tail Telephone Company of Perham in January, 1968.  It was then converted to direct dialing and individual services for every subscriber. Vergas was one of the first small villages to have this modern service. After 38 years of being managers and owners of the Telephone Company, the Deys retired.

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