Filer Mutual celebrates 100 years: Board member completes book on company
JOHN SWAYZE/For the Times-News
Filer Mutual Telephone Board of Directors member Duane Ramseyer holds a book he compiled to commemorate the company's 100th anniversary. A celebration will be held today at the Twin Falls County Fairgrounds in Filer.

FILER - Reading about the past can be about as exciting as watching grass grow. But author Duane Ramseyer hopes "100 Years of Talking: The History of Filer Mutual Telephone Company" has something to catch everyone's interest.

Ramseyer, a member of Filer Mutual's Board of Directors since 1971, set out to develop a book to chronicle the company's history and coincide with today's 100th anniversary celebration, held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Twin Falls County Fairgrounds. The 252-page book became a reality last month.

"I've spent the past three years, off and on, going through the minutes of about 1,200 board meetings and trying to put down the things I felt it was important for people to know," Ramseyer said.

The company was created on April 11, 1909, when a group of 45 residents formed a corporation to bring phone service to the community. However, the original effort to establish a phone company was dissolved and replaced by the Farmers Mutual Telephone Company in Nov. 1909.

George Potter was hired as the company's first manager in 1910, and promptly took a hands-on approach to running the fledgling company. A photo in Ramseyer's book shows Potter making his work rounds on horseback, his saddle is draped with the tools of a lineman as he sits encircled by a spool of telephone wire.

Due to legal issues, the company reverted back to using the name Filer Mutual Telephone in 1933.

"The Board of Directors, in what appears to have been a simple oversight, hadn't filed an annual report with the Idaho Secretary of State, and the company lost its charter to operate under the Farmer's Mutual name in 1916," Ramseyer said. "Almost all the early records were destroyed in the 1920 fire. So as far as I can tell, no one came across or was made aware of this until 1933."

In Aug. 1955, Sheridan Building Supply in Filer was awarded a $23,000 contract to construct a new Filer Mutual office at 405 Main St. The site remained the company's central office until 2002, when a modern $700,000 facility was completed across the street.

Filer resident Russell "Bud" Sheridan remembers when his father bid on the old building project, and the experience of working on construction.

"Dad did some of the work but was busy running the lumber business, so my uncle Rich (Schweitzer) and I did the bulk of it," Sheridan said.

Today, approximately 50 percent of the company's 2,350 phone subscribers in Filer and Hollister, and 45 percent of its customer base in Jackpot, Nev., also receive DSL internet service.

Filer Mutual Manager Steve Cowger says it's hard to predict what changes will occur over the next century. However, he feels that, with continued training and a conservative approach, Filer Mutual can stay ahead of the game.

"People want bigger, better, faster services," he said. "It's trying to make sure that you have a good cure for fixing every problem and still accommodating everyone's need."

Saturday's anniversary celebration will offer a free hot dog and hamburger lunch and dessert, along with live music performed by Front Porch Flavor and Last Resort. Various activities for kids and adults will be available, along with a number of prizes.

"We've got a full day planned," Cowger said. "Hopefully it will be a fun time."

John E. Swayze may be reached at swayzef@aol.com or 208-326-7212.

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