OVER 100 YEARS OF TELEPHONE SERVICE IN WALNUT, IOWA
BY JIM HANSEN
Pinpointing the year telephone service first appeared in Walnut has been elusive at best. We do know there was activity with the new technology many years before a telephone company began providing service to individual businesses and homes in this small Iowa town. The oldest information found to date is from a newspaper clipping reporting the arrival of a train car load of telephone poles in May, 1885.
From other newspaper clippings, Walnut City Council minutes and historical writings, it is obvious a new competitor to the telegraph was in place. Nebraska Telephone Company was an early, if not the first, company to provide voice service. We do know that a public telephone was placed in J. Fred Robinson’s Restaurant. In September of 1893, the Nebraska company was upgrading service to Walnut. Also in the 1890’s, Walnut City Council members were being reimbursed for telephone calls made.
The first ordinance was passed for Nebraska Telephone Company in 1893 and the second was passed for AT&T in 1897. In June 1901, an election was held for Musson Bros. Telephone Company of Atlantic, Iowa to provide local service in Walnut. Of the 339 ballots printed for the election, only 126 were used. The 78 men who voted in favor decided for the 339 eligible voters. As Musson Bros. were trying for franchises in several local communities at the same time, construction in Walnut did not begin until 1902. The slow construction prompted the Marne and Elk Horn Telephone Company to apply for and to receive a franchise in 1904. This action hurried Musson Bros. along and the Elk Horn company did not build in town. At least one long distance company continued their public phone service until 1913, before making an agreement with Musson.
In 1915, the locals, and especially the rural folks, had waited long enough for quality telephone service. Andy Schuttloffel and his brother Roy, took the “bull by the horns”, so to speak, by talking with their friends and neighbors. The other men who were part of the new venture were Henry Rossmann, Otto Kuhr, Art Jacobsen, Otto Matthies , Henry Matthies, and Pete Diedricksen. These men decided to start a new telephone company right away. Early one frosty March morning, a group of men met on Andy’s place to cut willow poles. With some wire they had scrounged and telephones located, they built and brought a telephone company into service by 4:00 p.m. that very day. The new Walnut Telephone Company consisted of one line with a telephone on each end. The first central was in the home of Andy Schuttloffel. Tony Hansen was hired to help lay out the new system to be built. He was also the first lineman. In 1917, Musson Bros. sold out to the Walnut Telephone Company.
Since 1915, for 94 years, the Walnut Telephone Company has served and continues to serve the Walnut community.