This article first appeared in the January 12, 2000 issue of the Wheeler County Eagle

A Brief History of Little Ocmulgee EMC

Electricity is such a part of our lives that it's hard to believe that a little more than 60 years ago, less than 10% of U.S. citizens enjoyed electric power. Though electricity was available to city residents as early as the 1880s, few power lines extended into the countryside. Utilities often charged the few rural residents lucky enough to have electricity higher rates than those in cities. Many rural towns, like Alamo and Dublin, installed their own generators. A few wealthy people in the country could purchase generators, but most rural residents could only look at the glow of electric lights with envy.

The nation recognized this disparity as early as 1912, and Congress debated the matter in the 1920s, but took no action. In the 1930s, the cause of rural electrification gained a powerful supporter: Franklin D. Roosevelt, who at his cottage at Warm Springs, Georgia, saw first hand the disparity in electric service between urban and rural areas. In 1935 Congress passed a bill creating the Rural Electrification Administration, which Roosevelt signed in a ceremony at Warm Springs. This bill authorized loans to provide electricity to the remaining 90% of the country.

Established utilities still balked at running power lines out into the countryside, loans or not. And so rural residents banded together to form their own, nonprofit electric companies directly owned by each member. Though cooperatives such as Ocmulgee EMC and Altamaha EMC started in 1935, much of Telfair, Wheeler, and the southern part of Laurens county still didn't have electricity. So local residents formed their own electric cooperative, Little Ocmulgee Electric Membership Corporation, and elected their first board of directors on May 9, 1938.

After much discussion of whether the new cooperative should be headquartered in McRae or Alamo, the first office opened in Alamo in an old store building three doors down from the present office. One requirement to receive REA loans was at least three connections per mile of line, and co-op supporters fanned out across the countryside signing up members. In November of 1938, Little Ocmulgee EMC received its first REA loan, and on April 7, 1939, the lights came on for 125 families living on the first 52 miles of line.

For many families, electricity consisted of a single lightbulb hanging from the ceiling by a drop cord. By July 1940, only 41 out of the 733 members served by the co-op used more than 100 kWh. But soon members of Little Ocmulgee EMC began to enjoy the full benefits of electricity. To help our members, Little Ocmulgee EMC wired homes and sold appliances and lamps.

Still, there was some opposition to electricity. Some land owners refused to permit power lines to cross their land, keeping electricity from some families for years. Others didn't see the use for electricity. Yet by the mid 1940s, electricity was available to most residents in the area now served by Little Ocmulgee EMC.

The years saw changes and growth. The co-op built its current headquarters in the 1950s, opened a branch office in Laurens in the early 1980s, and a branch office in McRae in the mid 1990s. From one substation in 1939 we've grown to nine; from 125 members we've grown to nearly 10,000 accounts; from 51 miles of line we've grown to more than 1,710 miles. Yet throughout our growth, we've retained the same commitment to our members and our communities as we did in 1938, a commitment that's the hallmark of cooperative service.

In 1985, Little Ocmulgee EMC returned to its roots with the formation of a subsidiary company, Little Ocmulgee Service Corporation. Besides offering sale and repair of appliances, the Service Corporation broke new ground by becoming the second cooperative company in Georgia to offer satellite television. In 1986, Little Ocmulgee Service Corporation joined the National Rural Telecommunications Association as a charter member.

As we look forward to 2001 and the new millennium, and as we face the unknown challenges of the future, we look back to our foundations. For the strength of cooperatives rests not on size, but in its members, in the principle of neighbors helping neighbors. That's what cooperatives are all about.

ALAMO HEADQUARTERS

26 W. Railroad St
Alamo, GA 30411
1-800-342-1290
912-568-7171

DIRECTIONS

DUBLIN

2337 U.S. 441 S.
Dublin, GA 31021
1-800-342-1290

DIRECTIONS

McRAE-HELENA

193 E. Oak St.
McRae-Helena, GA 31055
1-800-342-1290
Closed 12:30-1:30 PM

DIRECTIONS

Willy Wirehand

OFFICE HOURS

MONDAY - FRIDAY
Alamo & Dublin: 8 AM-5 PM
McRae-Helena: 8 AM-4:30 PM

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Little Ocmulgee EMC