First Kentucky Consumer Rural Cooperative Electricity

Historical Marker #1392 in Henderson County marks the location where the first Kentucky customer received rural electricity from an electric cooperative.

In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the law creating the Rural Electrification Administration, an agency established to provide funding to local cooperatives that would distribute electricity. Kentucky Governor A. B. "Happy" Chandler, a Henderson native, was essential in securing rural electric power for the Bluegrass State during his time in office.

The first electrical pole was raised in Henderson on May 19, 1937, in front of a crowd of approximately three thousand people. Symbolically, a glass lamp in a wooden box was buried during the ceremony. The first customer to benefit from the new program was peach farmer, Frank T. Street. Street was born in Trigg County, but began working on the 2,200 acre Cardinal Farm in Henderson while studying agriculture at the University of Kentucky. Street managed, and eventually owned, Cardinal Farms, while earning national awards for peach growing. Like many farms, Cardinal used gasoline powered engines to supply needed energy before the electric cooperative was formed.

Street had electricity supplied to a single building in August 1937 to pack that summer’s peach crop. The power, however, was shut off when the crop was harvested. It was October before power was resupplied to the farm and the Street home. Street's son, George, recalled seeing "a lot of people coming to the farm just to look at the new electric motors." By 1942, seventeen percent of Kentucky farms were receiving electricity from an energy cooperative, and, by 1990, the number was nearly one hundred percent of Kentucky farms. The Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives was formed in 1948, and still exists today with twenty-four local, consumer-owned electric distribution utilities, along with the two generation and transmission cooperatives that produce power for those distribution co-ops.

Images

Rural Electricity

Rural Electricity

While many cities and larger towns had central electricity soon after the perfection of the incandescent light bulb, it was not until 1937 that farms and rural areas were able to enjoy the same luxury. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt

President Roosevelt is responsible for signing into law an act creating the Rural Electrification Act, which made possible rural electric cooperatives in Kentucky. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

Rural Electricity

Rural Electricity

Until rural electricity became available farmers were unable to do certain early morning or late evening tasks or had to rely on less safe modes of lighting and power. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

McKenzie Martin, “First Kentucky Consumer Rural Cooperative Electricity,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed June 24, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/390.
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