Historical Marker #2399 commemorates the beginning of rural electrification in Kentucky by recognizing the first Rural Electric Co-Op Substation located in Boyle County. On June 10, 1938, 33,000 volts of electricity was sent to 115 homes along 56 miles of lines.
Approximately ten percent of the nation’s rural residences had electricity when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an Executive Order setting up the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) on May 11, 1935. Kentucky was among the least electrified states in 1935 with only about three percent of Kentucky farms having electricity. In 1936, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act, which established how the government would lend money to organizations that would build power lines and provide electricity to rural areas throughout the country.
With the passage of the Rural Electrification Act, the directors of the Boyle County Farm Bureau made rural electrification one of their main objectives in 1936. William H. Rogers, Robinson Cook, Joe Irvin, Beeler Whitlock, and D.P. Rankin met with REA representatives in 1936 to discuss the necessary loan qualifications. The REA loan application required the planning of proposed system and the drawing of maps to plot where lines and poles would be placed. Additionally, access to wholesale electricity had to be pre-arranged from an existing utility. It was soon determined that Kentucky laws governing farm marketing co-ops had to be changed to include electric cooperatives. The necessary legislation was enacted during a special session of the Kentucky General Assembly in January 1937. All the requirements for the REA application were completed by April 1937.
Throughout the summer and fall of 1937, volunteers obtained written permission to build and maintain electric lines on potential consumers’ properties. REA had strict rules against paying for the use of private property based on the idea that co-op members should be willing to make their land available in return for the benefits they would eventually receive from having electricity. By November 1937, the volunteers had secured enough easements to start building 250 miles of line. The REA required an average of at least two homes per mile be wired before a system could be energized. The lines began being staked at the beginning of December and construction was completed during the fall of 1938. As rural homes in Boyle County and five other counties under the cooperative REA setup received a convenience urban homes had for years, county and home demonstration agents helped explain electricity and its potential uses to rural residents by offering appliance and farm equipment demonstrations.
By July 1940, Inter-County served more than 1,600 consumers and had more than 600 miles of line. Expansion continued until the United States entered World War II when shortages of materials and labor halted construction throughout the country. In 2013, on the 75th anniversary of this event, Inter-County Energy served more than 25,000 members in 12 counties with more than 3,700 miles of line.