Looking toward the flats, showing telephone poles, August 27, 1904, adapted from a photo by Eberle

Telephone Poles Across The Flat, Upper Red Rock

From a Photograph by John A. Eberle

August 27, 1904

Red Rock and Mt. Pleasant Telephone Co.

Somehow I got the impression my grandfather, James Coxon, started the first telephone company in Red Rock. I can't remember now where I got that idea but I see no evidence of that in these few newspaper clippings I found on the subject. I think it's unlikely Grandpa Coxon was involved, at least early on, as Charlie Briggs states in his Remembrances of Red Rock that he and his family "moved back to the John Howes property, I guess within a year after Jack, as we called him, was born..." Jack, my dad, was born in August 1908 in Chappaqua NY. I also have the sense Grandpa Coxon was not particularly entrepreneurial in spirit.

Given that the central office was located at Great-Grandpa John Howes' place and that he was later president of the State Line Co-operative Telephone company, I would guess John Howes was the one involved with setting up the Red Rock and Mt. Pleasant Tel. Co.

I also remember hearing that John Howes dammed the creek and set up Red Rock's first electric plant. Charlie Briggs, on page 34 of his Remembrances of Red Rock, confirms this was built in the early 1900's. Could this have been built to power the telephone system? Maybe. I don't know when Red Rock first got electricity but I don't think it was this early. None of the pictures taken around 1900 in Charlie Briggs Remembrances of Red Rock show electric poles or lines. The schoolhouse wasn't wired for electric lights until 1930.

Proposed Red Rock and Mt. Pleasant Tel. Co. Line

Red Rock area compilation map from Beers 1873 Columbia County NY Atlas.

1902 Proposed Red Rock and Mt. Pleasant Tel. Co. Line

Compiled Map from Beers Atlas of Columbia County. New York


[1] Fred Goodrich's farm was the former Stewart farm at the intersection of what is now Columbia County Rt. 9 and Clark Road. Fred Goodrich was my great grandfather on my mother's side. This is the farm Dad purchased in 1945 and is where I grew up.

[2] John Howes then owned the former Barrett farm at the intersection of what is now Columbia Co Rt. 5 and Fog Hill Road (shown as the W. J. Cadman place on the above map and now part of the Beebe Hill State Forest). John Howes was my great grandfather on my father's side. Dad spent much of his childhood on this farm.

Telephone Line at John Howes' House in 1905

John Howes' House at Mt. Pleasant by Eberle

John Howes' House, Mt. Pleasant

From a Photograph by John A. Eberle

August 27, 1905

Look closely; you can faintly see the telephone wires passing in front of the tree on the right over to a pole at the left corner of the house.

A Few Mentions From The Chatham Courier

I found a few mentions of the the proposed new telephone in local news columns in The Chatham Courier, Chatham NY, starting in January 1902 and continuing mentions as the line was developed and expanded.

1902-01 - Telephone Meeting at Red Rock Store


A telephone meeting will be held at the Red Rock store, Jan. 27. The line will run between the residences of Fred Goodrich[1] and John Howes[2]. All those who are interested are requested to be present.

D. D. Tompkins intends moving in the spring to the farm now occupied by D. S. Lord.

Charles Burrows of Lenox spent Sunday at his home. Remember the oyster supper Thursday evening, Jan. 23 at R. S. Ford’s.

Mrs. Alzina Starks has gone to Chatham to keep house for T. R. Burrows.

Elbridge Howes had the misfortune to lose his best horse last week.

Transcribed from: The Chatham Courier, Red Rock column, Jan 1902

1902-01 - State Line, Mass.


The supper and entertainment at the chapel was well attended Friday evening; receipts about $20.

A steam sawmill has recently been erected near Theo. Stickles and have contracted for the large chestnut groves owned by him.

Mrs. L. F. Smith has just purchased a gramophone and her neighbors and friends have had a rare treat, by hearing some of the noted singers and musicians.

Our telephone line seems to be at a standstill owing to a decision of the stockholders to substitute heavier wire and better phones.

Transcribed from: The Chatham Courier, Jan 1902, State Line column

1902-01-29 - Telephone Officers Chosen

Telephone Officers

The stockholders of the telephone line to extend from John Howes’ in the town of Canaan, to State Line held a meeting recently and chose the following officers: President: J. F. Bliss; vice-president. Harry Gleason; treasurer. E. C. Carpenter: secretary, Chas. Belding. There is now a project on foot, in which Pittsfield parties are interested, to extend the line to that city. The lines of the independant companies are being extended over the country with remarkable rapidity and the extent of the growth of this system is problematical.

Transcribed from: The Chatham Courier, Wednesday, January 29, 1902, Local News column

1902-01-29 - New Concord


Poles for the telephone line are being cut and drawn to be ready for use as soon as spring opens.

Transcribed from: The Chatham Courier, Wednesday, January 29, 1902, New Concord column

1933-03-30 - Thirty Years Ago


Thirty Years Ago

The prospective subscribers for a cooperative telephone company, to erect a line from Red Rock to Mt. Pleasant, met Saturday evening at the home of Rudolphus Pettit at Red Rock and elected the following officers: President, Chester Ford; Secretary, Jay Powell; Treasurer, Rev. John McGlautlin. Work will start at once.

Transcribed from: The Courier, Thursday, March 30, 1933

1903? - Austerlitz Line


A telephone line is now contemplated running from this place to John Howes, connecting with the Red Rock - East Chatham line.

Transcribed from: The Chatham Courier, 1903?, Austerlitz column

1908 - Telephone & Telegraph Company Taxes

Table of local telephone taxes for 1907

1908 Taxes Levied on Telephone and Telegraph Companies

From: The Columbia Republican, Friday, May 29, 1908

1909-10-20 - New Telephone Directory

New Telephone Directory

The new Co-operative Telephone directory has just been issued from this office by its publisher, Edward Streeter. It gives all the subscribers on the following exchanges: Canaan, Chatham, East Chatham, Green River, Hillsdale, Kinderhook, Mt. Pleasant, North Chatham, State Line, West Ghent, and West Stockbridge. The Chatham exchange covers beside Chatham village and vicinity, Harlemville, Spencertown, Red Rock, Canaan, Rock City, Old Chatham, Malden Bridge, North Chatham, Chatham Center, Kline Kill and the Hemlock district. The Chatham exchange has upwards of 330 subscribers, The Canaan exchange 41; the East Chatham exchange 64; the Green River exchange [?]5; the Hillsdale exchange 31; the Kinderhook exchange 41; the Mt. Pleasant exchange 43; the North Chatham exchange 21; the State Line exchange 30; the West Ghent exchange 16; the West Stockbridge exchange 53. This makes a grand total of subscribers served direct on these lines of 735 beside the several trunk lines connecting with other exchanges whereby the Columbia and Home Independent lines [… ……. …. ….] the cities of Poughkeepsie, Kingston, Newburgh, Catskill, Hudson, Albany, Troy, Cohoes, Amsterdam, Balston, Saratoga, Schenectady, Mechanicville, Glens Falls, Little Falls, Plattsburg [… illegible from here …]

Transcribed from: The Chatham Courier, Wednesday, October 20, 1909, Chatham News column

1913 - Trunk Line to Green River

Trunk Line

A trunk line is soon to be erected between the central telephone office at John Howes and Green River.

Transcribed from: The Chatham Courier, 1913, Red Rock column

1916-01-05 - John Howes Re-elected President

John Howes Re-elected

John Howes was re-elected president of the State Line Co-operative Telephone company at the annual meeting Monday. Charles Baldwin was elected secretary and John P. Smith, treasurer.

Transcribed from: The Chatham Courier, Wednesday, January 5, 1916