Building Platte-Clay, One Member at a Time, 1938
How times have changed, especially in rural areas, historically the last of the Americans to gain access to important infrastructure developments.
It takes our grandparents to talk about the time when electricity came to their farm or home in the late 1930s and early ’40s. What a difference that single, bare bulb made in getting work done at night in the barn. Or cooking dinner or canning or doing on homework at the kitchen table.
The vision of the original founding members of Platte-Clay laid the groundwork for the successful and vibrant communities fueled by productivity and the appeal of having a modern convenience—electricity—for homes and farms in the rural areas the co-op now serves. Building a company and the electric energy infrastructure from the ground up, based on a President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s concern for both the economy and developing the rural areas of the nation was an incredible challenge. But in a methodical, straightforward way, a Board met, hired contractors, hired staff, agreed to buy a truck and paid for basic office supplies. Including a stapler, $6.95.
The first meeting was Aug. 27, 1938, organizing the board of directors. One of the first motions was to wire the Rural Electrification Administration and ask for $300,000. Howard Alexander was to coordinate the work of contacting prospective members in Platte County and Earl L. Arnold worked in Clay County. The second meeting, Sept. 3, the Board formed a committee to find and recommend an engineer. The co-op attorney, D. R. Clevenger, reported that the REA had the co-op charter for approval. Memberships began rolling in by the third meeting, Sept. 28, 1938: Howard Alexander had 273 Platte County residents and Earl Arnold brought in 110 Clay and Clinton County membership applications. The By-Laws were approved with one change: beginning September, 1939, there would be three directors elected for three years and the following year they would elect three directors for three years, and each year thereafter. The rolling elections would provide both continuity and the opportunity for change, which continues today.
At the Oct. 4, 1938, meeting the Board selected E. T. Archer and Company, of Kansas City, Mo., as engineers to build the electrical system. (E. T. Archer, known as Archer Engineers, was acquired by Omaha, Nebr.,-based HDR, Inc. in 2008). Certificates of membership were approved at the Nov. 10, 1938, meeting, along with 360 Platte County members, 213 Clay County and 90 Clinton County members. The cost of membership was $5. Easements were the building blocks for the new co-op, and Howard Alexander reported the co-op had 98 Clay County easements signed, 125 Platte County easements completed and another 25 more ready to sign. The REA’s Examining Division told the Board to make the system as large as possible to increase the number of potential members and density, which would help operate the co-op as economically as possible. The November meeting included all of the incorporators and members of the Platte-Clay board who approved the By-Laws. The purpose of the co-op given in the original By-Laws “is to make electric energy available to its shareholders (hereinafter called ‘members’) at the lowest cost consistent with sound economy and good management.” At the next meeting, Jan. 10, 1939, the Board of Directors authorized constructing 456 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines, with the approval of the REA, and borrowing $487,000 from the United States of America to finance construction and operation. There were 1,367 co-op members committed to the new co-op.
It was the beginning of what today is one of the most progressive rural electric cooperatives in Missouri. So hats off to those who worked to bring electric service to the rural homes as we celebrate Platte-Clay’s 75th Anniversary.