December 19, 2020 – Sierra Tel, serving both Madera Oriental County and Mariposa County, announced that its 2021 phone book celebrates the 125e Anniversary of Sierra Telephone, the main building block of the Sierra Tel family.
The 360-page directory tells the story of the company’s beginnings many years ago with the help of local residents. Many long-time members of the Mariposa community will recognize the names and locations of Sierra Telephone’s early days, and they hope all of their customers will enjoy reading some of their history.
Sierra Tel hopes all of her customers and community members enjoy the book and take a moment to reflect on what they are grateful for this holiday season and throughout the year.
The new directory includes business and residential phone numbers for Oakhurst, Ahwahnee, Bass Lake, Fish Camp, Yosemite, Coarsegold, Raymond, North Fork, Mariposa, Catheys Valley, Coulterville, Hornitos, Mt. Bullion and Midpines.
The directory also includes useful information on government officials, emergency preparedness and emergency numbers, senior services, caller ID blocking, Sierra Tel customer services, schools, community information and a calendar of events.
Over 19,000 copies of the directory will be mailed out starting approximately January 2, and additional copies will be available at Sierra Tel offices in mid-February.
SIERRA PHONE PROVIDING SERVICE FOR 125 YEARS
Sierra Tel is proud of our rural roots, and last year we celebrated the 125th anniversary of the Sierra Telephone Company, Inc. This main building block of the Sierra Tel family began in Mariposa on November 2, 1895, when the Sunset Telephone Company, with subscriptions totaling $ 2,000 from residents of Mariposa, completed a line from Merced to Mariposa. The line left Merced via Mount Bullion, Bear Valley and Hornitos. Constructed of sawn-heart redwood poles and copper wire, the telephone line connected Mariposa to the outside world.
In December 1895, a central office was located in the Burnett and Jones Pharmacy on Charles Street between 6th and 7th. The company consisted of a switchboard to which private lines (“Farmer Lines”) were connected. Burnett, being the town doctor, owned one of the first telephones. The Mariposa Gazette received its telephone on February 19, 1898.
The telephone company was then bought first by the Thistle family and then by the Magowans. At one point, the central office was moved to the Grosjean building on the southwest corner of 6th and Charles. A soda fountain and a candy store were the main activity at this location. Sarah and Jack Gann bought the business in 1913.
The central office users built their own lines to the office in order to receive service. These “Farmer Lines” were built in rural areas with around 30 subscribers all using the same line. Early ledgers showed user accounts showing who owned the row: the farmer or the business. The switchboard would be open at limited hours.
After 10:00 p.m., only emergency calls would be answered. Young Violet Cann Matlock has often served as an operator and remembers answering calls for help during the night.
Jim Dulcich purchased the Mariposa system in 1927. In 1933, he and his wife Marjorie moved the business, now called The Butterfly, to the east side of Charles Street. The Butterfly included a meat market, a cafe, the Mariposa telephone exchange, and later a general store.
They built the first rental lines and established the first service outside the immediate town of Mariposa. During World War II, June Meagher and Mickey Fournier, and possibly others, stood at the switchboard at night to receive war-related emergency calls.
After the war Jim and Marjorie sold the business to Wesley Roome, who in turn quickly sold it to Oscar Ivey. Ivey modernized the business, getting rid of old hand-cranked phones in favor of a numbering system. He constructed a new building located at 8th Street and Highway 140 to house the business.
In 1944 the Baker purchased the Raymond Telephone Company from founder Archibald C. Shaw, Sr. The Mariposa Telephone Exchange was purchased in 1953, and in 1954 it was incorporated as the Mariposa County Telephone Company, Inc. Also in 1953, the Raymond Telephone Company was changed to the Sierra Telephone Company, and in 1954 it was incorporated as the Sierra Telephone Company, Inc. It is still a family business today.
By 1984, the reasons for the separate companies ceased to exist and they were merged to achieve economies of scale. Sierra Telephone Company, Inc. was the surviving company.
The Mariposa telephone exchange consisted of a central system in the town of Mariposa, with lines extending to the fairgrounds in the south, the Mel-O-Dee Motel on Route 140, and the Forest Station Division on Route 49. All other out-of-town connections were customer-owned “farm lines” made up of a wire with the earth (ground) serving as a return conductor.
The expansion of power supply to rural areas of Mariposa created complications for the single-wire telephone lines widely used in previous years. Electrical interference from new power lines has made rural telephones extremely noisy.
Almost after the acquisition, planning and construction of modern lines for rural areas began with the completion of the extended service in September 1959. A new office and switching facility on Bullion Street in Mariposa announced the completion of this major project.
The past 125 years have seen many investments in what is now Sierra Telephone to meet the challenge of the rapidly developing areas of Mariposa County and East Madera County. The company has now completed 99% fiber-to-node placement, further facilitating the deployment of high-speed digital services. We are committed to providing continuous advancements in telecommunications technology and broadband services to customers and communities in the mountainous regions we serve.
Source: Sierra Tel