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Manuscripts by Subject - Mining / Drilling / Energy - #11055

Title: Steele Light and Power Company Records

Dates: 1917-1919

Collection Number: MSS 11055

Quantity: .25 foot

Abstract: Consists of one ledger with minutes and general information about the company and its stockholders.

Provenance: The ledger came in with a records transfer from Kidder County in November 2009. The historical sketch was researched and written by Erlys Fardal, and edited by Emily J. Ergen. The finding aid was created by Emily J. Ergen in January 2010.

Property Rights: The State Historical Society of North Dakota owns the property rights to this collection.

Copyrights: Copyrights to this collection remain with the donor, publisher, author, or author's heirs. Researchers should consult the 1976 Copyright Act, Public Law 94-553, Title 17, U.S. Code or an archivist at this repository if clarification of copyright requirements are needed.

Access: This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Citation: Researchers are requested to cite the collection title, collection number, and the State Historical Society of North Dakota in all footnote and bibliographic references.



Steele, ND, was without lights April 15, 1917. Power had been supplied by the Goodwin Light and Power Company, which ceased operations when the mortgagees sent word to Mr. Goodwin to close the plant. A large crowd gathered at the City Council meeting that followed the closure. Some demanded immediate light service. Others called lights a nuisance, while others thought that Steele should have a municipal plant run by a reliable party. There were suggestions that it was time to put a socialistic doctrine into place.

The following day, the City Council passed a resolution granting citizens the right to organize a stock company for the purpose of running the electric plant. Temporary permits for a period of ninety days were granted. The first order of business was to get the lights back on in Steele; the second was to get the stocks sold. Art Goodwin, the former owner and operator of the plant, was hired for a wage of $5 per day and P. Dahlberg was to become plant manager.

The company indebtedness was $4,700, most of which was owed to Dr. F. A. Blakelee. Four hundred shares would be sold for $50 per share giving the company capitol of $20,000. The organizers asked the city for a twenty five year franchise. The Steele Light and Power Company was incorporated. The organizers moved quickly, and the first stockholder meeting was held April 21; twenty-one stockholders were listed as being present. Records do not indicate how many shares each stockholder owned or how many shares had been sold.

At this meeting, J. C. Lauch was elected chairman of the board, F. G. Foye temporary secretary, and W. W. Paige treasurer. Elected directors were E. B. Miller, J. C. Lauch and H. B. Allen. The first order of business was to read the by-laws. Rates were fixed at a scale ranging up to 25 cents per kilowatt with a 10% discount for bills paid before a certain date of each month. At this first stockholder meeting a motion was made and carried that the board should find a buyer for the plant as soon as possible. Also, R. L. Phelps was elected legal aid for the corporation.

On April 25, the Board of Directors decided to bank at Farmers and Merchants State Bank for six months, and then transfer the account to the First National Bank of Steele for the following six months. The records do not explain the reason for this decision. The first purchases of the company were stock certificates for the value of $50 per share, and also a record book. A bill for stationary, an $8 incorporation fee, and a $25 corporation tax were paid. Arrangements were made to pay the company debt to Dr. Blakelee, which would be done in installments. If the payment could not be met, several stockholders would loan the company the money in return for stock shares.

Actions of the stockholders in the following months indicate that the light company was in need of repair. At the April 25 meeting the directors purchased a new Minces Oil Engine. Several days later, a meeting was called for the purpose of building a new power plant. The board of directors went on a search for a $3,000 loan for the building. Bids were called for, and H. A. Hamly was chosen to build a new facility which would follow plans and specification. Soon after, a new and larger generator was purchased with a loan from the bank. Distillate oil from Standard Oil Company at the price of 6 cents per gallon was purchased. Many of these company purchases were made with bank loans or personal loans from stockholder. Personal loans were to be repaid in six months and the Loaner also received additional stock.

In December of 1917, Verard Owens, an electrician, was hired to run the plant. He was paid $125 per month and his job description was “any and all kinds of work in connection with the power plant.” In l918, the plant was operating with only routine purchases and business activity. Electricity was extended to more people and houses were wired. In August, 1918, E. B. Miller resigned as a director and B. G. Lutheran was appointed to fill his seat. In October, E. C. Lauch and W. W. Page resigned. E. P. Rorvig was appointed director, O. T. Ness treasurer, and H. H. Allen president. There is no indication why these men were leaving the board of directors. A special meeting in December was attended by only two board members.

By January 1919, there was an indication that the plant was having financial problems. Personal loans could not be paid so they were given new notes with second mortgages on the plant. On January 10, 1919 a special stockholders meeting was called for the purpose of disposing of the light plant and “other business to come before the meeting.” The secretary reported that the plant liability was $7,218.52 with only $225 in uncollected light bills. The stockholders voted to dispose of the plant to the city of Steele or a private individual. The plant could be purchased at the appraised value of $8,181.00. A week later, stockholders decided that the plant could be sold to the city for $8000.00 or to an “outsider” for $10,000.00. By March there were no buyers for the plant so the decision was made shut it down on March 31, 1919.

What happened to the Steele Light and Power Plant? Their record book ends with a March 3,1919 meeting. The Steele Ozone, a local paper, does not indicate if the plant stayed open or if it was sold, the only news article stated that the plant would close on April 1.



1 Ledger - minutes and general information, 1917-1919

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