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History of Bell Telephone in Fenelon Falls, January 1891 – June 1965

April 8, 2023

William (Scottie) Lumsden's telephone crew at Fenelon Falls in 1906

From the Tweedsmuir History of Fenelon Falls

Fenelon Falls, January 1891

An Agent for the Bell Telephone Company visited Fenelon Falls to see what prospects were for establishing telephone connection with Lindsay. Report so encouraging it is expected the line will be built as soon as frost is out of the ground in the Spring.

September 1891.

The Bell Telephone Line from Lindsay through Fenelon Falls to Bobcaygeon is now completed and in full operation.

(Taken from the Files of the Fenelon Falls Gazette)

Fenelon Falls telephone history dates back to 1891 when the Bell Telephone Company of Canada Established its first local exchange in W.E. Ellis’ drug store. In those days there were no automobiles and not a single mile of pavement in the entire community, which had been founded 68 years earlier and which had been incorporated as a village in 1875 [1874].

Just prior to the establishment of the telephone exchange in the village in 1891, the pioneer Bell men had constructed a long distance line from Bobcaygeon to Lindsay which passed through Fenelon Falls. At that time few persons had much faith in the future of the telephone, which had been invented only 17 years before in 1874, at Brantford, by a young Scottish colonist named Alexander Graham Bell. However, in Fenelon Falls, as elsewhere, there were men with sufficient vision to foresee the indispensable role it would play in this community’s business and social life.

With W.E. Ellis as local Bell agent, the first exchange here soon served more than 10 subscribers, all of whom were listed in the Bell Telephone’s November 1891 directory. This is a small pocket-sized book, a copy of which is still preserved in the company’s historical museum in Montreal. The book listed the names of virtually every telephone subscriber in Ontario and under Fenelon Falls are found the following names, which recall firms and persons prominent in the community nearly three-quarters of a century ago.

They are: Arnold and Graham, general store, Colborne Street; Brandon, J.H., residence, Francis Street; Brooks, Henry, hotel, Lindsay Street; Burgoyne, Wm., residence, Francis Street; Ellis, W.E., residence, Colborne Street; Grand Trunk Railway, station, Lindsay Street; Ingram, N., McArthur House, Colborne Street; Napanee Paper Co., pulp mills, Francis Street; McDougall and Brandon, general store, Colborne Street; McDougall and Brandon, Grist Mill, Bond Street; McDougall and Brandon, grain warehouses, Lindsay Street; Robson, Thos. Foundry, Bond Street.

The 100th telephone was installed in Fenelon Falls in 1928 and the following July the Fenelon Falls Gazette included this item: “Manager of the Bell, Mr. D. Gould, announced that large expenditures will be made to replace the present switchboard in the central office. Further arrangements and extensions are scheduled. Sufficient equipment will be installed to take care of local growth for some years to come.”

On July 22nd, 1948 common battery replaced the magneto service in Fenelon Falls. The 196 subscribers could then forget about the hand-crank signal and ‘ringing off’ at the completion of a call. By 1957 the exchange had grown to 571 customers. On Sunday, June 6, 1965, when dial service came to Fenelon Falls, nearly 900 customers here have the most modern service available. Power to operate the Fenelon Falls telephone system will be supplied by banks of large storage batteries located in the new exchange building on Colborne Street. The batteries are necessary because all the dial equipment operates on direct current, instead of the commercially supplied alternating current. The batteries are kept fully charged by means of special generators which convert the commercial power supply into direct current. The generators automatically operate at the level required to replace the amount of power from the batteries which is used at any moment to operate the dial system.

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