First Telegraph Office In Bellows Falls In 1851

 

When the Cheshire Railroad was completed to Bellows Falls in 1849, there was no telegraph line, and for some months there was no arrangement whereby if trains were late they could be reached by telegraph. Trains going in the opposite direction had to wait until those delayed came, or take the chances of a collision. About the time of the completion of the Vermont Valley Railroad, in 1851, telegraph service was established.

Among the first operators here was the young boy, Levi K. Fuller, whose parents lived at the north end of Green Street, and who later became governor of Vermont; Fid Randall, who later became general train dispatcher of the Vermont Central lines; a young man named Mott, who was succeeded in the '60s by William Batchelder, a few years ago an attorney at White River Junction. Mr. Batchelder said: "Mr. Mott's office was in the northeast corner of the railroad waiting room, and in addition to delivering all his own messages, he sold paper collars and cuffs, which were then just invented and popular."

The telegraph company's records show that the Vermont & Boston Telegraph Company was incorporated November 11, 1848. The line through here from White River Junction to Springfield, Mass., was completed in October 1851, under Jesse C. Rowe, superintendent. This was a line built and operated under what was known as the "Bain" patents. October 28, 1851, F. O. J. Smith conveyed to C. C. Wyman the "Morse" patents for the operation of a line between Boston and Rutland via

Bellows Falls, and the "Northern Telegraph Company" contracted with the Cheshire Road to place a line upon their right of way between Bellows Falls and South Ashburnham. In 1853, the two ownerships existed, and the Bellows Falls operator had to understand two distinct systems, and use both Bain and Morse alphabets. This was continued at many offices as late as 1868, when the Morse system was universally adopted after the consolidation of the different companies.

Tuesday morning, August 17, 1858, when the first telegraphic information was received at Bellows Falls of the successful working the evening before of the first sub-marine cable under the Atlantic Ocean, connecting the two continents, the eighth annual meeting of the Vermont Teachers' Association was in session at the Congregational Church. A boy entered the meeting about ten o'clock in the morning and distributed a few copies of a Bellows Falls Times extra giving information of the event. Immediately, J. S. Adams, Esq., of Burlington, arose and moved that business be suspended, that a portion of the Scripture be read, that prayer should be offered by the president of the convention, Rev. Calvin Pease, D.D., and that Old Hundred be sung in the words, "Be Thou, 0 God, Exalted High." These exercises, as was afterward described by Gov. Ryland Fletcher, who was present, "were performed in a very appropriate and impressive manner." Church bells were rung and many evidences of joy manifested here and in surrounding towns.

From the time that the telegraph office was first started in Bellows Falls until February 18th, 1928, it was always located in the railroad station. It was then moved into the present quarters in the Hotel Windham block, a much more satisfactory location for its commercial patrons.

 

Based on: The Connecticut River Valley in southern Vermont and New Hampshire: historical sketches, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Co., Marble City Press, 1929.

 

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