History of Preston Telephone Company
The Preston Telephone Company was incorporated on March 3, 1906. The first chairman was John Mahrn and the first secretary was Ed Cain. There were nine Directors. As was not uncommon for the times, there was a need to consolidate the rural, farmer owned and maintained distribution lines into a more cohesive, dependable operation. To accomplish this, the corporation met with the three committee members of the Jackson Telephone Company, Dr. Jenkans, John Milhous and a Mr. Forest. The result was the purchase of that company for $10,483.39. The Preston Telephone Company began service, with the initial rates being $1.00 per quarter, paid in advance.
In 1907, a lineman was paid $65.00 per month and had to provide his own horse. The company paid the Clinton Telephone Company $4.00 for market reports that were available to all customers via a “general ring” provided by the central operator. The central girls were paid from $5.00 to $6.00 per week wages. The company received a payment of $4.00 from Miles for toll service.
In 1910 an agreement was reached with Bell Telephone Company to connect with the Preston central switchboard, and wire was strung to Charlotte to connect with a switchboard there. In 1911 this Charlotte switchboard was discontinued and an agreement with DeWitt Telephone Company for toll service was signed.
In 1913 the company purchased the building on Elliot street for $2000.00. It is believed that this building had housed the central operator station since the beginning, but on a rental basis. The central operator station, with sleeping quarters, was located upstairs and the business office was located on the first floor. In 1913 the charge for a toll call to Sabula was 10 cents, and the total taxes paid by the company was $124.44
In 1914 the total local service revenue received for the year was $4372.33, and total toll was $1053.33
In 1915 the first pay station was installed in the Brimmer Hotel, and the company purchased the Iowa Telephone Company and its lines between Preston, Goose Lake, and Charlotte. Apparently prior to this time the territory was served by the Preston Telephone Company, The Iowa Telephone Company and the DeWitt Telephone Company. The two remaining companies duplicated service until 1917 when Preston removed its facilities.
In 1916 Mr. John Stoll was manager of the company. He received a salary of $100.00 per month and had to provide his own car.
Other developments in 1917 include the establishment of toll service to Clinton, for which the company received 5 cents per call, in and out. Also, service was extended to the community of Springbrook, a distance of 12 miles.
In 1918 the company applied for membership in the Iowa Telephone Association. A new central switchboard was purchased for $1592.75, and a notice was printed in the directories that only English should be spoken on the telephone.
In January 1921 a terrible blizzard and ice storm struck the area. Most poles in Preston, many with up to four cross arm iron wire leads, were destroyed along with most electric lines. It is said that every pole between Preston and Goose Lake was destroyed, a distance of over seven miles. In most cases, service could no be restored until April of that year due to the harshness of the winter.
The telephone rates in 1923 were $1.25 per month if paid by the 15th, or $1.50 thereafter. Aerial telephone cable was proposed for Preston, and began to replace the multiple iron wire leads common to the times.
In 1925 the line construction crew was paid 40 cents per hour for climbers and 35 cents per hour for ground helpers. In 1926 all customers were asked to limit their use of the telephone to 5 minutes per call.
History notes the company did respond to the needs of its customers during the depression. In 1933, local service rates were decreased to $1.00 per month and a rule was passed that no further shares of stock would be taken as payment of debts. Free telephone service to the Post Office was discontinued, and elected company officials pay was cut 10%. The company also suspended divided payments. No further activity is recorded except the purchase of a new alarm clock for the central operators in 1936. It was not until 1939 that local service rates were increased to $1.25 per month, and not until 1942 that employees received a 10% raise.
In 1944 the local service rates were increased to $1.50 per month, and in 1949 to $2.50 per month.
In 1947 Herbert Kilburg was hired as a lineman. That same year he was appointed to the position of Manager. Mr. Kilburg held the position of President of the company and a member of the board of directors until his death on October 24, 2000. It was through his dedication and leadership that the company advanced and prospered.
In 1954 the company purchased a mechanical step-by-step switch office from Stromberg-Carlson at a cost of $25,375.90. The company was a leader in modernization, being the first in the area to replace the central switchboard with modern automatic dial equipment. Even the much larger communities of Maquoketa and Clinton would not accomplish this for several years. This required complete reconstruction of the outside plant since rural party lines were reduced from 20 to 10 party service.
Over the next five years the company shared its pioneering expertise with neighboring companies. Manager Herbert Kilburg supervised construction and replacement of many central office and rural distribution systems for neighboring companies as far as 50 miles away.
In 1962 the company purchased the Washington Farmers Mutual Telephone Company, one of the last central operator controlled systems in the area. This same year the company acquired a franchise from the city of Goose Lake.
In 1963 the company began to upgrade the outside plant and reduce further the number of persons on party lines from 10 to 5. Land was purchased on Gillett Street in Preston’s business district and a new business office was constructed. The cost of the new building was $4,678.85. The original building on Elliot Street was remodeled to allow for expansion of the central office equipment.
Due to the growth of telephone service, in 1966 the company designated the Goose Lake exchange as separate from the Preston exchange. A building was constructed in Goose Lake and a separate Stromberg-Carlson step switch was installed. During this same period the company began replacement of its aerial plant with new buried cable. While some of this work was done by contractors, over the next ten years the company replaced virtually all its outside plant with its own men and machines. Once again, manager Herbert Kilburg shared his expertise by assisting other neighboring telephone companies in construction of buried cable facilities. During this same time, the number of party lines were reduced to 2 and 4 party. As the popularity of private line service grew, further additions to the Elliot Street Building and Stromberg equipment occurred. But as space became limited, the company began to look once again to modernization.
In 1981 plans were developed to construct a new business office-central office complex, install digital central office equipment, and convert the outside plant to all private line, all buried service. Land was purchased and construction began in 1982. By November of 1983 the company was in the new building, operating a new Northern Telecom DMS-10 digital switch, and was completely one party, all buried plant. Just as in 1954, the company was once again one of the first in the area to modernize. The larger communities of Maquoketa and Clinton were at least ten years behind in acquiring digital central office equipment.
In 1993 we pioneered satellite television for Jackson County. As a founding member of the organization working with DirecTv, we helped launch the first satellite and offered the first service. Even though we no longer offer DirecTV, we consider our work to establish this service to rural Iowa an important part of our history.
In the 1990’s we also began offering dial-up internet access, with high speed internet access over our telephone network being offered in 2003. We also began offering wireless phone service through our group affiliation with i wireless.
In 2003 we were, once again, the pioneers in offering a new service to rural Iowa. We are part of the founding organization offering WildBlue high speed satellite Internet service to unserved areas of eastern Iowa, western Illinois and southwest Wisconsin.
In September of 2008 we began offering a new computer sales and service business under the name Go Tech. Through our involvement in the Internet business we realized the value of offering support to customers with computer related issues. We are able to provide new desktops, laptops and peripherals to customers, as well as a full service repair center for their existing computers.
From 2008 till 2013 the Company continued to improve equipment and plant services, offering faster internet speeds and improvements to the existing fiber and copper outside buried plant. Also during this time the Company looked to the addition of more fiber optic plant and developed the engineering to completely replace our outside copper cable plant and service equipment.
From 2014 to 2018 the Company undertook a complete replacement of the buried outside copper/fiber plant with all fiber optic plant for the entire network, including fiber service to each home. As has been the Company history, this was all financed with internal funds and borrowed money. There were no government handouts. In 2016 we began offering Skitter television service over our fiber optic plant. This Skitter product offers a complete line up of television, sports and specialty programming packages, including DVR and remote access services. It is all delivered over the fiber network and is available to every customer with our services.
Our communications and internet services met or exceeded all government standard levels. In 2019 we modified our internet service offering to allow for increased speed and more flexible speed offerings at competitive prices. Our local voice service, toll service, internet and television services are quality products unequaled. Our satellite internet services to customers outside our service territory and our computer service and sales continue to provide companion services to all our customers.
The Preston Telephone Company is a stock Company with some 70 shareholders. It also can be considered a Kilburg family tradition, since the Herbert Kilburg family continues to be involved with the Company since Herbert started in 1947. Herbert Kilburg was associated with the Preston Telephone Company from 1947 until his death in 2000. He was a lineman, Manager, Director, Vice President and President of the Company. Roger Kilburg, Herb’s son, started full time with the Company in 1973 and still retains the position of Director. Roger grew up in a telephone truck going with Herb on service calls. Mark Kilburg, Herbert’s grandson and Roger’s son, also grew up in a telephone truck and has been with the Company full time since 1994. He currently is a Director and General Manager of the Company. Mary Beth Heister-Kilburg, Herbert’s granddaughter and Roger’s daughter, grew up in a telephone truck and has been with the Company full time since 2000. She is currently a Director and Secretary-Treasurer of the Company.”
As the world gets smaller and multinational companies dominate the communications field, rural Iowa seems less and less important. We remain committed to providing the most innovative, advanced and best possible service to our customers.