In the mid 1930’s only 1 out of 10 rural homes had electric service. For many years power companies ignored the rural areas, except where there were conditions necessary to assure early profits. In July of 1935, a group of utility company executives wrote a report in which they claimed that, in light of their earlier extensive research work, “there are very few farms requiring electricity for major farm operations that are not now served.” This lack of electricity made life on the farm very difficult and also limited growth in rural areas, since industries and businesses required electricity.
On May 11, 1935, Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 7037 establishing the REA. It was not until a year later that the Rural Electrification Act was passed, and the lending program that became the REA got underway. Over the next few years, rural electric cooperatives sprang up across the country.
Farmers Electric Cooperative actually began as two cooperatives. In August 1936, a group met in the school house at Heath, in Rockwall County to discuss creating an R. E.A. project which would be called Rockwall County Electric Company. In September 1936, just about 30 days following the Heath meeting, another group met in Rains County and they voted to create Tri-County Electric Company. Because the two projects were so close in area, the R.E.A. suggested a merger and on September 11, 1937 Farmers Electric Cooperative was born.
Setting up a cooperative wasn’t easy. The organizers were ordinary citizens who held meetings in schools, churches and other gathering places to convince people to join the cooperative. The organizers worked for free, they went house to house and the results were not always positive. In 1935 the membership fee of $5 was a lot of money and people were skeptical.
After several months of meetings, Farmers Electric Cooperative had enough members to get approval from the REA. The first lines were energized on September 14, 1938. On that day, 101 new Farmers Electric Cooperative members now had electricity for the first time.
Farmers Electric Cooperative has come a long way in the last 75 years. We now serve over 49,000 homes and businesses in the fast-growing region spanning Dallas, Collin, Rockwall, Hunt, Kaufman, Rains, Hopkins, Delta, Franklin, Fannin, Van Zandt and Wood counties in Texas.
We still continue to strive to be recognized as an exceptional cooperative by our members, employees and communities. With careful management of resources, dedicated employees and strategic planning, we’ve managed to keep our electricity prices low and our reliability high for more than 70 years.
Pictures courtesy of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association