Portsmouth's First Telephone Company

Article taken from The Portsmouth Times, Saturday, June 5, 1965.

Phone History Goes Back to the Year 1880

The history of phone service in the Portsmouth area can be traced back to 1880--only four years after the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell. The local telephone company had 50 subscribers on June 5, 1880. Miss Addie Smith operated it on the third floor of the Spry Building.

Known as the Southern Ohio Telephone Exchange Co., the first company served the territory of Scioto and Lawrence counties. By 1884 the company had 135 boxes (telephones) in Portsmouth and 115 at Ironton.

The old Portsmouth Telephone Co. was organized under the laws of the state of Ohio on May 15, 1899. Officers of the fledging company were F.B. Finney, president; G. B. Selby, vice president; George E. Kricker, secretary-treasurer, and Thomas W. Niman, general manager.

The Portsmouth Telephone Co. continued to furnish phone service in Scioto County until June 1, 1925, when the company was sold and the named changed to the Portsmouth Home Telephone Co.,

The McKell family was instrumental in both the Portsmouth and Portsmouth Home Telephone Companies.

In 1928, the Diversified Investment, Inc. of Kansas City, Mo, purchased the company. This was the entrance of the Gary interests into the Portsmouth area.

The name of the company remained Portsmouth Home Telephone Co until January 1945 when it became Ohio Consolidated Telephone Co.

Several men managed the company through the expansion years including H. M. Allen, R. B. Still, A. S. Crane, P. W. Conrad and R. N. Cole.

General Telephone & Electronics Corp. parent corporation of General Telephone Co of Ohio, acquired the Gary interests int he Portsmouth operations in 1955. By year end, the company served 54,790 telephones in 39 exchanges throughout Ohio, plus an adjoining area in Kentucky.

On June 30, 1958, General of Ohio and Ohio Consolidated were merged into General Telephone Co. of Ohio. Headquarters of the company were located in Marion as they are today. Portsmouth became division headquarters for the company's southern division, comprising much of southern Ohio.

A. C. Purpura served until his death in 1963 as southern division manager, when J. C. Sharp was named to that position.

At year end 1964, General Telephone served more than 22,500 phones in Scioto County. The company had 166 employess in the county and an annual gross payroll exceeding $851,000. Taxes paid into the county treasury amounted to $198,794.