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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Telegraph Lines Abounded Along Little Miami River

Dallas Bogan on 17 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
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An article in the WARREN COUNTY RECORD, written by Thomas Hunt, in 1902, gives an account of the first telegraph line in the county. I will now extract a portion of the article. It says:
"I think it was not far from the year 1847, that a lecturer on electricity passed over the Little Miami Railroad, stopping at the villages where there was a public hall or room to be had that was large enough to hold the audiences of those days.
"This one's theme was the telegraph, and his tour was the time of the building of the first wire along the Little Miami Railroad. He gave a good explanation of the machinery and methods by which messages were sent by means of electric current, and I obtained a copy of the Morse alphabet, and learned it.
"It was near this time that the telegraph lines were built, a single wire, from Sandusky to Cincinnati, along the Mad River and Little Miami Railroads. W.H. Clement was then Superintendent of the latter road, and lived at Morrow, and was anxious to have an office in that village, so he persuaded my father to have me learn the art, and I was sent to Cincinnati for that purpose.
"When I went there the offices on the line were Sandusky, Tiffin, Kenton, Bellefontaine, Urbana, Springfield, Xenia and Cincinnati.
"In the Cincinnati office two operators, Mr. Walby and Samuel K. Preston, did all the sending and receiving of telegrams, and two boys delivered them. There was another telegraph office in Cincinnati, on the north side of Third street, west of Sycamore, called the 'O'Reilley Line Office,' but that line was the rival of the Morse line, and I never went into that office, and did not know all the points that there were reached. The outfit for each office was a key, register, relay and a pair of pulleys and plyers for repairing the wire when it was broken, for the operators at the different offices were expected to go out on the first train and find and mend any break that occurred. The messages were received on a long strip of white paper, which passed through the register and past the pen point by means of a clock-work, and run by a weight.
"The paper came from the factory rolled like a ribbon several hundred feet in length on a little block, which was perforated so an iron rod would go through and allow it to unroll as the register drew it past the pen point. When it came from the register with the messages impressed on it, it was allowed to fall into a deep, narrow box, and when the coil was in that box it was placed to the right of the instrument, and the paper sent through again. This was repeated five or six times.
"In the Cincinnati office, when telegrams were not coming by both wires at the same time, one of the men would read them as they came, and the other would copy, so that they were ready for delivery as soon after they were received, but if both wires were busy at the same time the receiving operator would read them as they came, so as to be ready to give 'O.K.' to the sender when the last one was received. Then, of course, he had to gather up the long strip of paper and begin to copy.
"After three weeks' practice on the key and reading the characters on the paper a set of instruments was given me, and I set them up in a second-story room of what was then the Morrow House. I think this was the autumn of 1848.
"The first paid telegram (called message then) was from J.L. Ward, a Morrow Druggist, to Allen & Co., Cincinnati."

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This page created 17 August 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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