Manchester Telephone Exchange

By dhowell - Posted on 28 December 2007

In 1882, Thomas J. Keech, of Ann Arbor, who was the city exchange manager for Michigan Bell, came to the village and induced Mat. D. Blosser, publisher of the Manchester Enterprise, to assist in selling a sufficient amount of script which would be good to pay telephone rentals and messages. Enough stock was sold to build a line from Manchester to Chelsea.

It took hard work to accomplish the objective but the following May, 1883, the line was completed and the first telephone was placed in the Enterprise office because Mr. Blosser had consented to become the manager for the village. This was a toll phone.

The next July the exchange was established. The following people were the first subscribers: Dr. C. F. Kapp, Wm. Burtless, Mack & Schmid, Peoples Bank, Mat Blosser's residence, Kensler Brothers, M. Dealy, Ypsilanti Branch Depot, John Koch, brewer. Miss Jennie Moore (Mrs. T. J. Keech of Ann Arbor) was the first lady operator.

Copper wire wasn't used in those days and in wet weather it was next to impossible to get connections with Toledo, Grand Rapids or Detroit. Other early operators were Mrs. F. A. Kotts of Toledo and Miss Eva Case. Miss Case remained until Mr. Blosser found his own business demanded all his time and the office was transferred to Frederick Steinkohl's Drug Store. He managed the switchboard until the new exchange was built.

The telephone rates in 1884 ... $36 a year with $48 the charge for a business phone.

In 1904, the Manchester Exchange was built and the switchboard was moved to the second floor of the Clarkson Building with E. W. Mason as manager. In 1908, the roadway plan started and a year later, in 1909, Mason was transferred to Grand Ledge and Michael Welch came to Manchester from Sunfield.

By January, 1912, Welch was moved to Chelsea and George H. Graham came to Manchester from Willis. At that time the Exchange had nine roadway circuits, 101 subscribers, and three toll lines. These went to Ann Arbor, Chelsea and another included the two villages of Clinton and Adrian.

Dial service cut to Manchester in December, 1940. This did away with the local operator. Free calling and extended service to Chelsea and Ann Arbor came in December, 1949.

All number calling was introduced in September, 1961, and direct distance dialing in August, 1962.

Today there are 1,291 main telephones out of the Manchester office. People from the Manchester office can call the 35,231 phones in Ann Arbor, 2,688 in Chelsea and those in the local area, toll free for a cost of $33.20 for a 4-party and $49.20 for a private line for a year.

N. J. Prakken is Michigan Bell Manager for this District and has been since 1936. An interesting note is that Mrs. Whitney (Lena) Riedel of Bethel Church Road, Manchester, was the chief operator in Manchester when the system was changed to dial.

A bit of history on the telephone is that in the year 1882 Francis Blake made a practical mechanism out of Alexander Graham Bell's invention. Bell made his historic call to his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, on March 10, 1876. That was the beginning of the telephone that hung on the wall. Dry cell batteries were the power element for the voice mechanism. One call wouldn't take much power, but when all the receivers went up on those many party lines, the power would be drained noticeably. The crank on the side of the phone powered the bell.