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  Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative  
  "Together We Have The Power To Make  A Difference
 
 
 

History of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative

 

                                    MEC Timeline Photo Gallery


Life was much different for rural Southside Virginians before Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative was organized and established.  In the 1930s, people who lived in towns and cities served by investor-owned utilities enjoyed electricity in their homes, but those who lived in rural areas did not have access to electricity.  The investor-owned utilities that provided electric service for the densely populated areas did not subscribe to extending service to miles and miles of countryside that would include only a few consumers per mile.  Doing so would make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to turn a profit and keep their shareholders satisfied. For many years farmers discussed their need for power with those utilities and repeatedly requested the companies to provide electricity to ease the burden of farm life.  But to no avail.
 

In 1936, Congress established the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) to authorize and provide loans for any bona fide corporation to construct distribution lines for the purpose of serving rural areas.  But the REA offer did not interest existing power companies and still they refused to extend service to rural areas. So residents across the countryside gathered together and took the matter into their own hands.  Bound by a common purpose, they worked together, with the aid of the REA, to bring electricity to their homes too.  They organized themselves into cooperative corporations with the purpose of providing central station electric service for themselves and their neighbors.
 

Under the leadership of Norman H. Williams, Jr., Mecklenburg County Agent and farming community leaders, including such men as H. G. Blalock of Baskerville; W. D. Adams of Skipwith; J. D. and H. L. Brankley of Skipwith; W. T. Bracey of Bracey; W. F. Lawson of Chase City; L. M. Crews of Red Lawn; H. C. Bobbitt of Palmer Springs; W. H. Copley of South Hill and others too numerous to mention, a proposal for the formation of an electric cooperative to serve Southside Virginia was developed. 
 

After the proposal was presented to the State Corporation Commission, by a group from Mecklenburg County, a charter was approved under the name of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative (MEC). The cooperative founders then went quickly to work and secured MEC’s first REA loan in 1938. The loan total was $129,000 and the funds were used to construct 136 miles of distribution line and two substations to serve 436 initial members. 

 

The first line was energized later that year in October of 1938.  Once operations began, it was decided that the group of volunteers needed a full-time employee to manage the project, and J. E. Smith was named project superintendent. 
 

Rural citizens were longing for electric service, and once news of the cooperative’s early success spread, requests to sign up for electric service began to pour in from all the surrounding communities. Even before the energization of the first line, new loans were obtained for construction of distribution lines in Charlotte, Pittsylvania, and Halifax Counties.  In 1939, additional REA dollars were secured to extend electric service into Brunswick and Lunenburg Counties, and in 1940, into Greensville, Sussex, and Southampton Counties.
 

Although the Cooperative encountered several challenges and hurdles associated with building hundreds of miles of electric lines across difficult rural terrain, the general atmosphere of cooperation prevailed as everyone recognized the tremendous need for this service in Southside Virginia.  However, with the arrival of World War II, major construction of lines ceased.  When the war ended in 1945, the Cooperative was again swamped with new applications.  There was such a strong demand for this life-changing offering in the rural areas that the Cooperative found it necessary to organize and initiate programs to accelerate homes being wired and inspected to keep pace with the rapid construction of the power lines.
 

Many stories are told about the prayers of Thanksgiving, tears of happiness, and excitement and enthusiasm when, for the very first time, switches were turned on and homes along the newly-completed distribution lines were illuminated.  A farmer giving testimony in a rural church in the early 1940s said, “Brothers and sisters, I want to tell you this.  The greatest thing in the world is to have the love of God in your heart, and the next best thing is to have electricity in your house.” 
 

For the first time, these homes were being lighted by electricity and had access to the many amenities provided by the service.  With the arrival of electricity to rural areas came opportunities that had never before been possible.  Farm production increased dramatically, and new businesses and industries began to appear.  And it was the beginning of the end for oil lamps and ice boxes as life in Southside Virginia was forever changed. 
 

Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative continues to proudly serve the needs of those same rural areas today and continues to do so under the same cooperative principles established and followed by the area pioneers who made the organization possible.

 

 
 
 
 
 

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