The efforts to organize Lyon-Lincoln Electric, Cooperative, Inc., began in 1937. However it took two years until the cooperative was finally organized on March 1, 1939. The men who worked to organize Lyon-Lincoln Electric couldn't have been faced with a more challenging time to try to form a rural electric cooperative. The farmers were anything but optimistic about the future, as they had just experienced two years of severe drought. There was much unfavorable propaganda that hampered the solicitation of memberships, as well. Much of this existed only in the minds of the farmers themselves. For years they had been told by the power companies that blanket coverage of the farming areas with power lines was entirely out of the question. The few farmers who had been permitted by the private utilities to hook on their lines had found they were paying rates completely out of line compared to city consumers. for one thing, they were being compelled to pay the actual construction cost of the line out of their own pockets. This was no small sum, as construction costs ranged from $750 to $3,000 per mile of line. Even when they could get line built, farmers were required to guarantee they would use a minimum amount of electricity each month. These cynics were aided and abetted in their chorus of skepticism by the commercial power companies who sneered at the idea that a group of farmers could successfully build and operate a cooperative which would bring electricity to sparsely settled areas.
As Lyon-Lincoln Electric became more organized, some of this skepticism had vanished. In fact, some of the power companies were getting a little nervous about the manner in which these rural electric cooperatives were actually working, building and planning.
Still, it was a tough road for the promoters of the Lyon-Lincoln system. Hans Krog is recorded as saying he "drove the entire length and breadth of Lincoln County" signing up members. Mr. Krog became employed as the cooperative's "membership and easement man". He devoted many hours to the cooperative, for which he was never paid. Efforts also intensified when the efforts of Lyon and Lincoln counties were combined. REA field men and the county agents also worked with the farmers in setting up the cooperative. In Lyon County, F.C. Meade of Marshall took a leading role while Graham Fuller's contributions in Lincoln County will never be forgotten.
Construction of the power lines actually began in 1940. Acme Construction Company and Martin Wunderlich of St. Paul submitted the winning bid of $156,156.34 for building the original lines. The power was supplied by the municipal power plant in Marshall. In 1953, we began purchasing power from Ottertail Power Company and Northern States Power. However, in the early 1960's these investor owned utilities advised that there would be a dramatic increase in our wholesale cost of power. The Board of Directors of Lyon-Lincoln Electric became a member of East River Electric Power Cooperative in 1964 and, today, our power is still supplied by this transmission cooperative which is located at Madison, SD. East River receives its generating capacity from Basin Electric Power Cooperative of Bismarck, ND, which operates coal fired generating capacity in North Dakota. We benefit by receiving a blend of hydro-power from the rivers, along with the coal generated energy. Today the cooperative's system consists of 1,441 miles of overhead power lines and 174 miles of underground. It provides electricity for over 3,700 services.
Viggo Ostergaard became the cooperative's first president. Other members of the original board were John Phillips, Marshall; Stanley C. Nelson, Tyler; H.B.Krog, Lake Benton; Henry Peterson, Tyler; H.P. Kvernmo, Hendricks; J.B. Wyffels, Jr., Garvin; Charles Swanson, Russell and P.M. Forsman, Amiret. As Mr. Ostergaard was not a rural resident, Knute Dovre replaced him on the board and Mr. Phillips acquired the position of president when the cooperative officially organized.
Originally, the board met at the president's home. The municipal power plant in Tyler was willing to sell power to the cooperative at its cost, which was a big factor in starting the ball rolling. The Tyler Council offered its council rooms for cooperative meetings. Office space was acquired in the Tyler Opera House and, later, in the basement of the Citizens State Bank. On January 3, 1941, the board voted to ask REA for a loan of $10,000 to build an office and warehouse. The total cost of the facility was $9,993.90. An addition was constructed in 1958. In 1977, the need for new office facilities was realized, as the growth of the system required additional inventory for line materials and the small facility left the office area very crowded and awkward. on July 7, 1977, construction started on the present headquarters facility which is located on Highway 14 in Tyler. The City of Tyler purchased the old office facilities for their municipal office and city library.
The complexities have expanded in the office,as well as on the electrical system. In 1984, after a number of years of study and research, East River and Lyon-Lincoln implemented a load management program. Load management is designed to control the peak demand being put on the system. This allows better use of generating capacity; thereby, stabilizing the members' rates. It provides the cooperative's members with an option to lower the cost of their electrical needs. The initial program started with electric water heater control and has expanded to include heat storage, dual fuel and central air conditioning control.
"Owned By Those We Serve" has been the standing motto of Lyon-Lincoln Electric for fifty years and the main purpose for which Lyon-Lincoln was formed and still exists today...to provide the best services possible to its members at the least possible cost, based on sound business practices. Many changes have taken place over the past fifty years, but your board of directors, legal counsel and employees continue to face the challenges with enthusiasm and with commitment to its members.