1940s — “It’s Just Not Feasible”
In the late 1940’s, the residents of rural Rusk County and adjoining counties were unable to obtain telephone service from any existing telephone company. Residents contacted several companies in neighboring areas and they all gave the same story, “It’s just not feasible.”
1950s — A Grant, A Charter and Eastex’s First 204 Subscribers
In November 1949, Congress passed an Amendment to the Rural Electrification Act allowing existing telephone companies and newly established telephone cooperatives to borrow funds from the Rural Electric Administration (REA). In January 1950, residents began the process to establish a cooperative in Rusk County. After several months of hard work, a loan was granted by REA. The first organizational meeting was held on June 2, 1950, a Charter was granted to THE EASTEX TELEPHONE COOPERATIVE, INC. This charter was one of the first granted. There were only fourteen (14) people present at the organizational meeting and seven (7) of them were selected to serve on the Board of Directors. Since there were no telephone cooperatives in existence, there was no guide for establishing a cooperative. This was also a new venture for REA, so there were no experienced men to guide Eastex. Our only means of operating were by trial and error. On December 10, 1951, the permanent headquarters of the Cooperative was established in Henderson, being the trade center for rural Rusk County. On December 27, 1952, the Laneville and Goodsprings Exchanges were put into operation with 204 subscribers.
Acquisitions and Growth
Two years later, Eastex acquired exchanges that covered nearby towns of Mt. Enterprise, Pine Hill and Minden, all of which still operated hand-cranked “magneto” telephones. And Minden had only one station located at the switchboard in the post office as its other stations were wiped out in an ice storm in 1952. Eastex upgraded the three exchanges to dial-tone in December 1953 with 231 main stations.
The next acquisition, the exchange in Elysian Fields, took more than two years to negotiate. When the purchase finally went through, Eastex split the exchange area into two exchanges, creating the DeBerry exchange. Eastex also built Oak Hill, the third exchange, from the ground up.
Waskom, was acquired in 1956 after a long period of negotiation. Other providers were interested in the modernized exchange serving 351 subscribers, but the owner decided in favor of Eastex because he wanted to be certain that his customers would continue to receive state-of-the-art service.
In 1954, residents 100 miles south of Henderson in the rural area surrounding Livingston were trying to establish their own telephone cooperative. After much trial, the organizers finally asked Eastex to absorb them. Eastex did so and established three exchanges in that area. In the meantime, Eastex was also busy building an exchange in Hudson, where there was not yet one single telephone.
In the late 50’s, Eastex acquired the Maydelle, Chester and Goodrich exchanges. The Chester exchange was handed over immediately, and Eastex sent workers to operate the switchboard from a trailer during the ten months that the modern dial facilities were being installed.
1960s — Coldspring, Huxley, Oakhurst, Blanchard and Ruby
In its seventh year of operation, Eastex acquired three exchanges: Oakhurst Blanchard and Ruby.
In July 1961, the exchange of Coldspring was established. Despite being the San Jacinto county seat, Coldspring had only 19 telephones on a switcher line operated out of Shepherd, a community 19 miles away. At the time of acquisition, Eastex provided service for about 250 main stations.
In 1963, the Cooperative established service in Huxley, a community about 18 miles east of Center, Texas.
1970s — Segno, Onalaska and Evergreen
In April 1971, the exchanges of Segno and Onalaska were acquired. The Evergreen exchange was placed in service in October 1971.
Today — The Digital Era and the Broadband Buildout
Today, Eastex Telephone has grown to 21 exchanges with all digital switching equipment. We have over 700 miles of fiber optic cable and more than 5,000 route miles of buried cable. Eastex provides only one-party telephone service to thousands of subscribers in eleven counties. The counties served are Rusk, Panola, Cherokee, Shelby, Harrison, Hardin, Liberty, Tyler, San Jacinto, Polk and Walker.
While the Cooperative still has just seven seats on its Board of Directors, Eastex now has a staff of more than 135 full-time employees. The main business office is located in Henderson, Texas with branch offices in Livingston and Waskom, Texas.
The directors and employees are proud of what has been accomplished, and that Eastex was one of the first telephone cooperatives established. Eastex is one of the largest telephone cooperatives in the state of Texas, a truly enviable growth record for a cooperative which began with only 204 subscribers in the Laneville and Goodsprings exchanges.