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History of Deer River Telephone

Harriet Elton at the switchboard1910-1930

The first Deer River Telephone office was started in July, 1910, by Mr. L. Smith and his wife. At the beginning, they had 60 subscribers and one operator, Harriet Peel. The company was sold in 1915 to Mr. Bartholomew who operated the company until 1926 when he sold it to Mr. J.L. Tucker. Mr. Tucker had one lineman and several operators.


The company was purchased by Mr. George Heck. At that time he had about 300 subscribers. Over the next 14 years many improvements were made. New underground cable was installed throughout the town of Deer River, a new building was built, a new switchboard was installed, and all rural lines were changed from grounded circuits to two-wire.

Ken and Mary Giles, owners of Deer River Telephone 1947-19851947

The company was purchased by Ken and Mary Giles. They would own Deer River Telephone for the next 39 years and be the final owners, before it was purchased by Paul Bunyan Telephone Cooperative.


An REA loan was secured for a new building and installation of direct distance dialing equipment.


Ken Giles retired as manager but remained as president of the company. Tom Giles was made the new manager.

BDeer River Telephone building


1982 - Deer River Telephone's new logoAnother new building was built and the telephone network was completely rebuilt using aerial cable in town and underground cable in the rural areas. This allowed for one-party service for all subscribers.


The Miller Hotel was purchased and demolished. The following year the new business office was completed. It would remain open until November 13, 2009.

Northern Communications Office1983

A new company was formed, Northern Communications, to sell and service business phone systems and install a cable television system.


In July, Deer River Telephone Company was sold to Paul Bunyan Telephone Cooperative. At the time of the sale there were nearly 1,550 lines in service. The customers would continue to be a part of Deer River Telephone until 1997, when the purchase was entirely paid for.

Deer River Telephone building


Deer River Telephone ceased to exist as customers were made members of Paul Bunyan Telephone. The Deer River office remained open as part of Paul Bunyan Telephone until November 13, 2009 when it was purchased by the Deer River Cooperative Credit Union.

Bob Patrick at DR Telephone Offices, 1990 Paul Bunyan Telephone staff at the Deer River office, early 2000's.  Micha Smith, Barb Wilhelm, Janet Bemis Carlos Erickson works on the Deer River Telephone switching equipment.
Corrine Davis helps a customer at the Northern Communications retail store in Grand Rapids. George Daigle doing field work on the telephone network in the Deer River area Mike Brorson working on Deer River switching equipment
Deer River Telephone staff, estimated to be taken around 1988.  Left to Right Front: Tom Giles, Janet Bemis, Sharon Giles, Trina, Barb Wilhelm  Back: Bob Patrick, Jeff Gilbert, Mike Brorson, Carlos Erickson