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Friday, May 24, 2019

When Did Electricity Arrive in Bennington?

We recently came across an old report that describes how electricity arrived in Bennington.  We have no idea who compiled and wrote it; but we are grateful they did.  Here it is:

History of the Electrical Industry in Bennington, Nebraska

Bennington is in Douglas County, about 16 miles northwest of Omaha.  In the year 1911 it had a population of approximately 300.  In that year John F. Peterson operated a garage in Bennington and desired some sort of electric service.  No service being available he installed a large farm electric light plant for his garage.  After this had been in service for but a short time, the citizens became very much interested and asked Mr. Peterson to sell them electric service.  He purchased a second light plant and served, in addition to his own garage, some nearby stores.

Enthusiasm over this electric lighting system grew until  it was not long until Mr. Peterson's lighting plants were loaded to capacity.  The business men of the village insisted that Mr. Peterson increase the capacity of the plant so that he would be able to serve the entire village.  In 1915 Mr. Peterson installed a 25 hp gas engine and a 12 1/2 kw generator.  This plant served the purpose very well for night service, but the demand during the day was so small that it was a loosing proposition to operate the plant during the day.  In order to give day-time service Mr. Peterson installed a large storage battery.

At the time business men of the village induced Mr. Peterson to increase the capacity of his plant, they offered to help finance the additional equipment, which was to be repaid to them by Mr. Peterson as the income from the electric plant would permit.  

The electric  rates charged by this plant were as follows:  $1.00 per month which included 5 kw,  12 cents per kwh for all excess kwh.  This plant was in operation until the latter part of 1917, when it was purchased by the Platte Valley Power Company.  The consideration was $500 in Platte Valley Power Company  stock and a Bennington Business lot.  The Platte Valley Power Company operated its plant until the spring of 1919, when a transmission line was built from Irvington to Bennington.  This transmission line was financed by 14 farmers along the line who were requested to buy stock in the company in order that they may receive electric service.

The Platte Valley Power Company was purchasing its current from the nebraska Power Company to serve this line, with the metering equipment located at Irvington.

The same rates were charged in Bennington as in Waterloo, Elkhorn, Valley, and other towns served by the Platte Valley Power Company.  This line between Irvington and Bennington was later extended on west to Elkhorn, and connect to the line between Elkhorn, Waterloo and Valley, where it was connected with the generating plant in Valley.

In 1922 the construction of a transmission line from Bennington through Washington, Kennard, and on to Herman was started.  This line was completed and energized on January 25, 1923.   A distribution system was built by the Village of Washington, and this village received its first electric service this same year.

The Platte Valley Power Company continued to  serve the villages of Bennington, Washington, Kennard and Herman until September 1927, when the entire properties were purchased by the Nebraska Power Company.

I was told by an old time resident that the town's power plant was not operated all night long.   As a warning before shutting it off for the night, the operator would power the generator down, causing the lights to dim 15 minutes before they were shut off.  This allowed folks time to light their kerosene lanterns before the 'lights' went off.    

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