In the 1930s Kansas farmers relied on kerosene lamps for light, and wood or coal for cooking and heat. The electricity of the towns and cities did not stretch beyond their boundaries. Then on May 11, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration and a year later Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act which provided loans to farmers seeking electrical power.
Hard hit by the depression, farmers could not afford another loan so cooperatives were formed to spread the expense. Hookups were $5, a sum not to be taken lightly in those days. Explanatory meetings were held, routes were drawn and teams of salesmen called on prospects. Due to the depression the R.E.A. was able to attract the brightest engineers, electricians and draftsmen and soon power poles were going up all over rural America.
Power came to rural Kansas in early 1938 when the Brown-Atchison Electric Cooperative began stringing wire. One photo, unquestionably the most widely published in Rural Electrification, became the symbol of R.E.A. progress. It was taken in March 30, 1938, the day before the lines were energized at Horton. The farmers, all Brown county residents, were destined to become legends as Rural Electric's "four horsemen of the lines." On April 1, 1938, the county became the first in Kansas to receive service.
Today, the Brown-Atchison group is one of 38 electric cooperatives providing electricity to rural Kansas.
Entry: Rural Electrification
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: December 2004
Date Modified: March 2013
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.