Do You Know When Owatonna First Got Electric Lights?
In the early days of electricity it was confusing to many. Was it safe? Was it AC or was it DC? There were no real standards for the industry till around 1913 or so. You would quite possibly buy your electrical appliances from the power company and they would come and hook them up for you and explain this new phenomena. Sounds a little like the earlier days of computers doesn't it?
Owatonna began its baby step into electric power courtesy of the Pierce brothers who had set up a power plant in Austin in 1888. In 1890 they began their Owatonna electrical venture. Records show they had an income from electricity of $70 a month. Not good when you had debts of $100 for the equipment to make electricity. It's written they tried hard to convince the citizens of the safety and value of electricity but just couldn't get over the hump. By 1891 they were some $7,000 in the hole and the company lost around $8,000 in 1893. Just like they did with their Austin plant they sold out to Northwest Thomson Houston in the cities. This was the company they sold the electricity making machine and dynamos to both towns. The company then sold stock but the sledding was still rough. In 1895 Owatonna signed a contract allowing the company to supply electricity for all night street lights.
The company was sold in 1900 and a central water heating plant was established in conjunction with the light plant. This is really far out as the water was heated with exhaust from engines as well as flue gases. The hot water was then pumped through 4 and 6 inch pipes where it then traveled into 1/2 inch pipes encased in wood along with insulation leading to homes. The company had around 2 or 3 miles of lines. It's stated that when the outside temperature got to 20 below or colder the water was heated to 200 degrees. Whew! Almost boiling. They had no choice as they stated that the water temperature dropped around 20 to 25 degrees once it started traveling through the lines. Pretty primitive but par for the day.
It sure would be neat to find some of those old dynamos and electrical parts
The picture that goes along with story is of an early electrical dictionary published in 1902 which coincide with the dates of above. I bought this at an estate auction for a John Voss of Owatonna. Perhaps he was an early electrical worker?