Kansas Homesteads Employed Primitive Phones

Folks living on close Kansas homesteads shared responsibility of keeping primitive phones working.

Content Tools

Within five years after we moved to a 160-acre place in Morton County, Kansas, there were probably a dozen Kansas homesteads widely scattered in our area and the people there decided to set up a phone system amongst the plains settlers.

Each family was responsible for its own phone, so we all installed a phone box on the wall and provided the two dry-cell batteries which powered it. Turning a crank on the box would ring every telephone on the line; each family had its own signal, such as two shorts, or a short and a long, and so forth.

The telephone line was the top wire of barbed wire fence, which gave good service only if all splices were tight. If there was a gate in the fence, a pole or a 2-by-4 about 10 feet high was nailed to each gate post, and then a wire was wrapped tightly around the fence wire and run to the top of one high pole, fastened to an insulator there, strung across the opening to the insulator on the second pole and down to the fence line again.

Stringing wire in this manner permitted high loads to pass thru the gate.

These phones saved the people many trips, but reception was not always good and in times of high wind it could be poor. 

Floyd Morgan
Vashon, VVashington

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.