Kansas Homesteads Employed Primitive Phones

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

| Good Old Days

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

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: October 13-14, 2018
Topeka, KS

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!