A Brief history of Pickwick Electric Cooperative
As time rolls along, fewer and fewer people can remember the day the lights came on in rural West Tennessee. Before electricity came to this area a typical day meant drawing drinking water from a well, reading by a coal oil lamp, washing clothes outside by hand and cooking meals on a wood cook stove. Farmers would work from sunrise to sunset because natural light was the only thing available. Today this drudgery is gone thanks to the organization of electric cooperatives.
For people in our area, the formation of Pickwick Electric Cooperative on Dec. 16, 1935, brought with it the magic of electricity. This one event probably did more to change the lives of local citizens than anything else during the 20th century because it allowed even backwoods areas to have the luxuries of modern living.
People became excited as the lines stretched farther and farther into the countryside. Everyone was anxious to get his or her home wired for electricity. As the lights came on one elated farmer was overheard to have said: “When I pulled that chain to turn on the lights, I felt as though I had been living in the dark all my life. Electric lights give me so much more light than my kerosene lamps, and I don’t have to smell the smoke.” Another Tennessee farmer, when asked to give his testimony at a local church, stood up and said, “Brothers and sisters, I want to tell you that the greatest thing is to have the love of God in your heart, and the next greatest thing is to have electricity in your home.”
The early days of PEC were difficult ones. Only two or three employees were available to do the work, and on several occasions a loan had to be secured from a local bank to meet payroll. Many times area farmers would pitch in to help build the lines. But despite these setbacks the cooperative soon had the hills and hollows coming to life.
The first PEC office was located in Adamsville, it remained there until 1940. PEC relocated to Selmer near Holmes Brothers’ car lot and later moved to Houston Street, across from the courthouse. In 1954, a new headquarters building was erected on Mulberry Street. After 60 years at the Mulberry Street location, the new PEC complex was constructed and opened for business on January 5, 2015, at 672 Hwy 142.
The first manager of the cooperative was Glenn Hassell, who was also a charter board member. PEC’s first board members were: Ralph Smith of Chewalla; Lester Hamm of Ramer; John R. Harris of Finger; J. E. Deford of Savannah; M. R. Lott of Morris Chapel; Glenn Hassell of Enville; E. A. Churchwell of Milledgeville; and Allen McCoy of Eastview.
In 1939, PEC bought the electric lines that the Tennessee Power Company had built into the towns of Adamsville, Bethel Springs, Savannah and Selmer. At the time of purchase there were 32 consumers in Adamsville, 23 in Bethel Springs, 161 in Savannah and 139 in Selmer. The total electric bills of consumers in each of the towns for August 1939 were $73.57, $39.91, $272.61, and $200.36 respectively.
All of Hardin and Wayne counties were originally part of the PEC service area. In 1940, PEC sold its portion of electric facilities east of the Tennessee River so that area could form their own electric cooperative.
From the beginning, the objective of PEC was providing electric service to anyone who wanted it. This was finally achieved in 1949, when the cooperative had a total of 6,000 members and more than 1,100 miles of lines. Since then the cooperative has grown at a rapid pace. In 1950, there were 6,500 members being served and by 1960, this number had grown to 8,312. Today, PEC serves approximately 20,600 members with nearly 2,437 miles of electric lines.
PEC has made a tremendous impact on the business and economic life in this area. It has served as a constant beacon, lighting the way, as people gradually raised their standard of living over the past seven decades.
Since 1935, PEC has expanded and grown in order to meet the increasing needs of its members. We have seen countless changes and there are many more on the horizon. But as in the past, our members can rest assured that we will respond to these changes and strive to provide the most efficient electric service at the most affordable price.