Verendrye 75th Anniversary - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Verendrye 75th Anniversary

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Verendrye Electric Cooperative members have spent three quarters of a century building a heritage in the area.

Spokesperson Tom Rafferty has spent two-years compiling the company's history into a book --- a story he says he's enjoyed telling.

(Tom Rafferty, Verendrye Electric Co-op Community Relations Manager) "On Sunday we turn 75 years old!"

It's another year in the books.

And a book ---

(Tom Rafferty, Verendrye Electric Co-op Community Relations Manager) "I went through thousands of photos."

-- to celebrate the history of Verendrye Electric Cooperative.

(Tom Rafferty, Verendrye Electric Co-op Community Relations Manager) "The reason cooperatives were formed was because the investor-owned utilities would not serve the rural areas because it wasn't profitable, plus, money was tight so it was hard to get capitol so what happened is that farmers started their own utility companies - the cooperatives."

The secretary of state signed Verendrye Electric into being on January 26,1939.

(Tom Rafferty, Verendrye Electric Co-op Community Relations Manager) "They literally went door to door, knocking on doors and they just asked people, 'Do you want electricity? If you do, give us five dollars and you'll become a member.'"

Five dollars in 1939 is roughly equivalent to $85 today.

A time when postage was 3 cents, a loaf of bread: 8 cents.

(Tom Rafferty, Verendrye Electric Co-op Community Relations Manager) "There are members that remember the first holes being dug by hand with shovels for the first power poles. And those same members can use the technology to check their usage on their cell phones. It's an amazing story."

And what's in a name?

(Tom Rafferty, Verendrye Electric Co-op Community Relations Manager) "A lot of people don't know why we're called Verendrye Electric. It's a french name in Norwegian territory here."

Verendrye Electric was named for a town northeast of Velva ---

(Tom Rafferty, Verendrye Electric Co-op Community Relations Manager) "I've been living and breathing this stuff for awhile so I get excited about it."

Verendrye, North Dakota, is now home to maybe two people --- and this granite landmark that still stands in honor of a map maker.

The town was called 'Falson' and renamed Verendrye for a French explorer said to have stopped by.

The post office closed in 1965, but back in 1939, the town was at it's population height of 100 people.

(Tom Rafferty, Verendrye Electric Co-op Community Relations Manager) "We started in this tiny little abandoned bank building and today we've grown into 15,000 meters we serve."

The oldest known certificate of membership is now one of the company's most prized artifacts.

(Tom Rafferty, Verendrye Electric Co-op Community Relations Manager) "Co-ops are a real grassroots organization. We're here because people needed to help themselves, no one would do it."

While Verendrye has turned the page with technology ---

(Tom Rafferty, Verendrye Electric Co-op Community Relations Manager) "We still believe in the same principles: cooperation, member control, local control, working in the communities. We feel that's important to keep that alive."

A solid foundation for the history books.

In Minot, Jennifer Thorgramson, KX News.

Verendrye will be hosting anniversary celebrations all year --- culminating at the annual meeting on June 12.

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