A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to hang out with some amazing bloggers for the #FranklinCoHarvest One of our stops over the weekend was to the REA Plant in Hampton. The REA Plant is a building full of history literally. I got to learn about how Franklin County first had electricity and the farmers would call up to tell them what time they were going to milk the cows or need electricity for other chores.
They have a museum of all the old machinery they used. They also had rooms with tools and machines from the past. It was so interesting to see everything.
A History of the R.E.A. Museum
In the early 1930’s only 10% of the farms in the United States used electricity for home and farm purposes. 90% labored the hard way.
- May 1935 – President Franklin Roosevelt created and signed the Rural Electrification Act. This money provided money to help farmers build distribution lines only.
- March 1936 – First publicity in Hampton Chronicle: “Are you interested in Rural Electrification?”
- February 10, 1937 – Federated REA (six counties: Franklin, Hardin, Wright, Butler, Grundy and Hancock) and Central REA (Pocahontas) were each incorporated at Ft. Dodge.
- February 15, 1937 – Due to prohibitive power charges by electrical plants, Federated asked for a loan of $222,000 from the REA fund. This was a new approach for farmers to build their own generating plant. This loan was granted.
- March 1938 – Federated (Reeve) lines were generated. “First Coop in the nation to put farmer-owned generated electricity out on farmer-owned lines.” The first diesel engine is still in the plant. There were a total of four engines when the plant was in full operation (the last engine foundation being poured the day of the infamous November 11, 1941 blizzard). The other three engines were removed before the plant was given to the Historical Society.
- May 1938 – Central (Pocahontas) lines were energized. They had borrowed power from the Reeve plant from March to May.
- 1948-1950 – Peak period of operation and Reeve Federated then became one of 14 Coops to create Corn Belt Power at Humboldt. Reeve was used as a sub-station for several years.
- 1988 – Don Yadon of Hampton donated the plant to the Franklin County Historical Society.
- 1989 – The REA Power Plant Committee under the auspices of the Franklin County Historical Society was formed to renovate the Power Plant. They worked to get it on the National Register of Historic Places, extensively cleaned the structure, and installed new windows, a new roof, painted the interior and opened with an “Open House” in the fall of 1990. Funds for the restoration were from a REAP Grant, donations from the six counties in the original Federated group, Corn Belt Power, and other interested groups and individuals. Over 1800 hours of work was donated by individuals from the community. Since that time the committee has done much work to display what life was like before and after the advent of electricity to rural areas.
- 2002 – The REA Power Plant Museum was selected as a Point of Interest in the Silos and Smoke Stacks National Heritage Area
History Begins Here
The Museum is open from January 15 through November 15: Monday – Friday, 1 to 4.
From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the museum is also open Sunday 1 to 4.