Kennebec Telephone has been in operation since 1908. The company is
currently under the ownership of the Bowar family and Matt Collins.
Kennebec Telephone serves the two communities of Kennebec and Presho
along with surrounding areas located in central South Dakota. The company
has over 558 access lines, Long Distance services, Broadband, Real Choice TV,
local telephone services, construction work, electrical work, computer repair,
automotive welding and repair, and NAPA parts. For more information on
what we can do for you, contact our office at 605-869-2220. We are willing
to tackle any job, big or small.
Kennebec Telephone was established in 1905 and was without phones until 1908. At this time, a group of about ten homesteaders south of town build a telephone line between their houses. Some of these included the following: W.R. Hanscom, Thor Olsen, John Kerwin, Mark Thompson, Harry Mills, Theodore Gerard, and Albert Lind. In 1909 they extended the line into Kennebec where a few local people installed a telephone.
In 1918 John F. Spotts constructed a large brick building on the east side of Main Street that accommodated a garage, town generator, and the telephone exchange. With the help of farmers, he completed the phone lines equipping all the houses north to the Missouri River and south to the White River.
With tough conditions in the mid 30’s, no telephone lines were kept up and no bills were being paid resulting in the telephone company going broke. During the late 30’s Spike Vogel happened to acquire the company and move it to a building half a block east of Main Street. Many people had a hard time paying, although the rate was only $0.25 a month. That payment was used for the fuel bill and telephone operator, Mrs. Mettie Potter. Any big news at the time was received by telegram and no long distance was service was offered yet. As conditions continued to improve, Vogel and the farmers rebuilt the farm lines and eight independent farm lines were built in town.
Mettie Potter obtained the company with the help of her daughter, “Toots,” until a fire took out the town generator. West Central put a new generator on the west side of Main Street in the M.C. High Building during the early 1940’s, taking over the company. Joe Fitzpatrick purchased the telephone company in the mid 1940’s and moved his family into the rooms behind the office. From 1946 through 1949 Kenneth Hauge (a former owner of Hanson County Telephone Company), Harold Halverson and Howard Opp all individually owned the company for short periods of time. In 1950 Joe Fitzpatrick obtained the company again.
In 1952 Lloyd and Delores Johnstone became the owners of the company after selling their cattle. Lloyd received training in communications while serving in the army and Delores had six years of experience working as a telephone operator. At this time there were eight farm lines and two long distant lines to Presho. There was now a total of about 100 phones that included 40 residence and 30 businesses with no extensions. Services had increased to $2 a month in town and $0.50 a month in the farm. In 1952 the telephone directory showed advertising for businesses such as Fred’s Market, Be at Ease, Insure with Pease, Phillipps 66, Gala Theatre, Williamson Funeral Home, and Anderson Bowling Alley.
The first winter approached with a disastrous ice storm taking down all the phone lines in town. Although this felt like a catastrophe, everyone was back in service within a couples days with help from Bud Tobin (Plankinton), Kenneth Hauge (Alexandria), and Jake Armentrout (Armour).
The switch board and telephone operators with their personal service was replaced with a new building, housing electronic equipment. In January of 1958, phone service was cut to dial. The Johnstone family then moved to an acreage on the west side of town. Later in 1958, during the month of April, the old telephone office was burned in the Main Street Fire.
Lloyd buried all the town lines and a large portion of the farm lines. During 1968 in May, the lines stilled owned by farmers were cut to direct dial after being purchased by the telephone company.
In 1980 Lloyd completed another large construction job that left the telephone plant completely underground, a new switch board and phones with one party service to all.
In December of 1980, Lloyd Johnstone was killed in a tragic car accident. Delores, his wife, took over the management. With a great deal of help from Plant Manager, Rod Bowar, contributing to the company since 1976, and many home grown people, they continued to upgrade the company with new products and services.
In 1982 Delores and Rod formed a partnership establishing Kennebec CATV Company. The company supplied cable TV to the residence of Kennebec.
In 1988 the office was moved to Main Street in the old drugstore building. Seven miles of optic cable were buried in 1989 to connect the US West.
Many advancements have been made with Digital Switch since March of 1990 when it replaced the X-Y Switchboard.
The company had a big year in 1992. Kennebec CATV covered all of Lyman and Tripp County after buying a franchise for Direct TV (18-inch dish). Kennebec Telephone also established two Advanced Fiber Communications systems in the rural area to assist in the improvement of communication services. KTCI possessed 16 AFC Cabinets by 2005.
A Northern Telecom Remote switch was installed in Presho to function with the Kennebec switch providing both communities access to benefit from future advancements, resulting from the purchase of the Presho Exchange in 1996, also yielding 500 access lines.
Rod and Donna Bowar purchased Kennebec Telephone in October of 1998 when Delores Johnstone decided to retire. Upon retiring she commented, ‘Now that I have reached retirement age and many of the goals I set when I took over management of the company, I find under this business exterior, lies the heart of a beach bum!” She remembered many things form when she began working at the switch in June of 1946 such as saying “number please” and “thank you,” along with answering questions like “have you seen my husband on Main Street?” or “what time does the train deliver the mail?” She also recalled carrying death messages to people without telephone services.
In September of 1999 KTCI joined SDN and started routing all long distance traffic to them, also engaging in all the benefits they have available.
KTCI had an eventful year in 2000. In June KTCI and Golden West Telephone Cooperative installed a Sonet Protected ring between their exchanges. KTCI acquired land, including Kennebec Post Office, in November on the east side of Main Street for a future office building.
In January 2001 Kennebec CATV Company was now owned by KTCI. KTCI not only offered cable now, but had a digging service, now called KTC Construction. Not long after February, KTC rolled out their High Speed Internet (ADSL) called DataNet in Kennebec and Presho.
PowerCom Electric and Communications was initiated in 2002 by the company. Services included supplying electric and communication wiring to homes, farms, and commercial businesses.
In September of 2002, 150 new cable customers were added to KTCI after they acquired Presho Cable System from WCENET. By working with our good neighbors Golden West Telephone Cooperative, we were able to consolidate Presho and Kennebec into one head-end located in Kennebec.
The office building was complete and all employees were now under one roof in January 2003.
In June of 2004, Mike Rounds, South Dakota Governor, appointed Rod Bowar to the South Dakota Legislative Research Council’s State and Local Government task force. Bowar was the only representative from the Telecommunications Industry out of the 18 appointees.
During their tour of South Dakota in August of 2005, FCC Commissioner, Jonathan Adelstein and the South Dakota PUC Commissioners selected the community of Kennebec and KTCI to personally visit. KTCI hosted a community picnic for the commissioners.
KTCI bought the Main Street Office Plaza from Gene Gerard in December on 2006. It was renovated to fit eight office spaces for people to start their small businesses. This has established success as many of the offices are rented out today, giving businesses to opportunity and space to reside in Kennebec.
KTCI took over the old Mertens building (car garage) in February 2009 turning it into Charley’s Auto and Welding Repair, remodeling the building to fit the needs of Charley’s.
In 2009, Rod Bowar received NTCA Special Achievement Award in Tampa, Flordia. Rod received the special achievements for the contributions to the Telecommunication industry through National, State, and Local Organizations. That same year Rod & Donna Bowar along with KTCI were presented with the Community Service Award by members of the Kennebec Town Board in appreciation for their continual support and service to the community of Kennebec.
TCS – Technology Communication Specialist, was acquired from Santel in 2010 by KTCI. TCS sells and installs security systems, home and business monitoring systems, and smart homes for customers. TCS started in the cities of Pierre and Fort Pierre, but was relocated to Kennebec in 2015 as business expanded to surrounding areas.
Rod and Donna Bowar were nominated for Small Business Persons of the year by Marcella Hurley from Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in May of 2013. Although they did not win, the US Small Business Administration congratulated them for their outstanding accomplishments and contributions as small business owners.
In March of 2013 KTCI signed a purchase agreement to buy Chamberlain NAPA from George Martin, not officially taking it over until July. The store was remodeled in 2015 to better fit the needs of the customers and the expanding business.
Also starting in 2013 KTCI became very engaged in youth education within our state and communities. KTCI has participated in Post-Secondary education with helping, to date (August 2019), 12 individuals with their schooling in exchange come back and work for KTCI. Some with the Build Dakota Scholarship and some with KTCI directly.
Matt Collins secured some ownership of Kennebec Telephone Company, Inc. on January 1, 2015, joining Rod Bowar, Donna Bowar, Chaz Bowar, Tiarra Bowar, and Troy Christensen.
In March of 2017 Rod was appointed by Governor Dennis Daugaard to the 9 member South Dakota Board of Technical Education.
In 2018, KTCI’s general manager, Rod Bowar was inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame for his service to the community and the telephone industry.
KTCI and its employees serve on many numerous boards and organizations in Lyman & Brule counties including but not limited to, Mitchell Technical Institute Foundation Board, the Kennebec Town Board, SDN, South Dakota Telephone Association, South Dakota Board of Technical Education, Dakota Prairie Bank Board, Lyman School Board, Youth Couching, Local Fire Departments, Shriners.