NC Electric Cooperatives Celebrate 85th Anniversary - Carolina Country

NC Electric Cooperatives Celebrate 85th Anniversary

Edgecombe-Martin County EMC was the first to flip the switch in 1937

NC Electric Cooperatives Celebrate 85th Anniversary
A historical marker in front of Edgecombe-Martin County EMC’s headquarters in Tarboro

Although many cities and towns in North Carolina enjoyed the benefits of electricity in the early 1900s, the majority of rural communities were left behind.

“We didn’t have refrigeration [when I was a small child], and my mother would put butter in a bucket in the summertime and put it down in the well, not quite to the water,” remembered Edgecombe-Martin County EMC member W. Kitchin Benson, who grew up in Battleboro, in a 1984 interview. “When we got an Aladdin [oil] lamp, we thought we had something then.”

Only 11 percent of all farms in the United States were receiving central station electric service in 1935, according to that year’s annual agricultural census. A group of Edgecombe County farmers set out to change that, and in 1936, after years of meetings with local and federal officials, what would later be called Edgecombe-Martin County Electric Membership Corporation was formed.

One year later — on April 17, 1937 — the cooperative threw its first switch to energize the homes of 82 members. The historical event made Edgecombe-Martin County EMC the oldest electric cooperative in North Carolina, and one of the oldest in the nation.

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