“The story begins with a doctor’s fervent desire to be available at all times to those in need of his services.”
Ina Mae Moulton shared some of the history of her father’s business in a May 15, 1953 newspaper article interview. Many of those details from the article have been transcribed and, along with further research into the company, are presented here.
In 1886, Dr. Charles A. Moulton moved from North New Portland to St. Albans where he continued his medical practice. He initially had a telegraph set installed at his home which connected with the Hartland Railroad Station Depot serving as an emergency call signal whenever anyone in Hartland needed a doctor in an emergency. Dr. Moulton heard of a new invention called the telephone, which had only been around for 17 years at the time, and decided it could be the most efficient means of communication to fit his and the surrounding village’s needs.
In 1893, the St. Albans & Hartland Telephone Company officially got its start when 10 telephones were installed tying Dr Moulton into the communities of St. Albans and Hartland. The home office of the new company was located at A. P. Bigelow’s house in St. Albans. The original subscribers in the first directory in St. Albans were; Dr. Charles A. Moulton, S. B. Prescott and the St. Albans Post Office. Those connected in Hartland were; Walter H. Moore, George M. Lancey, Thomas A. Linn, H. C. Prescott, Sebasticook & Moosehead Railroad Depot, Linn Woolen Mill Main Office and the Park House.
A. P. Bigelow House – St. Albans
All 10 of the new subscribers were on one line with each having a special ring. The ring for Dr. Moulton’s own phone was two short bells. In the early years, the tiny phone directory carried the stern warning; “These telephone instruments are owned or rented by the St. Albans & Hartland Telephone Company. Listening is strictly forbidden unless you are called.”
Ina M. Moulton’s Blue Ribbon for the 1893 St. Albans & Hartland Telephone Company Directory
Dr. Charles Avery Moulton was born in Concord, Maine on March 12, 1860. He attended Westbrook High School then graduated from Bowdoin Medical School in 1885. He practiced medicine for a year in North New Portland before moving to St. Albans. Following his move to Hartland, he became a leading entrepreneur in the new era of telephone communication and electrical power distribution. He lived out the rest of his life in Hartland serving as a local family doctor, hospital administrator, businessman and an active member in town affairs until his death in 1946.
By 1900, he moved to Hartland with his wife, Abigail A. Lunt (1861-1940) and their children, Ina Mae Moulton (1891-1960) & Arthur Lunt Moulton (1901-1985) living on Blake Street at the future Dr. Paul Briggs residence while his new home and business location were being built on Elm Street. He changed the name of the company and with primary investors George M. Lancey, A. P. Bigelow, C. C. Hanson and 20 secondary stock holders incorporated as “Hartland & St. Albans Telephone Company” on July 17, 1903 connecting to the New England Telephone & Telegraph Company.
1908 Hartland & St. Albans Telephone Company Directory & Advertisements
(Courtesy of Gerald & Pat Martin)
Detailed Statement from Hartland & St. Albans Telephone Company for Mark Perkins – March 31, 1925
(Photo courtesy of Dana Perkins)
Dr. Charles Moulton’s contributions to Hartland and the surrounding communities are immeasurable by any standard. His 50+ year medical practice served Hartland, St. Albans & Palmyra where he performed regular house calls to care for the sick, delivered children and made death pronunciations. He served as Hartland Town Selectman, Hartland School Physician, Hartland School Committee Member, a 50 Year Member & Master of the Hartland Chapter of the Corinthian Lodge, Noble Grand of the Hartland Chapter of the I.O.O.F., Trustee of the Hartland Public Library and President of the Maine Medical Association as well as being a devoted husband and father.
He was the founder of the Hartland Electric Light & Power Company which was in operation by 1910. Much of the town’s power was generated by the Linn Woolen Mill before he built a power line from Pittsfield to Hartland utilizing the telephone poles his phone company had installed. He operated the new power company for about a decade before selling it to Central Maine Power in 1920.
Dr. Moulton was also instrumental in the creation of Scott-Webb Memorial Hospital serving as the Executor for the Estate of Eva Webb-Scott who willed her home and property be used as a public hospital. He would oversee the conversion of the building and become the hospital’s first Administrator and Resident Physician when the hospital opened on October 12, 1932. When the new maternity ward was built, a number of people who had been delivered by him formed a group known as “Moulton’s Babies” and made a sizable contribution to the fund in his honor.
Scott-Webb Memorial Hospital
In May of 1945, a heavy wet snow loaded poles and wires to the breaking point. The storm nearly ruined the business. There were just five poles still standing and 16 lines operating of the 135 lines total in service at the time. The storm also knocked out the power lines and when the power was restored, it knocked out 12 more telephone lines, leaving just four lines to service the two communities. For nearly another year, the telephone lines were temporarily operated with wires laying on the ground as poles were not immediately replaced. With the cooperation of local banks and the Public Utilities Commission, service was eventually restored.
Following his death in 1946, Dr. Moulton’s 2 children oversaw management of the company for many years. Dr. Arthur L. Moulton D.D.S., served as President. His daughter, Ina M. Moulton, worked for her father her entire life serving as Secretary and Treasurer until her retirement.
Obituary for Dr. Charles Avery Moulton (1860-1946)
The first switchboard was operated by a magneto system located in Dr. Moulton’s Elm Street residence which was eventually expanded to become the company’s office. Connections to the telephone system were handled for several decades by Switch Board Operators until December of 1957. At the time of the conversion to direct dial phones, the Hartland & St. Albans Telephone Company Switch Board Operators included Beulah Rowe, Jean Moore, Ina Hubbard, Mildred Gregoire, Murial Wade, Beulah Moore, Eleanor Hollister & Angelie Seekins.
Hartland & St. Albans Telephone Company Original Switchboard
On April 8, 1957 work officially began on a new direct dial telephone system to operate on the Hartland & St. Albans Telephone Company exchange. The rewiring of homes and the various line installations began with plans to complete the work in July with the switch over initially scheduled for that September. The new system included automatic cut-offs on party lines shutting off the connection after six to eight minutes with a one minute warning signal. A new building to house the direct dial system next door to the offices was also built at the time.
Direct Dial Conversion Article – April 8, 1957
Although plans called for the changeover to direct dial were originally scheduled for September of 1957, an unknown delay held off the change until December 17, 1957 when General Manager Lloyd “Red” Hubbard ceremoniously “flipped the switch” for 503 Subscribers into a new era.
Direct Dial Conversion Article – December 18, 1957
The Hartland & St. Albans Telephone Company was purchased by TDS (Telephone & Data Systems, Inc.) in the late 1970s, but continued doing business under the old company name for many years.
TDS Promotional Items (Donated by Marilyn Carr)