“The story begins with a doctor’s fervent desire to be available at all times to those in need of his services.”
Dr. Charles Avery Moulton (1860-1946)
Ina Mae Moulton shared some of the history of her father’s business in a May 15, 1953 newspaper article interview. Many details from the article have been transcribed and are complied below along with further research into the company including information from the 1981 History of St Albans book.
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 in 1886 where he continued his medical practice.
Feeling the need for a better means of communication in the area he served, Dr. Moulton started the St Albans Telegraph Company in 1893 with local backing from John P. Baxter Jr, Napoleon Bonaparte Turner, David Dinsmore Stewart & A. T. Hurd who all served on the company’s Board of Directors. Initially, second-hand telegraph sets were used including a set installed at Dr. Moulton’s 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. Soon after, the Company Board voted to give Stephen B. Prescott, then proprietor of the future St Albans General Store, 2.5 cents for taking and sending each message with a standard rate of 10 cents for the public to send a message to Hartland.
Dr. Moulton soon 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. On July 23, 1894, Dr. Moulton took over the St Albans Telegraph Company replacing telegraph sets with telephones and created the St Albans & Hartland Telephone Company. A telephone was kept at Prescott’s store for public use with the same 10 cent rate.
The new company got its official start when 12 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. Since all the phones were on the same line, no operators were required at the time. Some of 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. Moor, 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 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
By 1900, Dr. Moulton moved to Hartland with his wife Abigail A. Lunt (1861-1940) and their children Ina Mae Moulton (1891-1960) & Arthur Lunt Moulton (1901-1985) first living on Blake Street at the future Dr. Paul Briggs residence while his new home and business location on the 2nd floor 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.
Following his move to Hartland, Dr. Moulton 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.
1908 Hartland & St. Albans Telephone Company Directory & Advertisements
(Donated by Gerald & Pat Martin)
Detailed Statement from Hartland & St Albans Telephone Company for Mark Perkins – March 31, 1925
(Photo courtesy of Dana Perkins)
Dr. Moulton was founder of the Hartland Electric Light & Power Company which began operations in 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.
Among those working for the Hartland Electric Light & Power Company was Hartland resident Birney James Moore who was an Electrician for the company. Dr. Moulton purchased one of the earliest Model T’s seen in Hartland enabling Birney to travel easier while he worked in the area. This license plate was from the Model T which Birney drove. His wife Jean (Smith) Moore was an Operator at the Hartland & St Albans Telephone Company and later his daughter-in-law Beulah (Frazier) Moore also worked there.
Birney James Moore’s Model T License Plate – 1915 (Photo courtesy of Birney F. Moore)
Before the opening of a hospital in Hartland, Dr. Moulton made regular house calls throughout the greater Hartland, St Albans & Palmyra area. Even Maine’s harsh winters could not stop the good doctor from making his rounds especially after he purchased a winter conversion kit for his Ford Model T first introduced by Virgil White in New Hampshire the early 1920s. The kit included a set of 5 foot runners replacing the front wheels and a secondary axle and traction belt for the rear wheels.
Hartland Historical Society Member Clyde D. Emery tells us he was one of the many babies delivered at home before the hospital opened by Dr. Moulton who arrived at his parents’ North Street home in his modified Model T in February of 1932.
Although we do not have a photo of Dr. Moulton’s modified Model T, a similar restored model is displayed at Cole’s Transportation Museum.
Model T with Winter Conversion Kit (Photo courtesy of Cole’s Transportation Museum, Bangor)
Dr. Moulton was 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 to 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 of the Hartland & St Albans Telephone Company to the breaking point and 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 while 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
Dr. Moulton’s contributions to Hartland and the surrounding communities are immeasurable by any standard. Along with his phone company, 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 Administrator and Resident Physician at Scott-Webb Memorial Hospital, 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. Dr. Moulton is interred at Pine Grove Cemetery with his wife and 2 children.
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 in 1957 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 – 1957
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 1971, but continued doing business under the old company name for many years.
TDS Promotional Items (Donated by Marilyn Carr)
Numerous local people worked for the Hartland & St Albans Telephone Company over the years including this listing of employees from 1981:
Carl Palmer – Manager | Geraldine Cole & Carolyn Wheeler – Customer Service Representatives | Donald Nichols – C.O.E. Technician
Dana Carr – Construction Foreman | Robert Giggey, Curtis Lombard & Harvey Martin – Installers, Repairmen & Linemen