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Electric lights come to Perry

Posted May 06, 2015 in Community Featured, Perry

On December 8, 1892, the first electric street lights in Perry were turned on. Prior to this time kerosene lamps atop wooden posts were used. Over a number of years there were several gentlemen tasked with cleaning and filling the lamps. This chore required the use of a push cart carrying a short ladder, a can of kerosene and other supplies. In the evening, a boy on a pony provided by the City, made the rounds of all the lamps in town, lighting each in turn.Light & Power Company

A city water franchise had been issued on August 4, 1891 and a lighting ordinance on October 10, 1891. Both utilities were housed in a city-owned building at W. Fourth and Warford, the present site of the Perry Water Works. Water service began in the fall of 1891.

Through the efforts of E.H. Richardson principal stock-holder, and Henry Hock, one of the proprietors and plant superintendant, the light plant became a reality in 1892. By September nearly all of the poles were in place and wiring to business and residences had commenced. The machinery, consisting of a 100 hp steam engine, dynamos and two shell-type boilers arrived in October, and service began on December 8th.

The plant was plagued with problems and in July of 1894 ─ tragedy struck. One of the boilers exploded, shaking buildings all over town and hurling debris over a wide area. The explosion completely demolished the building. Henry Hock was found lying in a pile of rubble, severely injured. He was removed from the site and later died.

Neighbors were in the habit of obtaining hot water from a barrel at the plant that collected waste water from the steam engine exhaust. It is believed that heavy demand for water that day caused the water in the boiler to drop below a safe level and the overheated boiler, when the evening load came on, exploded at 7:15 pm.

City Mayor Breed hurriedly departed for Omaha and brought back a new water pump. Boilers were removed from the Shively Mill and placed on the old foundations. Water service resumed within a few days.

E.H. Richardson purchased property at the southwest corner of Otley Ave. and Railroad St. The foundation for the new brick building was completed in August 1894 and by September the boilers had been inspected and the engines and dynamos were ready for a trial run. The new company was called the Perry Electric Light, Power & Heat Co. The plant, under new Manager Gus Hindert, began operating on the evening of the 58th day after the explosion.

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