Dusting Off the Old Ones was published in 1961 by W. B. Clarke, Miles City, Montana.
Montana's First Telephone Exchange
We wonder how many of our readers realize that the first telephone exchange in Montana was established right here in Miles City. Strange as it may seem, such is the fact. There were two factors connected with the establishment of this exchange -- and these two happenings were many miles apart -- but both happened on Jun 25th, 1876. That date should "ring a bell" in many of our readers' minds as the day of the fateful battle on the Little Big Horn in which General Custer's entire command was wiped out. The other happening was not so "close to home." The locale of this second happening was in Philadelphia at the Centennial Exposition -- when the Emperor of Brazil was exclaiming over Alexander Graham Bell's model of the telephone, "My God, it talks." The Custer Massacre was the event which brought about the establishment of Fort Keogh as a military outpost for the protection and development of this section of the country. Following the establishment of Fort Keogh, General Miles was placed in command. In 1878, the government established a telegraph line to Fort Keogh, and by this time a pair of telephone were being sold for private lines all over the country. General Miles 'quarters were some distance from the telegraph office. For convenience, General Miles, then Colonel, secured two of these instruments in 1879 and established a line between his quarters and the telegraph office. It was the first telephone line in Eastern Montana. In the meantime, Miles City had become quite a substantial community; river boats were coming up the river from St. Louis; and the Northern Pacific was headed this way.

In 1881, a "central" office, or in other words, a telephone exchange was opened in Miles City by a local company operated by W. H. Bullard and W. L. Lansing. This first "central" office was located in the Bullard and Lansing's store at the corner of Main and Sixth, where the Milligan Hotel now stands. The longest line was two miles long and ran to Fort Keogh. The Bell company took over the Miles City exchange in 1884 and continued operating it until 1887, when it was closed.

The peak number of phones served in those early days reached 32 in 1885 and 1886. When it closed in 1887, there were but 17 subscribers. In June 1900, the Bell Company again opened an exchange with 50 customers. This exchange was on the second floor of what was then known as the Stebbins Block, and now as the Ingam Hotel building. The rooms occupied were two rooms facing on South 6th Street, immediately above Dr. Hadley's present office. Robert Davison, a local boy who graduated from Miles City High School in 1895, was the first manager and continued in that capacity for about a year and a half. Mary Dunigan (now Mrs. Walter Martin) was the first operator. Mary came to Miles City in 1877, on the steamer "Far West" with her mother and brothers, Frank and Walter. Folling Bob Davidson as manager was Paul W. Milburn, son of the late G. R. Milburn. Al Mayo followed Mr. Milburn as manager and was manager at the time Mrs. Martin retired from the telephone service. Other early-day employees of the exchange were Miss Ada Vance, who was the first night operator, Mabel Henderson, Julia Peden and Ethel Weaver. In 1910, the exchange was serving 685 subscribers, and had moved its quarters to the premises now occupied by Parkers, in the rear of the Carnegie Library. These quarters were occupied until the office was moved into its present location at 908 Main Street on December 14, 1914.