by Sarah Stuart
Quietly tucked away on an unassuming hill in Midvale, ID is a company that has spent the last 110 years providing telephone service to its customers. From its humble beginnings to its current extensive service area, MTE Communications has always kept their customers in the forefront. Their long history is a testament of their loyalty to their customers and their ability to evolve with the technological advancements over the last century.
Farmers in the Midvale area began putting in their own telephone lines as early as 1906. The equipment they would have used at the time would have been open wire circuit. These circuits would have been two wires which ran on poles and each circuit would have served several homes. In the beginning, all the farms were connected on one party line but eventually the farmers split into 10 party lines and installed a switch board. An operator would have been at the switch board and routed all phone calls by hand.
In 1909, Levi Keithley purchased all 10 party lines from the farmers and the company that would eventually become MTE Communications was born. The telephone office was located on North Depot Street, right next to where the railroad used to run through Midvale. By 1911, the telephone company was known as Keithley & Delashmutt Telephone Company but most of the locals referred to it as the “telephone company”.Unfortunately that year, the telephone company as well as a good portion of the business section of Midvale burned. The telephone switch building and business office would be rebuilt at a different location.
In late 1943, Verdie and Charlotte Williams purchased the telephone company. At that time, the telephone business office was located on Bridge Street near River Street in Midvale. The business office doubled as the Williams' home and the telephone switch building was located between the office building and the Weiser River. In March 1959, the telephone company filed articles of incorporation, moving from a private business to a corporation and became officially known as Midvale Telephone Exchange, Inc.
In 1977, Lane and Mary Williams took over operations from his parents. By the early 1980s, MTE’s service area was extended to Mountain Man Lodge and Conner Creek, OR from the Midvale area. Shortly after this expansion, MTE purchased two services areas in Oregon, Harper and Juntura. Also during the 1980s, all multi party lines were upgraded to single party service (one customer per line) when MTE upgraded their switch plant. The current MTE business building, located on Keithley Creek Road in Midvale, was moved into during the mid 1980's. During the early 1990s, MTE transitioned from four digit dialing to the modern seven digits dialing.
In the mid 1990s, MTE expanded even further, all the way to Arizona. Once they made this move, Midvale Telephone Exchange Inc converted its name to MTE Communications. In 2008, with the retirement of Lane Williams, MTE Communications transitioned into a full-owned and operated ESOP (employee-owned) company. It was the first regulated phone company to operate as a fully-owned ESOP in Idaho.
MTE Communications' service area is a wide one. In Idaho, they serve Weiser, Midvale, Lakeview, Warren, Warm Lake, Yellowpine, and Stanley. Their exchange locations in Arizona are Cascabel, Silverbell, Young, Granite Mountain (near Scottsdale), and Millsite (near Prescott). They currently service over 3,000 customers in rural Idaho and Arizona. To MTE Communications' credit, four of their Arizona exchanges were built from the ground up.
MTE Communications' employees have been, are, and will always be the backbone of the company and are active in the areas in which they live. They invest in each of their communities in a variety of ways. Some serve as volunteer firemen, EMTs, and school board members. Others serve on city councils, are mayors, and other various community board members. There are also sports coaches while others volunteer for community-based organizations. MTE Communications also hosts the Red Cross Blood Drive in Midvale in July and helps support the Red Cross Blood Drive in Weiser.
What does the future hold for MTE? They are looking forward to expanding both their service territory and services they offer. MTE continually improves their equipment and enhances their services to all their customers. Hopefully the next 110 years are as amazing as the last.