In the late 1930s and early 1940s, most rural people in North Dakota and the rest of the country lived without electricity. Investor-owned utilities were convinced that they couldn't make any money by serving the rural countryside, so they declined to run power lines out to the country.

All across the country, including in North Dakota, rural people were banding together to help themselves by forming electric cooperatives. With the help of government loans through the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), electric cooperatives helped light the countryside.

In north central North Dakota, people began to talk seriously about an electric cooperative in 1940 and even went so far as to incorporate in 1941. However, the advent of World War II brought any plans of construction to a halt, as materials were needed for the war effort.

After the war, constructions plans for North Central Electric Cooperative moved forward, and in March of 1946, the first home was energized with electricity from the cooperative. At the end of 1946 the cooperative had 17 miles of line serving 48 customers. Today the cooperative has 3,268 miles of line serving 7,820 members.

man digging hole
In the 1940s, workers in north central
ND manually dug holes for power
poles to bring electricity to their homes.
cable reel
Two men unreel electric cable
in north central ND in the 1940s


lift pole
Building the system in the 1940s
was often back-breaking work.


raised line
One of the last steps to bring
electricity to a home is when a
worker raises the power line
to the top of the pole.