The towns and villages surrounding Mille Lacs Lake received telephone service very early on, especially related to what anyone might guess, and well before telegraph service arrived with the Soo Line Railroad!  And over a decade before radio broadcasting!

The East Side Cooperative Telephone Company was organized in late 1908 and early 1909 by a virtual who’s who list of early Mille Lacs area entrepreneurs.  It was based in Opstead, in the far northern reaches of Mille Lacs County, and was a 37 unit farm line that ran from the exchange at Opstead to Eastwood, Red Top (in Aitkin County), Isle, and Wahkon.  In the Wahkon/Lawrence area, the line connected with the Minnesota Telephone Company. In 1910, a line was run to Aitkin.  The officers were John Haggberg, Peter Sehlin, Andrew O. Peterson, John Kalberg, August Haglund, and Otto Haggberg. The general manager was Swan Nyquist, the lineman was Fred Burman, and the telephone installer was Jens Kalberg. All of the poles were placed by August of 1909. Later a telephone office was placed in Isle. The company was sold to J. Max Osborne around New Year’s of 1956, and dial telephones were installed in the summer of 1958. Osborne also purchased the Mille Lacs Telephone Company and merged them together.

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