CENTRAL OREGON HISTORY - Electricity comes to Central Oregon
On March 7, 1899, the Prineville Light and Water Company became organized, and the first electric plant was built in Prineville. The Yancey brothers were hired to freight the electric plant from The Dalles, and it took seven round trips to get the plant to Prineville. The plant was completed in May 1900, and energy was provided by wood-stoked boilers that generated steam to produce the electricity. Delivery of electricity began in December 1900.
The pioneering system was powered by a 50-horsepower boiler that connected to an 18,000-watt dynamo. Prineville was the first Central Oregon town to have electric lights for streets. Bend and Redmond used coal oil lamps until 1910.
Electrical service was provided at a flat rate of five cents per month per candlepower for lights used until 10 p.m. and six cents if they burned until midnight.
Service was erratic and shutdowns frequent and often prolonged. Employees of the power and water company knew that when the lights began dimming and then went out that they needed to head to the power plant to help the lone operator make repairs. The old power plant was located just north of Third Street
The company contracted to have cordwood cut and stacked near the power plant and the 4-foot-length cordwood was stacked on nearly one acre of ground surrounding the plant. In 1901, a small rail system was constructed to haul wood to the boiler and the rails were equipped with a turntable and track.
In 1908, the Prineville Light and Water Power Company enlarged their plant in anticipation of obtaining alternating current produced from hydroelectric plants on the Deschutes and Crooked rivers. The company was obtained by the Deschutes Power Company in 1913, and new lines were completed to Prineville. The little plant established in 1900 was the precursor of a revolutionary new power system that changed the frontier of Central Oregon.
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