While our neighbors’ homes in Austin and San Antonio were electrified in the 1930s, the rural Texas Hill Country was still in the dark.
Urban residents had houses with working appliances, but those in rural areas hand pumped water from wells and heated their homes with coal or hand-split wood. At night, they would have to use gas lamps for light, which hindered their abilities to work, study, or read.
Though powering rural homes was possible, a lack of interest from investor-owned utilities kept it from happening. These companies felt it wouldn’t be economical to extend miles of line to serve areas with such small populations. In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act (REA) to bring electricity to the nation’s rural communities, but population requirements of three customers per square mile and funding shortfalls kept the rural Hill Country in the dark.
There are days in modern life where we take our power for granted, but it’s important to remember the milestones the young Senator Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) and local rancher E. Babe Smith had to reach to make it happen. LBJ knocked on important doors in Washington, D.C. to advocate for electricity in rural areas, pushing the REA to draft the Electric Cooperative Corporation Act and create a nationwide model for the formulation and operation of nonprofit, consumer-owned electric cooperatives. Smith visited Hill Country farmers and ranchers to petition for the region’s first electric cooperative. The “simpler time” wasn’t so simple for the group of passionate locals who formed Pedernales Electric Cooperative and brightened up the Texas Hill Country.
In those days, when locals like Evelyn Smith first saw lights in their homes, it was something like magic. Since our founding in 1938, we’ve continued to surpass milestones, like installing the first streetlights in Lago Vista in 1959, connecting our 50,000th meter in 1981, and reaching 300,000 active accounts in 2018.
Thank you for allowing us to serve you all these years! As your power provider, we are excited to continue working with you in our next chapter. To read more about the history of our co-op, go to pec.coop/cooperative-difference.
As part of our efforts to honor 85 years of history, we are collecting PEC memorabilia of historical value, such as hats, shirts, newspaper articles, or signs. We’re also sharing our members’ stories about their time with PEC. If you have items or a story you’d like to share, let us know by emailing us at [email protected].