For the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum
It was Valentine’s Day of 1930 that the natural gas lines were completed to the city limits and work begun on the mains in the city proper.
So it was that the gas company turned the gas on into the Starkville Oil Co.’s furnace and has served businesses and homes ever since.
The delivery of natural gas marked another epoch of great development in Oktibbeha County. Like many large producers, The Southern Natural brought in another gasser. It was felt that natural gas was a rare commodity, and brought untold opportunity in convenience, health and efficiency.
Not many small cities and towns had been able to attract the attention of large utilities like The Southern Natural Gas Corporation. In this instance only a few, and those being served, were principally in the immediate vicinity of the main trunk line.
Oktibbeha County was indeed fortunate in securing thirty-eight miles of lateral line extending from the main in to Starkville. This line was constructed at an expenditure of more than three hundred thousand dollars. It reached our city limits. From this line there radiated more than forty miles of local mains and lateral service lines. The construction in Starkville alone exceeded more than an expenditure of one-quarter million dollars. The construction organization under Manager Thomas Roberson consisted of one hundred and twenty-five workmen. All lines were rapidly completed as well as the meter house and other like buildings.
The Starkville Cotton Oil Company was the first to begin using natural gas under their boilers. D. C. Castles, manager of the oil mill and ice factory stated that they expect to give natural gas a fair and impartial trial and if it gives efficient and economical service, they would continue the use of gas for an indefinite period. It was felt that the use of natural gas in an industrial way would mean a step forward for Oktibbeha County. More industries would seek locations here when it is known that cheap gas and power are available in unlimited quantities.
The Mississippi Natural Gas Co held its formal opening in their new building on Main Street on July 11, 1930. High officials of company were present and punch served and a gas stove given away to the visitor holding the lucky number. Prior to being on hand for the opening of the plant, the officials were the guests at a luncheon at the Rotary Club.
A feature of the formal opening was the awarding by the company, a gas range valued at $100. The range was a Majik, Baker, one of the best-known gas stoves on the market. G. B. Singleton, local manager, Miss Alma Goolsby, cashier and J. H. Dugan and J. N. Hickman, salesmen, greeted visitors at the plant. Manufacturer representatives were on hand to explain the various features of the merchandise on display. The appliances included hot water heaters, gas ranges, Electrolux refrigerators, radiant fire room heaters and circulating heaters.
The local company occupied a handsome and thoroughly modern building on the corner of East Main and Caldwell Streets. Erected especially for the gas company, it was of brick reinforced construction and fireproof. The front was highly attractive in face brick and late glass show window. The company prior to that time had temporary offices in the Hartness building on Main Street.
The first consumer in the city was Mrs. E. P. Nichols, South Montgomery Street, who received service for the first time on May 10, marking a new milestone in the progress of Starkville and opening the way for future industrial expansion. Since that day scores of homes and business houses have been extended the advantages of natural gas.
An efficient service department was available at the local office. This enabled fast service to be given new consumers in installing appliances and meters. The service department at all times endeavored to keep right up with installation orders.
William “Bill” Geiger remembers...
I was the area manager for Mississippi Valley Gas Company in Starkville from 1972 to 1985. I worked for Mississippi Gas before they were bought out by Mississippi Valley Gas so I have 35 years of employment in this area. As area manager, my territory was Starkville, Macon, Brooksville and occasionally West Point.
When I came to Starkville a major emphasis was to get a larger people load using gas. We also sold merchandise which people could put on their gas bill and pay for it on a monthly basis with their gas bill. We sold gas ranges, grills, etc.
I enjoyed meeting and helping people. It was a requirement that we make 5 visits a day to get new customers and assist our customers. We walked and surveyed areas for potential customers also. In 1951, we started developing the North Central area which included Maben, Eupora, Walthall, Bell Fountain, Slate Springs, Calhoun City, Pittsboro, Bruce and Mantee.
Doyle Cummings remembers...
I started working for the gas company as an apprentice and progressed through the ranks as a meter reader, serviceman and retired as a working manager with 45 years of service. A dog bite is one experience I well remember. I went to a house to read the meter and as I was about to go through the gate to where the meter was, a lady sitting on the porch around the corner, stood up and said, “you better not come through the gate there is a dog in here that will bite you!” I reached my hand down and begin petting the dog and got friendly with it and then proceeded through the gate to read the meter. The next thing I knew, a smaller dog came running from under the house and bit me on the leg. That taught me to heed the advice of others.
While in Starkville, I remember the busiest time of work was between semesters at the college. Turning gas “off” for students leaving and “on” for students returning kept us busy, but we always managed to take care of the workload.
In my work with the gas company, I serviced shacks and mansions. I had the opportunity to meet people with no money and the wealthiest. I learned to get along with all types of people. When I reflect on my career, what I remember most is the joy and satisfaction I got from helping and serving people.