When did the telephone arrive in Bluffton?
According to accounts in early issues of the Bluffton News, on Aug. 22, 1898, Bluffton’s council granted John Amstutz the right to construct a telephone and telegraph "plant" in Bluffton.
Amstutz was granted this free of charge, and also granted the use of all but a few of the posts and poles used in operating the town’s new light system.
The telephone rates were to be uniform, not exceeding $30 per year for business houses, firms and offices, nor $18 per year for private residences.
It was further stipulated, that when demanded by the village, the company should furnish free rental and exchange service for one “instrument” at the mayor’ office, two at the water works, one at the fire department house and one at the light office.
Although Amstutz was granted the franchise, he never organized the proposed telephone company.
Instead, he sold the franchise to the Central Union Telephone Co of Lima., and by Sept. 15, 1898, the company had completed a line through West Cairo, Columbus Grove, Leipsic, Deshler and McComb, which connected to Bluffton.
The office was located on the second floor of what is today Twisted Whisk Café. at 102 S. Main St.
At the time the franchise was sold, Amstutz made arrangements for the installation of a telephone in his own home, which was the first home to have a telephone in Bluffton’s rural area.
The photograph with this story shows the Bluffton Telephone Company switchboard. Linda Swank and Mabel Crawford sit at the switchboard.
In 1903 the exchange had nearly 500 subscribers. The Bluffton News stated that this company had one of the largest customer bases of any town of its size in the country.
Today, the origins of the telephone here are part of forgotten Bluffton.
Bluffton's first telephone switch board was in the second floor of what is today the Twisted Whisk Cafe.