Haywood EMC is here to provide affordable, reliable, safe services and open communications.
When a small group of residents in the Pigeon, East Fork and Cecil Townships of Haywood County began wrestling with the idea of providing themselves and their neighbors with electricity to make life much easier, they didn’t waste any time turning their ideas into actions. They knew that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed an Executive Order for the establishment of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) to provide money to build electric lines through the rural areas of America and they wanted to be able to enjoy the conveniences already available in city homes and businesses by taking advantage of the government’s assistance. The private electric companies had refused to extend their lines to the rural areas because it would not be profitable. So organizing an Electric Cooperative was their only hope of getting electricity any time soon.
The first recorded meeting of the organizers occurred on October 20, 1938 at Rickman’s Store in Cruso with William B. Poston, Ira H. Cogburn, Mrs. Etta P. (McCall) Grogan, D.L. Pless, Mrs. E.B. Rickman, C.M. Deaver and Watson Howell in attendance. A proposed charter for the Cruso Mutual Electric Company was presented at the meeting and subsequently filed with the Secretary of State on October 31, 1938.
There was a lot of work to be done to get things moving as quickly as possible. The by-laws had to be drawn up to meet the qualifications of a Cooperative as defined by the REA. Each family had to be approached about becoming a member of the Cooperative and right-of-way easements had to be secured from the landowners so that the power lines could be built across their property.
The Cooperative’s formal organizational meeting took place on the evening of January 19, 1939. The meeting was conducted by lamplight in the feed room of Rickman’s warehouse across the road from Rickman’s Store. The name of Cruso Mutual Electric Company was approved and the by-laws were adopted. The seven organizers present at the October 20, 1938 meeting were again present and paid a membership fee of five dollars to become the first official member-owners of the Cooperative.
The Cooperative immediately submitted its first loan application to REA for building 37 miles of line to serve approximately 170 members in the Bethel, Cruso and Lake Logan communities. Upon receiving REA loan approval, line construction began and on August 23, 1939 at 10:00 a.m. the power was switched on at the Carolina Power & Light Company metering point and it was no longer necessary for some rural residents to clean blackened lamp globes each day for lighting in their homes.
During its first year of operation, the Cooperative had three different superintendents or managers. Carter Trull was the first, followed by Oscar Briggs and in February 1940, J.W. Howell became manager. On August 10, 1940, the Cruso Mutual Electric Company was re-chartered under the name of Cruso Electric Membership Corporation in order to receive a greater tax break through the North Carolina Membership Act.
More and more rural residents were anxious to receive electricity. In the fall of 1940, the second REA loan amounting to $135,000 was granted to provide electric service to over 600 new members in the Beaverdam, Clyde, Fines Creek, Iron Duff, Jonathan Creek and Ivy Hill Townships. Bethel-Cruso would no longer be the center of activity so the Cooperative office was moved to Clyde. J.W. Howell resigned as superintendent and was replaced by Jim Moore. Because of the extensive work being done in Haywood County, the Cooperative was re-chartered as Haywood Electric Membership Corporation on November 30, 1943. The Cooperative office was moved to Main Street Waynesville where it remained until moving to its new headquarters facility in the spring of 1953, at 1560 Asheville Road, Waynesville.
The lack of building materials curtailed line construction during World War II. The board of directors changed the by-laws to allow for expansion into other counties and as soon as the war ended, progress resumed. In 1943, the Cooperative purchased the Hominy Power Company in Buncombe Country and in 1945 secured electric contracts with Nantahala Power & Light Company and Duke Power Company for supplying wholesale power to Transylvania, Macon and Jackson Counties in North Carolina. Service was later extended into Rabun County, Georgia, and Oconee County, South Carolina.
In September 1945, Superintendent Jim Moore resigned and was replaced by R.C. Sheffield, the Cooperatives first full time bookkeeper. Sheffield managed the Cooperative until 1974 at which time John W. Browning assumed the position.
Providing reliable electric service at the lowest possible cost to rural residents was the basis for the beginning of Haywood Electric Membership Corporation. The Cooperative is still operated under the same basis today. However, it has not been an easy path of growth for Haywood EMC. The Cooperative’s service area contains some of the most rugged, mountainous terrain in the state thus the cost of providing electric service is more costly here, especially in the areas of right-of-way clearing and maintenance. Every avenue for cutting expenses must be explored.
The determination of the small group of rural Haywood County residents to have electricity over 78 years ago has resulted in electric service to approximately 27,000 meters today.
Haywood EMC moved into their new headquarters located at 376 Grindstone Road, Waynesville in July 2009 and is now in their 80th year of serving the citizens of Western North Carolina. Haywood EMC is governed by a Board of Directors who are also served by the Cooperative and represents the Co-ops nine directorate districts.