In the late 1930s our country was facing a time of change. In cities and towns across the country, people were making the most of new technologies powered by electricity. But life in rural America was very different…
There were no electric lights, radios, washers and dryers or electric irons. Men, women and children did work by hand, hauling water and cranking the cream separator and corn shelling machines by hand. Farmwives prepared meals on stoves that burned wood or corncobs. In farmhouses and barns light came from the dim glow of kerosene lamps.
Electric companies bypassed the rural areas, hesitant to venture into areas where there were not enough people to pay for the cost of stringing lines and turning on the lights. In the late 1930s, 77 percent of the farms in Jo Daviess County and 82 percent in Carroll County still did not have electricity.
But change was coming, fueled by the Rural Electrification Act (REA) signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935. In August of that year, FDR issued an order to make the REA a lending agency. When rural residents gathered at the town square, in barbershops or across fence lines, talk often turned to the idea of creating their own electric cooperative.
Area farmers met on March 21, 1939, at the Elizabeth High School with Jo Daviess County Farm Bureau President Roy Rife presiding to discuss the possibility of bringing electric service to the farmers of Jo Daviess and Carroll counties. Jo-Carroll Electric Cooperative was formed 11 days later at another meeting at the Carroll County Courthouse.
With a $244,000 loan from the REA, lines were constructed and service extended to members. Unpaid volunteers began canvassing the farms, neighbors calling on neighbors to get them signed up so that the lights would go on that much sooner.
In seven decades, the Cooperative's membership grew from a handful of 60 members to approximately 26,000 electric and natural gas accounts in Jo Daviess, Carroll and Whiteside counties. Growth for the Cooperative was steady as electric service was extended to those who wanted it and as members purchased more and more appliances, lighting and electric equipment on their farms. Construction of Chestnut Mountain Resort in 1962, an upswing in tourism and the development of second homes at Apple Canyon Lake and The Galena Territory continued to drive the growth of the Cooperative. Subdivisions and a variety of large commercial accounts continued that growth in the next two decades.
The biggest change for the Cooperative came in 2005 when Jo-Carroll Energy announced an agreement to acquire Alliant Energy's electric and natural gas service territory in Jo Daviess, Carroll and Whiteside counties. The acquisition nearly tripled the Cooperative's size.
The cooperative saw another milestone in 2013 with the merger of Farmers Mutual Electric Company with Jo-Carroll Energy.
Jo-Carroll Energy now serves a combined total of approximately 20,000 electric accounts and 5,500 natural gas accounts. Our membership continues to grow and diversify as we now serve not only farms but rural second homes, businesses, commercial and industrial facilities and many of the cities and villages within our service territory.
Today, more than 75 employees of Jo-Carroll Energy work to provide dependable, reliable energy, striving to keep members first every day.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives (AIEC)
Cooperative Resource Center (CRC)
Dairyland Power Cooperative
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)
National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC)
National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC)
American Public Gas Association (APGA)