In 1936 a few farmers in Rutherford and Cleveland counties became interested in rural electrification. After a vain attempt to get rural power from investor-owned utilities, they decided to try to form a cooperative and borrow money from the Rural Electrification Administration to build their own lines. Immediately, small community meetings were held in the schools, churches, and in some instances, homes. In months to come, enough of the farmers became interested in undertaking a venture of this magnitude. A canvas of the communities was made to solicit applications for membership in the cooperative. After a sufficient number had been secured, an application for loan funds was submitted to the Rural Electrification Administration. In May 1937, $65,000 was allotted to build approximately 65 miles of line. In the meantime, another application was submitted to the Rural Electrification Administration and an additional allotment of $51,000 was approved. These allotments were combined and a total of 120 miles of line was constructed. The contract for the first section of line was awarded in October 1937, and in April of 1938, the first lines were energized from the above allotments. These 120 miles of line were built to serve 394 members. All during this time Rutherford EMC had opposition from other sources. The sources were skeptical and said a venture of this type could not succeed and that in only a short time the cooperative lines would be sold for ten cents on the dollar.

Immediately after the first lines were energized and people saw that they could secure electric service for themselves, they became more interested and in August of 1938, an additional application was submitted for funds to build 91 additional miles of line. This application was approved in the amount of $120,000 and construction started on this section in October of the same year. While these lines were being constructed, people from adjoining counties of Gaston, Lincoln, Catawba, Burke, McDowell and Polk began streaming into the office, requesting that they be included in the next application for funds. All the time the additional lines were being constructed, other communities were asking that they also be served.

In the early 1940's our country was faced with World War II. Material became scarce and not too long after the war started, line construction was completely halted. During the time that material was scarce, Rutherford EMC accumulated a backlog of applications and people were pleading for electric service. By the end of the war, the existing system had become loaded to capacity. After an engineering study was made, it was decided to improve the system and upgrade the existing lines. An application was made to the Rural Electrification Administration for funds to make system improvements and serve additional members. You could say that Rutherford Electric Membership Corporation was on its way - and the rest is history.

To give you some idea of how Rutherford EMC has grown, we submit the following information.

Year Number of Members
1938 394
1940 2245
1950 8609
1960 13091
1970 20379
1980 31787
1990 44214
2000 58879


Today Rutherford serves over 67,000 members and owns and maintains approximately 7,000 miles of line in its ten-county service area in Western North Carolina.