eBill Operation RoundUp
about energy safety publications Community Programs
75th History Project
Who was La Verendrye?

CopyofVerendryeonhorseback.jpgFew North Dakotans would question that Verendrye Electric Cooperative has the most unique name of all the electric cooperatives in the state.

In this first installment of a year-long series about the history of Verendrye Electric Cooperative, the origins of the cooperative’s name, and a brief history of the man behind the name will be explained.

Read the full story.



Dream of electricity started in Verendrye
Churchpeople.jpgTo find the place where the dream of Verendrye Electric Cooperative began, go off the beaten path to a location no longer on the map. It is now a farm with only two residents, but it was once bustling with a railroad depot, grain elevators, hotel, service station, lumber yard, brick school, post office, bank, two churches, stores and other businesses.
The dream of electrifying rural homes in the region began in the tiny town of Verendrye.

Read more about how the cooperative started in the small town of Verendrye.

Read full story.


Living a big dream in a small town
David Blackstead remembers how his father started Verendrye Electric Cooperative

Seventy-four years ago David Blackstead, then a 12-year-old boy, witnessed a national movement that would change his way of life in the tiny town of Verendrye.          
It was 1939. Adolf Hitler's troops invaded Poland on September 1 to start World War II, America was still in the grips of the Great Depression and North Dakota farmers were struggling with drought and poor crop prices. Front page headlines provided a daily mix of wartime correspondence from abroad and economic troubles at home.
But through all the hard times and bad news, something great was about to happen in Verendrye; something that would spread beyond the tiny town to brighten the lives of thousands. That 12-year-old boy didn’t know it at the time, but he was about to be a part of one of the greatest achievements in our country’s history: rural electrification.

Read the full story here.


We have an electric cooperative, now what?

In 1939 Verendrye Electric Cooperative went from a dream to a reality. Cooperative founders had convinced several people to pay $5 to join the cooperative and a headquarters was established in an abandoned bank in the tiny town of Verendrye.
Rural electrification was finally on its way for thousands of rural residents in the area, but the hard work had just begun. Organizers still had to convince the Rural Electric Administration (REA) there were enough members to buy enough power to make the cooperative feasible. They also needed to figure out just how to build an electric cooperative.
When cooperatives first got going, the REA would assign advisors to provide technical advice. “One unique feature of the REA was they provided regional field engineers to help all of the cooperatives.

Read Full Story.



Food, Fun and politics:
A history of Verendrye Annual Meetings

The Verendrye Electric Annual meeting epitomizes what it means to be a member of a cooperative. Its lively atmosphere provides a celebration of togetherness. Its election gives members democratic control of their cooperative and its business meeting educates them about the health of the cooperative. Add in a delicious meal, entertainment and speeches from dignitaries, and it becomes a time-honored tradition for the whole family.
“When I remember the annual meetings as a kid, our whole family would take the day to attend and we knew it as Verendrye Day,” said Verendrye board chairman Blaine Bruner. “It was a time to meet up with your friends and neighbors you hadn’t seen in a while, but it was also important because it gave you a chance to participate in your cooperative.”
While the quintessential elements of today’s annual meeting have evolved over the years, most of what happens at the meetings is steeped in tradition going back to when the cooperative was founded in 1939.

Read full story here.

Verendrye helped establish “Giant Power”
That old cliché that “history repeats itself” is definitely true when it comes to the demand for electricity. Verendrye Electric Cooperative and its generation and transmission cooperatives (G&Ts) are continually planning for future growth just like they had to in the early days.

For $3.50 a month the first members of Verendrye Electric Cooperative members received 40 kilowatt-hours of power, and some people thought they would never use that much. Today, an average household can easily consume 40 kwh in one day. Over the years, population growth, combined with all of the conveniences of today’s modern home and high-tech gadgets, has created a need for more sources of electricity and a push for energy conservation.

Read Full Story


Verendrye members describe “when the lights came on”
By Cleo CantlonKWHposter.jpg

The wonder of electrifying rural North Dakota farmsteads was a watershed event that increased agricultural productivity, giving farmers new opportunities that forever changed their lives. But in the daily routines of men and women living on the prairies, electricity provided miracles affecting every aspect of how they lived that are now taken for granted.

Opinions vary among those early recipients of electric power as to what was the most important result of "turning on the lights" but certainly refrigeration was near the top of the list for most. And there is no way to discount the value of the electric lights themselves. "When we got lights in the barn," one early day farmer said, "we found two more cows to milk than we had seen before."
Read the full story.


National dignitaries visited Verendrye by rail in 1925

Visitors to a peculiar 10-ton granite monument in Verendrye can still feel the rumble and hear the horns of locomotives blaze as trains zoom through the forgotten town. The thundering Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway freight trains provide a daily reminder that Verendrye, like many other communities, lived and died by the railroad.

Trains have been a part of  Verendrye for more than 100 years, and the town used to be an important place to the Great Northern Railway, which needed to stop there for water for steam engines. After the railroad no longer needed Verendrye’s access to Souris River water, the town eventually dried up. But on one glorious summer day 88 years ago, Verendrye was perhaps the most important destination, or at least the most talked about destination of the day for the railroad.

Read full story.VerendryePostcard.jpg


Verendrye has powered the Air Force for decades
By the early 1950s members of Verendrye Electric Cooperative had proven that a group of farmers could build a successful electric cooperative from scratch. But in 1955 the cooperative would face a new test of its abilities – a test that to this day has proven to one of its greatest achievements, resulting in a decades-long partnership to electrify one of the most powerful places on Earth.

Read the full story.


Verendrye used to encourage members to use lots of electricity

It was a luxury for the first members of Verendrye Electric to have a few electrical outlets for lights, a refrigerator and a radio. Fast forward about 75 years and homes have outlets on nearly every wall to plug in all kinds of appliances and gadgets.

Because of the proliferation of electrical devices, rising energy costs and a nationwide movement to save energy, Verendrye Electric promotes conservation. However, in the early days of the cooperative, the opposite was true.

“When Verendrye was new, the members were encouraged to use as much energy as possible because it brought in money that helped the cooperative get on its feet,” said Verendrye Assistant Manager Randy Hauck.

Read Full Story.





IceChunk.jpg1983 ice storm was a beast

Year-by-year, mile-by-mile, Verendrye Electric has built an electrical distribution system serving thousands of member owners. In one weekend in March 1983 a large part of that system was destroyed. Poles snapped and splintered after freezing rain coated wires with five pounds of ice per foot in places, leaving over a thousand members in the dark.

Verendrye has faced the wrath of Mother Nature on several occasions, but to this day the 1983 ice storm remains the disaster to which all other disasters are compared.
“I’ve never seen an ice storm as bad as that 83 storm in our area,” said Gene Shoenberg, who farms southwest of Velva.

Read full story.
Your Touchstone Energy Partner