Telegraph equipment on display at Milford coffee house

MILFORD – After Samuel Morse patented his telegraph in 1837, what was then the most modern communication system in the world came to Milford 12 years later when a line was extended from Nashua, and the first office was located at 22 Nashua St.

Later, the Milford postmaster operated the system in Eagle Hall, where the post office was located, and then town hall when it was built in 1869. From there the telegraph equipment was moved to a shoe store, then to the railroad station and then to Dyer’s Drug Store.

“During World War II, Mr. Raymond Dyer found the number of calls too much to handle,” according to the town history, so Mrs. Arthur Taylor began taking the messages at her home at 7 High St.

The Milford Historical Society has the old equipment and recently lent it to the South Street coffee shop called the Union Coffee Company. On the wall display are microphone/speakers, a transmit/receive switch and other apparatus.

The Historical Society installed the mounting bar at Union Coffee so displays can be easily changed.

“We certainly have a sharp bunch of volunteers with the love of Milford in common,” David Palance, the society’s president, said in an email.

In the 20th century, the telephone gradually replaced the telegraph, and that’s where the Union Coffee Company comes into the story, because the Milford Telephone Company was located in the second floor of the coffee shop’s building.

In the early years of Milford’s phone service, the switchboard was located in a restaurant on the Oval and calls were handled by waitresses. No calls could be done at night or on Sundays when the restaurant was closed.

Eventually the switchboard moved to South Street and the operators were called “Hello Girls.”

A person placing a call would turn a crank on his phone, was answered with a “Hello,” and then gave the operator the name of the party he wished to call.

In 1961 a new dial system eliminated the need for local operators.

At the Historical Society’s Carey House Museum, 6 Union St., there are more displays from Milford history. It is open from 2-4 p.m., April through December, the second Saturday and Sunday of the month.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.