The Seneca Telephone Company was organized in 1889 by W.A. Chandler and Mr. Gohagan. A total of 30 telephone lines were run out of the first telephone office, located above the Sparlin Hardware Store and later across the street on the upper level of the Chase Building. In 1936, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Mitchell, who had previously owned telephone companies in Longton and Elks Falls, Kansas, bought Seneca Telephone Company from Mr. Chandler and others. At the time of the sale, Seneca had 109 telephones served with one cable and braided drop wire. Three months after the sale of the company, in early 1937, an ice storm hit Southwest Missouri, leaving only 11 telephones in service. With local help, the Mitchells rebuilt the exchange, and in 1938 they built the current Seneca Telephone Company office. The operation expanded again when the Seneca Telephone Company took over many of the farm lines in Tiff City. In 1953, Seneca became the first XY dial conversion in the state of Missouri. The switchover took place with the help of the Mitchells’ son, Walter, who was home on leave from the U.S. Signal Corp. The Seneca Telephone Company was also one of the first Missouri REA Borrowers.
The Goodman Telephone Company began in 1920, when a Mr. Hazard owned the company. It was then bought in 1943 by V.F. “Shorty” Garoutte, an automobile mechanic in the town. The Garoutte family expanded the company by buying the Lanagan exchange from Wally Roper. In the 1950s, the family sold the company to Roy Eppard, loaning him enough money to operate for 30 days while making monthly payments of $25 on the business. Later, Roy and Violet Eppard borrowed money from the REA and converted the telephones to dial before selling the Goodman and Lanagan exchanges to Walter Mitchell in 1972. The company was also the first in the state to provide 100% digital switching.
Ozark Telephone Company was created on April 1, 1996, resulting from the purchase of two exchanges from GTE by the Walt Mitchell family. At the time of the purchase, Ozark was served by XY equipment. The two exchanges comprising Ozark Telephone Company are Southwest City and Noel.
This small community, located between Noel and Anderson on Highway 59, began as the dream of an oil speculator named Fausett. Fausett was an employee of the New York Petroleum Company who began drilling in 1896. Striking a powerful sulfur spring caused cessation of work and forfeiture of the lease. A consortium of speculators, one of whom was named Lanagan, bought up 40 acres of the lease in 1887 in anticipation of the railroad being routed along Indian Creek. The railroad arrived in 1889 and the newly established community was named Sulphur Wells City. Years later, when the Ozark Orchard secured most of the land, a depot was built and the name was changed to Lanagan. Today, this small town is home to a beautiful, popular park along Indian Creek complete with camping hookups, shady picnic areas, and a covered pavilion for gatherings.
Southwest City’s location in the southwesternmost part of the county gave the city it’s moniker. Southwest City dates back to 1842, when first settlement took place. Situated as it was along the border of Indian territory, the town soon became a crossroads for travelers and a social gathering place for drummers, bootleggers, and land speculators. The town retains that frontier atmosphere today, although it’s now a modern progressive community. Bordering both Arkansas and Oklahoma, it’s the only tri-cornered part of Missouri on dry land, as rivers or streams establish all of Missouri’s other tri-cornered boundaries.
Near Buffalo Creek on the Oklahoma border is Tiff City. Early in the town’s history, it was directly adjacent to Indian territory, and was a great location for retail trade with the Seneca Indian neighbors. The first post office was built in 1876, and by 1881, the city had grown substantially. Today, Tiff City is a close-knit community with several retail businesses, an active community life, and a volunteer fire department.