Location: Vale, Oregon
Started: 1895
Sold to/Ended: Purchased by Rocky Mountain Bell Telephone Co., 1899

The Malheur Home Telephone Company was incorporated in 1895. It served the citizens of Malheur County, in the far southeastern corner county of Oregon, which included the towns of Vale, Ontario, and Jordan Valley. People in the area were really more closely associated with their Idaho neighbors a few miles east. Rocky Mountain Bell purchased a controlling interest in the company in 1899 in exchange for a toll line connecting Malheur to the rest of the telephone network.

When Rocky Mountain Bell became part of Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Company (1911), Mountain States became the owner of the Malheur company. As far as long distance service was concerned, Malheur County, Oregon became part of the Mountain States network.

The Oregon Public Utilities Commission decided to tax Malheur based on all of Mountain Bell’s operations in eight other states. Thus, Malheur Bell became a fully owned subsidiary of Mountain States--the smallest of the Bells.

This brought about some interesting business practices. Malheur had its own construction and installation crews -- usually they were the same guys. The commercial manager was the president of the company, the board of directors consisted of district level people from Idaho and a division level from corporate staff in Denver. All dividends were paid to the owner, Mountain States.

If a major construction job was on tap for Malheur and a line crew and heavy construction trucks were needed, the trucks were “leased” from Mountain States in Idaho and the line crew took a leave of absence from Mountain States in Idaho to be “hired” by Malheur in Oregon. The paperwork was always in order. Of course, Malheur Bell always paid the taxes it owed to the state of Oregon.

Malheur Bell was located in a state served by Pacific Telephone & Telegraph. During the 1960s, Washington, Oregon and Idaho split from PacTel to become a new Bell Operating Company, called Pacific Northwest Bell (PNB). PNB became a sister of Mountain Bell under US WEST ownership in 1984. At the time, Malheur Bell had forty employees serving about 9,000 customers.

By 1984, when the Bell System was broken up, Mountain Bell had acquired 100% of the company's stock, and Malheur continued to operate semi-independently of its parent company. US WEST merged its operating companies ( Pacific Northwest Bell, Northwestern Bell, and Mountain Bell), but Malheur Bell remained independent of the rest of US WEST operations, and continued to use the Bell trademark.

In 2000, US WEST was acquired by Qwest, and US WEST Communications was renamed Qwest Corporation. Malheur Bell, however, continued to operate independently of its parent.

On December 14, 2009, Malheur Bell was merged into its corporate parent, Qwest Corporation, which was purchased by CenturyLink in 2010. Malheur Bell was the last former formerly Bell System company that continued to use the Bell logo in its official corporate logo.

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PICTURED: (above, beginning of article) A Valley Telephone Company stock certificate (THG file photo).