Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative got its start when 22 community leaders from three Missouri counties north of Kansas City—Platte, Clay and Clinton—met in Kearney on August 27, 1938, to sign articles of incorporation and elect a board of directors.

Before the second meeting on September 3, the board had hired an attorney, a secretary and two men to go from farm to farm signing up co-op members. The board also approved by-laws for the co-op and formed a committee to find and recommend an engineering company to design the distribution system.

Howard Alexander, one of the field men, reported at the September 28 meeting that he had signed up 273 members in Platte County. Earl Arnold reported that he had signed up 100 in Clay and Clinton.

“Membership cost $5, no small sum in the height of the Depression,” the co-op’s history notes.

At the October 4 meeting, the board selected T. Archer Co. to do the engineering. It received one more vote than Black & Veatch, another Kansas City company, and a familiar name to electric co-ops to this day.

Meeting again on November 10, the board voted to accept the membership certificates of 360 Platte farmers, 213 Clay and 90 Clinton. Alexander and Arnold had almost doubled their numbers. But they had to keep riding the country roads to get more.

“The REA’s Examining Division told the board to make the system as large as possible to increase the number of potential members and density, which would help operate the co-op as economically as possible,” the history says.

Alexander also reported on easements: 98 in Clay, 125 in Platte, and “another 25 ready to sign,” presumably in Clinton.

“Easements were the building blocks for the new co-op,” the history says.

Farmers willing to give easements without receiving any payment was one of the economic foundations of the federal electrification program designed and run by the Rural Electrification Administration. It was one of the ways to make electricity affordable in rural areas with low consumer density.

There is no mention of a December meeting, but by the January 1939 meeting—just five months after the incorporators met for the first time—the board, with 1,367 memberships certificates in hand, voted to borrow $487,000 from REA to build 456 miles of distribution and transmission lines.

The board opened construction bids at its April 24 meeting and chose the one submitted by O.F. Schroeder Co. of University City, Missouri. It was $25,000 lower than any other. The board also liked that the company had formed a special work group for REA construction projects.

The board dealt with two right-of-way problems at its May 20 meeting. They required route changes that had to be cleared with REA.

A week later everything was set to go. Poles soon started going up on the main roads, and late that fall, Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative lights blinked on for the first time.

Today, the co-op serves more than 25,000 consumers along 3,000 miles of line in seven counties.