H.O. Miller, an electrician from New Jersey, was assigned to Portsmouth to install the first telephone switchboard in 1880. Next came the installation of telephones. The first connection was on May 15, 1880.
By June 5, 1880, the telephone company had 50 subscribers. Miss Addie Smith operated the switchboard on the third floor of the Spry Building.
In 1881, 33 lines now entered the Telephone Exchange, located on the corner of Second and Market streets.
On May 20, 1882, fire alarm boxes were installed on telephone poles. Citizens were asked to telephone the exchange to report a fire, and the operator would strike the number on the box nearest the place the alarm was sent.
On April 9, 1886, the city council authorized the city to erect or purchase an electric light plant at a cost not over $17,000. Bids to be invited.
H.O. Miller continued to head up the Central Union Telephone Company while supervising the first electric light plant installation. Thus, Miller claimed the distinction of having brought the first electric light to Portsmouth. It was hung on Market Street at Second in front of the Washington Hotel.
In 1891, Portsmouth had 122 new telephone subscribers. However, it wasn’t until Sept. 2, 1897, Portsmouth had long distance service for the first time.
His last work was an electrician in the plant for the Shelby Shoe Company, where he was employed for 30 years. Miller, while helping the citizens of Portsmouth with progress, lost his eyesight to electricity and was totally blind the last 12 years of this earth.
Miller married his life-long sweetheart. She was the niece of Robert Bell. They had five children.
Today, Judith A. Ross of Portsmouth and Sandra Ross Everett of Cleveland are his very proud great-granddaughters.
Judith A. Ross is an author and retired from Hughes Aircraft, Los Angeles.
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