Ponderosa Press Release
Telephone Celebrates 100 Years of Family Business: Shares Secrets to
Ponderosa Telephone Company of O’Neals, CA is
celebrating 100 years of business.
The Bigelow family story is the story of the
and the determined pioneers who tamed the rough and tumble territory in
the late 1800’s. This telephone business was founded by Harmon Bigelow
and is one of a handful of companies surviving 100 years in the
that is still family-owned and operated.
In 1900 young Harmon secured a contract to
transport U.S. Mail from
to Fresno Flats and O’Neals with just 2 horses and a small spring
wagon. The need for
transportation services for the foothill and mountain communities grew
and a stageline business was born.
The telephone business was actually inspired by
Harmon’s wife Leota. Leota
lived on the homestead ranch north of downtown O’Neals and wanted to
speak with her mother, who lived a mile away. The whole thing started
with 2 phones from a mail order catalog.
Harmon grew the telephone network from a family convenience, to
an essential communications tool for the stageline business, ultimately
extending to the surrounding foothill communities of Friant, North Fork,
Throughout the years there have been relatively few
family leadership transitions. In
1938 Jesse Bigelow took over as president following the death of his
father Harmon. Jesse continued to grow the business through significant
investment in the network infrastructure while continuing his ranching
raising sheep and cattle. In
1979 Jesse Bigelow died and passed the reins to his son, Robert Bigelow,
assisted by Bob Silkwood, who was married to Jesse’s only daughter,
In the early 1980s tragedy struck the family as
Jesse, Robert Bigelow and Bob Silkwood passed away within an 18-month
span. This left the family
leadership to Jesse’s only daughter
. When asked how she coped with such a tragic and sudden responsibility
of leadership Luanne answers with the same determined conviction of her
pioneer family, “There was nothing to do but run the business and move
25 years after assuming leadership of the family
telephone company, Mrs. Silkwood, owns and directs the company along
with her daughter Kristi Mattes, Vice President, and nephew Frank
Bigelow, Vice President. When asked for the secret to enduring a century
of family ownership, she responded that Ponderosa Telephone is not just
a business, it is a family lifestyle:
“For 5 generations my family has been
passionately invested in a rural lifestyle and their community: from
logging to stageline transportation to ranching and communications.
Providing quality communication solutions for life in the surrounding
communities is a natural extension to preserving a beloved rural
My secret to success in business is I am only as
successful as the people I surround myself with.
Without the talents of our management team and employees there
would be no Ponderosa Telephone. Attracting
capable employees along with the flexible mindset by our family
leadership results in a commitment to serve our customers and will take
Ponderosa to another century of successful business.”
A historic timeline of Ponderosa Telephone has been
compiled and presented at www.goponderosa.com/centennial
so customers, employees and historians can understand the grand scheme
of a small business, telecommunications technology and the
’s rural lifestyle through Ponderosa’s historic journey.
Telephone is located approximately 25 miles northeast of
. 80 employees serve approximately 10,000 subscriber lines in Friant,
Tollhouse, Auberry, Prather,
, Wishon, O’Neals and
. Services include Internet, Long Distance and Cable TV.