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Culver Electric

On January 15, 1892 a license was issued to incorporate the Decatur Manufacturing Company, to make merchandise.  The incorporators were John H. Culver, E.T. Coleman, and Elmer E. Gibson.  The company made the Brush gas machine and their office was located on State St. over Bold's Machine Shop. 

In March of 1892 R.F. Piatt of Monticello came to Decatur to start a new electric light company.  He was granted a franchise by the city council and had plenty of people who said they will take their light from the company.  He planned to have the plant on the line of the Wabash North of the business part of town.  His temporary plant was in the power house of the City Electric Railway Company and he made arrangements with the company to rent their poles for the use of arc current wires.  In May of 1892 Piatt offered to wire the new courthouse for incandescent lights free of charge in return for the right to light the court house for five years at the ruling rate.  The value of the work would have been $1,000. 

When Piatt started up his arc light circuit for the first time, it did not go well.  It burst into flames.  Around this same time the Decatur Manufacturing Company closed a contract with Piatt for electrical supplies.  they contracted to do all the wiring for the lighting furnished by Piatt's Electric Lighting Company.  The Decatur Manufacturing Company rented a room in the Opera House Building and planned to have the most complete stock of electrical supplies to be found in the sate of Illinois, outside of Chicago.  Electric appliances were displayed at their store on Water St., and they sold push buttons, bells, annunciators, buzzers, shades, lockets, clusters and other electrical items. 

The Decatur Manufacturing Company secured the contract to wire the new hotel in Taylorville in 1892.  Their bid was $1.50 less than a firm from St. Louis. 

Piatt Electric Company was incorporated in July of 1892.  The incorporators were John H. Culver, Elmer E. Gibson and Richard F. Piatt.  They immediately began plans to build the Review Building at the Southwest corner of N. Main St. and North St.  The building housed The Daily Review and Piatt Electric Co. The newspaper occupied the corner of the 1st floor and part of the 2nd floor.  The Piatt Electric Co. occupied the back of the basement with their power plant and the front South section of the 1st floor for their office and electrical supply business.  The upper floors were rented by manufacturing companies. 

Macon Co. Courthouse 1892.jpg

In September of 1892 Piatt Electric Co. was awarded the contract for the wiring and lighting of the court house. 

However, around this time, Mr. Piatt disappeared.  He was found to have been in another state. Problems continued as Mr. Piatt was sued a month later for unpaid wages and money he had borrowed.  By the middle of October ownership of the company was in question and creditors were after Piatt.  

Review Building Sketch from TDR 07101892.jpg

Municipal Electric Company was founded in January of 1893 after John Culver and partners left Piatt Electric Co. Their power plant had three boilers, a St. Louis Corliss engine and four dynamos. 

Interior of Power House of Municipal Electric Co..jpg

By December of 1895, Municipal Electric Co. was the largest power house in the state outside of Chicago.  They used only the finest equipment, and provided lights to all the public buildings in the county and city including the court house, post office, library and engine houses, as well s the Millikin Building, Morehouse and wells building, the new Temple block, The Guards Armory, Arcade building, Fenton block, First Presbyterian Church, all the jewelry stores and all but two of the clothing stores. 


A new power house was built in 1896.  In June of 1896 a bill in chancery was filed against the Municipal Electric Co. and a receiver was requested, stating the company had not complied with a loan repayment.  The company was put in the hands of a receiver in June of 1896, who was discharged in April of 1897.  The company was reorganized in April of 1987 and stock was held by John H. Culver and James S. Culver of Springfield.   In May the name of the company was changed to Culver Electric Co.  In 1898 Culver Electric consolidated with Decatur Gas & Electric Co..  John and James Culver sold their interest in the company in February of 1899.  They were still connected to Culver Electric.  

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