Cima, CA-2020-Archive

Ponderosa Telephone

Celebrating Our Heritage The Bigelow family story is the story of the Central San Joaquin Valley and the determined pioneers who tamed the rough and tumble territory in the late 1800s. This telephone business was founded by Harmon Bigelow and is one of a handful of companies surviving over 100 years in the Central Valley that is still family-owned and operated. In 1900, young Harmon secured a contract to transport U.S. mail from Madera to Fresno Flats and O’Neals with just two 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 started when Harmon’s wife Leota ordered two phones from a mail order catalog so she could speak with her mother who lived a mile away. Harmon grew the telephone network from a family convenience to an essential communications tool for the stageline, ultimately extending to the surrounding foothill communities. Throughout the years there have been relatively few family leadership transitions. When Harmon died, he passed the reins to his son Jesse until the early 1980s when tragedy struck the family. Jesse Bigelow, Robert Bigelow and Bob Silkwood (who married Jesse’s daughter Luanne) passed away within an 18-month span. This left the family leadership to Jesse’s only daughter, Luanne Silkwood, who remains the chairperson of Ponderosa today. When asked for the secret to enduring a century of family ownership, Luanne responded, “Ponderosa Telephone is not just a business, it is 5 generations of a rural American family lifestyle that must be preserved for future generations. In business, I am only as successful as the people I surround myself with. With the talents of my managers and employees, a continued flexible mindset from family

leadership, plus commitment to our customers, Ponderosa will continue to thrive.” Ponderosa Telephone celebrated 100 years of family-owned business in 2008. Explore a detailed historic journey at


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