Marking Time highlights one of the more than 2,500 markers that have been installed throughout the state since 1914 as part of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program, operated by PHMC's State Historic Preservation Office.

While urban Pennsylvanians benefited from alternating current electricity as early as 1883, more than a half century later, in 1936, seventy-five percent of Pennsylvania’s farmsteads lacked electric service. There had been some enterprising attempts to establish “light plants” powered by windmills, steam engines, and batteries, but the equipment was bulky, costly to purchase and maintain, and produced little electricity. For utility companies — as it remains today — it was prohibitively expensive to build and operate power lines to service customers in sparsely populated areas.

On May 11, 1935, as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) was formed to extend electricity to the country’s rural regions. (The REA operates today as the Rural Utilities Service.) Rural Pennsylvanians organized fourteen rural electric cooperatives in the Commonwealth, and provided most of the labor to install poles and string wires that revolutionized life and work on farms.

Pennsylvania’s first rural electric cooperative (REC), North-western REC, received an REA loan and incorporated on April 30, 1936. On August 5, North-western made history by setting the first REC electrical pole in the ground in Pennsylvania. On May 19, 1937, the cooperative began providing electricity to its first customers.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) installed eleven state historical markers between 1986 and 1992 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary for eleven of the fourteen original rural electric cooperatives. Two original cooperatives in northwestern Pennsylvania, Jefferson REC and Clearfield REC, merged in 1966 to form the United Electric Cooperative. Today, one-third of Pennsylvania, in forty-one counties, is served by RECs, accounting for 12.5 percent of the Commonwealth’s electric distribution lines.

Ten PHMC markers highlighting rural electrification are accessible and include, in the northwestern section of the Commonwealth, Northwestern REC, along Route 198 in Crawford County, near Woodcock Creek Lake, and Central Electric Cooperative, incorporated in 1937 as Central Pennsylvania Rural Electric Cooperative Company, along Route 368, east of Parker, Clarion County. In the northern tier, historical markers recognize Claverack REC (1936), along Route 6 in Bradford County, east of Wysox; Tri-County REC (1936), on Main Street in Mansfield, Tioga County; and Sullivan County REC (1936), along Route 97 near Forksville. Other markers commemorate Southwest Central REC (1937), renamed REA Energy Cooperative in 2001, along Airport Road near Indiana, Indiana County; Valley REC (1938), along Route 26 at Huntingdon, Huntingdon County; New Enterprise REC (1938), one of the few RECs in the country never to borrow REA funds, along Route 869 at Enterprise, Bedford County; Bedford REC (1939), along State Route 2010 (old Route 30) east of Bedford, Bedford County; and Adams Electric Cooperative (1940), along Route 34 north of Gettysburg, Adams County.

PHMC observes the seventy-fifth anniversary of the New Deal as its year-long theme through 2008. For 2009, PHMC has adopted “Energy: Innovation and Impact” as its annual theme to promote public awareness of energy and its affect on Pennsylvanians.