Horses and a wagon stand in front of Samuel Snell’s drugstore, at what today is 15 Queen Street North.  Samuel’s store was one of six in the Rutherford ‘block’ which was built in 1886 after fire destroyed much of the east side of Queen Street. NOTE the board sidewalk.

The newspaper office at 52 Queen Street North. The telephone switchboard was housed here from around 1908 until 1911. The Leavens family were called on to answer incoming calls after office staff went home.


  • The first telephone in Bolton was installed in 1888 when the Bell Telephone Company built a long distance line from Toronto to Arthur through Weston, Bolton, Caledon and Orangeville  1.  The phone, used for long distance calls only, was located in Samuel Snell’s drug store
  • Samuel Snell had just rebuilt his store and business after the devastating fire in 1886 which destroyed many of the buildings on the east side of Queen Street.  Samuel was Bolton’s postmaster (1881-1908) 2 and also served as Reeve (1892-1893)    
  • Bell Telephone’s 1899 Western Ontario Directory lists Samuel Snell as Bell Telephone manager in Bolton and the only person with a telephone 
  • The following year, grist mill owner Arthur McFall built a private telephone line to connect the mill with the railway station.  He also arranged for his own long distance connection from the mill, becoming the first Bell subscriber
  • The 1904 directory lists the following subscribers: A.A. McFall grist mill, A.A. McFall residence, W. G. Beamish butcher, O.M. Hodson hardware, F.N. Leavens printer and CP railway station
  • In 1908, Samuel Snell retired.  In May that year, a group of local businessmen recognized the need to expand local telephone service and formed the Bolton Telephone Company Limited 3.  Arthur McFall became President of the board
  • This new company became Bell Canada’s service agent for the long distance line into Snell’s drugstore and 30 local area lines including the six in Bolton
  • Under William Caldwell’s management, Bolton Telephone Company soon ran hundreds of new lines locally and in the surrounding townships
  • The telephone switchboard servicing the new lines was initially housed in the newspaper office.  Subscribers were required to crank a magneto generator to signal an operator that they wished to make a call
  • In 1911, Bolton Telephone Company built a corporate building at the corner of Queen Street and Sterne.  It replaced the circa 1877 Pearcy Block
  • In 1956, Bell Telephone Company purchased Bolton Telephone.  There were some 1300 telephones in service
  • Bell upgraded the service and in 1961 introduced dial telephones in the community
This early 1930s photo shows the Bolton Telephone Building and next to it the business of Thomson Dick.
Bolton Telephone Company building, built in 1911, housed the Bolton Telephone Company, the D. Culham Law Office and the Bell Telephone Company
Electa Graham, Bolton Telephone Company. Electa worked for BTC for 20 years and for Bell for another 21
Olive Henderson, Bolton Telephone Company. She worked for Bolton Telephone for 28 years (1928 – 1956), starting when she was 20. She then worked for Bell Telephone for another 17 years (1957 – 1974).
Standing: n/a, Glenna Irwin, n/a, Nolly Baguley, Marg Beamish, Barre Hoar, Jean Thomas (Mrs. Fred Thomas)?, n/a Sitting: Annie Robertson, Edith McCauley, Helen Hardwick, Ann Rind (?)
  • A major strength of the Bolton Telephone Company was the dedicated group of telephone operators who, over the years, worked 24 /7 long before it was common practice
  • In some cases, male family members would sleep on a cot in the office while their  daughters or sisters worked the switchboard night shift
1944 or 1945 photo L to R:: Freda Woods, Verna Wallace Courtney, Doreen Ruddick Wallace, Audrey Sheardown Jones, Lorna Stubbs, Olive Henderson
L to R: Marg Beamish, Angela Cowley, Helen Hardwick, Electa Graham
Olive Henderson, a Bolton descendent through her Mother’s, (Alice Harper) great great grandmother Maria Bolton Fuller
L to R: Annie Roberson, n/a, Marilyn Sharp (Mrs. Bill Sharp), Alvine Greshuk, Joan Chamberlain.

Lineman and Chief Operator Honored At Turkey Dinner

Below is a transcription of an article which appeared in the Bolton Enterprise (1956).


At the close of business on Friday, December 21, the Bolton Telephone Company Limited will finally complete operations in this district to be succeeded by the Bell Telephone Company of Canada, who have purchased the Bolton system.  The Bolton Telephone Co. Limited have rendered telephone service here since 1907 and thus completed close to nearly a half century of business operation.  The changeover to the new owners will be quietly carried through and subscribers of the company, according to Mr. M.C. Rowe, manager, may rest assured there will be no stoppage of service as the change of ownership takes place.

To mark the transition in telephone ownership and to honour employees, a turkey dinner was served in the home of Mrs. Helen Hardwick.  An employee honored was George Hibbert, who for the past several years has been serving as chief lineman.  Mr. Hibbert will shortly assume a similar post with the Wellesley Telephone system near Kitchener.  Miss Olive Henderson made the presentation of a handsome smoking stand from his fellow employees.  The thought was expressed that George leaves the Bolton area and the company after serving the telephone company and its subscribers well.  He takes with him the high regard of a host of friends.

Another presentation was made to Miss Olive Henderson, a long and valued employee, who in recent years has served in the dual capacity of head operator and business secretary.  In making the presentation, Mrs. Electa Graham referred to Miss Henderson’s faithful service and cooperation with fellow employees.   She was the recipient of an engraved fountain pen from her fellow employees.  Miss Henderson and Mr. Hibbert both expressed the pleasure derived from working with such fine fellow employees.

Among those in attendance at the party were Mrs. George Robertson, Mrs. Electa Graham, Mrs. Clifford Bryan, Mrs. George Erwin, Miss Ethel Newlove, Mrs. Fred Preston, Mrs. Vic. Robinson, Mrs. Don Baguley, Mrs. M. Beamish, Miss Olive Henderson, Mrs. H. Hardwick, Milford Moffat, Harvey Witty and George Hibbert.

  1. Thomas Grindlay, A History of the Independent Telephone Industry in Ontario, Ontario Telephone Service Commission, 1975
  3. The initial board members included: Frank N. Leavens, Arthur McFall, Robert Smith, Henry A. Rutherford and William Caldwell