The Appalachian Power Company began in 1910 when a group of entrepreneurs decided that hydroelectric dams could be built on the New River in Virginia to supply electricity to the burgeoning coal country of southern West Virginia. The company built two dams in Virginia and an 88,000-volt transmission line to carry electricity across the mountains to West Virginia.
During the early 1920s, American Electric Power, then known as American Gas & Electric Power Company, began acquiring small companies in a half-dozen states, including West Virginia. In 1926, AG&E consolidated a dozen of these companies, including Appalachian Power, into a new subsidiary it called Appalachian Electric Power.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Appalachian’s construction crews strung transmission lines across much of southern West Virginia. The crews lived in camps, slept in tents, and ate their meals from chuck wagons. Ox teams were used to drag steel for transmission towers up hills, where it was set in foundations dug by hand with picks and shovels or blasted out of solid rock. Interrupted by World War II, the construction program resumed after the war, and by 1949 electricity was available throughout the 21 counties the company served in southern West Virginia.
With a growing economy and an increasing number of customers, the company needed to expand its generating capacity. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Appalachian and Ohio Power Company jointly constructed the Philip Sporn Plant on the Ohio River in Mason County. Construction of other coal-fired power plants followed. Originally founded to bring electricity to the coalfields of southern West Virginia, Appalachian essentially reversed that process by using West Virginia coal to generate electricity and send it to the nation. ‘‘Coal by wire,’’ some called it.
In a 1958 corporate reorganization, the company’s name again became Appalachian Power Company, or Apco for short. The venerable corporate name was retired in 1996, when parent American Electric Power imposed a single corporate identity. In 2004, Appalachian Power Company resumed its own name, while remaining part of AEP. Appalachian Power, which is headquartered in Charleston, serves about 1 million customers in West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee. American Electric Power has more than 5 million customers in 11 states. Its headquarters is in Columbus, Ohio.
This Article was written by James E. Casto
Last Revised on December 09, 2010