Built in 1878, the San Juan Ridge (located between the middle and south forks of the Yuba River) was the site of the first successful long distance telephone line in the world. It is designated as California Historical Landmark #247 with a plaque at French Corral.
The Milton Co. and the North Bloomfield Co. were joined with the Eureka Lake and Yuba Canal Co. (a water delivery service) who controlled over 200 miles of ditches. Together they formed the Ridge Telephone Company. They contracted with California Electrical of San Francisco to build and start up a 60 mile-long telephone line that ran from French Corral up the San Juan Ridge to Milton Reservoir high in the Sierra.
The company spent 6 months stringing wire across canyons and up almost perpendicular mountain faces along the San Juan Ridge. Over 3,000 feet in elevation climb. There were 30 Edison phones installed; 20 phones were installed in toll offices located in the post office in towns traversed by the system and 10 more were installed on mining company property. The cost was around $6,000.00. It cost .25¢ to send a 20-word message or “dispatch.” The message was given to a toll station operator who would then send the message by voice to another station operator where it would be received and transcribed. The line continued to work with a minimum of service until replaced with a heaver duty system 30 years later in 1903.
AT&T claims that the first long distance line was built in 1880 (two years after San Juan Ridge had theirs) and stretched 45 miles between Boston and Providence. This line, however, was unsuccessful and was taken down almost immediately.