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Company History

It all began with Sawdust

The Entergy story began with a pile of sawdust and a handshake. The sawdust belonged to H. H. Foster, president of the Arkansas Land and Lumber Company. The handshake was between Foster and Harvey Couch, president of Arkansas Power Company.

Couch was an entrepreneur who lived in Arkansas at the turn of the 20th century. He invested in a phone company, radio station, railroad and his biggest success, an electric power company. On Nov. 13, 1913, with a $500,000 line of credit and a franchise to provide electricity to the Arkansas towns Malvern and Arkadelphia, Couch shook hands with H. H. Foster for his sawdust. Couch would use sawdust from Foster’s lumber company as fuel to generate electricity for his power company. It was a new beginning for Harvey Couch and electric service in the state.

Couch’s ultimate goal was to have an integrated electric system with numerous sources of power at a reasonable price. Service reliability was foremost on his mind. He knew if he could provide a reliable product at a good price he would succeed. With the fuel source secured, Couch began work on electrifying the state.

 

On Dec.17, 1914, Malvern and Arkadelphia were lit up as the generators at the lumber company were turned on for the first time. Now called Arkansas Light and Power Company, Arkansas’ newest endeavor to bring the benefits of electricity to the rural south began with two 550 kilowatt generators and 22 miles of transmission lines.

Couch’s company grew rapidly. Ten years later he completed construction of the Remmel hydroelectric dam on the Ouachita River. His transmission system now covered 300 miles. With a 9,000 kilowatt generator in place, Couch set his sights beyond the state’s boundaries.

 

Couch began acquiring independent electric properties in Jackson, Vicksburg, Columbus and Greenville, Miss. His plan was to develop an interconnected system much like the one in Arkansas, but between states. On April 12, 1923, Mississippi Power and Light Company was incorporated in Mississippi.

 

The fuel and electricity for this new company would come from Louisiana. The Louisiana Power Company was formed so Couch could take full advantage of the abundant supply of natural gas found in northern Louisiana. In November 1925, Couch’s Sterlington generating station was placed online. The largest power plant south of St. Louis, its 30,000 kilowatt capacity was owned by three companies: Arkansas Light and Power, Mississippi Power and Light, and Louisiana Power Company.

At the dedication of the Sterlington plant, Gov. Harvey Parnell of Arkansas said, “Harvey Couch has done more to develop these three states – Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi – than any other man.” Couch’s goal of an integrated electric system was becoming a reality.

Elsewhere, the competition to electrify New Orleans was fierce. Electric lighting had been introduced there at the 1884 Cotton Centennial Exposition, but high costs, fear and unreliability were obstacles to electrifying the city. In the early 1900s, nine separate electric companies competed in New Orleans. Nearly all were small, isolated generators that served limited areas, operated on different voltages and used various kinds of equipment. None were interconnected, even within the city.

 

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