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Blackduck Telephone History


The Blackduck Telephone Company started in 1903 as part of the Blackduck Electric Company. It was founded by Marcus D. Stoner, a land surveyor who had founded the town of Blackduck a couple of years earlier. Mr. Stoner owned other businesses in town, including a sawmill. Facing tough times in 1905, Mr. Stoner gave a sawmill worker, Nels Lien, the telephone company because he could not pay him $500 in wages owed. There were fewer than 50 phone lines in service.


The Armistice Day ice storm tore down most of the open wire lines in Blackduck and a decision was made to bury main lines with lead cables to prevent a similar problem in the future. At the time it was a very bold decision, but it turned out to be the right one as those cables served the region until 1976.

Nels Lien sold the company to his only son, Herbert. 68 phone subscribers were paying $1 per month for local service. Tragically, Nels Lien accidently drowned shortly thereafter leaving Herb to continue on alone. In 1940, Herb married Harriett Bryant and she became a part of the telephone company as well.


Blackduck Telephone customers were switched to dial telephones. It marked the first time their local calls could be completed without operator assistance.

The company expanded by purchasing the Hines telephone exchange, located five miles south of Blackduck.

The third generation of Liens joined the company. Herb Lien Jr. graduated from college and returned to Blackduck to work. Five years later his brother Richard graduated from college and was named Plant Manager.


Over 200 miles of underground cable was installed in Blackduck and surrounding area and a new head quarters with new switching equipment was installed. The result was touchtone capabilities, single line service, direct dialing for all customers, and extended area service to neighboring towns.

Herb Lien Sr. died. He spent 57 years in the telephone industry and was very active in the Blackduck community through church groups, service organizations, and development groups.

Blackduck Cablevision Inc. was founded and a cable TV system was constructed to serve, at the time, 200 subscribers in the city. Blackduck Cablevision would be discontinued in 2010, after the sale to Paul Bunyan Telephone which already had Paul Bunyan Television services and would make available to Blackduck customers.

Blackduck Telephone applied for and received approval of a $5.7 million loan from the Rural Utilities Service. This loan will be utilized to bring fiber optic cable closer to our customers and provide broadband services, including high speed Internet and digital cable television to a greater number of our rural customers.

On August 4, 2008 the purchase of Blackduck Telehpone to Paul Bunyan Telephone Rural Cooperative was completed.
“We are proud to have served the Blackduck area with telecommunications and cable television services,” said Herb Lien, prior Blackduck Telephone Company President. “The level of service we have been able to provide could not have been possible without the dedication of our outstanding employees. Begun as part the Blackduck Electric Company in 1903, Blackduck Telephone Company had been a proud part of the Lien family since 1923. We want to thank all of our employees and customers throughout the years for their support.”