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Bella B. Toner, telegrapher dies

Mrs. Bella B. Toner, Country’s Oldest Woman Telegrapher Dies

BellaHOLDING the distinction of being the oldest woman telegraph operator in the country, Mrs. Bella B. Toner, station agent at New Centreville, on the Philadelphia and Chester Valley Branch for 52 years. died on May 27. She was 83.

Mrs. Toner was one of the last telegraphers on the Reading to use the ancient "tape" instrument for sending and receiving messages. She was retired on May 1, 1927.

For 52 years this white-haired woman, the mother of three children, all long since grown up and with families of their own, had been employed by the railroad. As station agent she has handled all baggage, messages, tickets and the other duties that fall to the lot of a village railroad representative.

Mrs. Toner was married at the age of 17 and her home and the station had always been one. The first floor is divided into two rooms—the ticket office, where the tape telegraph ticket reposed, and the waiting room.

A quaint story revolves about the venerable "ticket." Years ago the railroad introduced a new instrument into the office but Mrs. Toner after a trial declared she could not master it, so it was removed and the old machine reinstated.

As Summertime approached Mrs. Toner would turn her attention to her twenty-five fat hens and a pedigreed rooster which were her pride and joy. Her garden patch also received its quota of care. During the Winter months the station mistress spent her time knitting and crocheting during her odd moments.