There's an old saying that goes "give a farmer some wire and a pair of pliers and he will fix anything". Farmers in the US are a resourceful bunch.
Thus, when US phone companies found it too expensive to run telephone cables to rural areas, the farming communities weighed in to solve the problem.
Communication methods in the early 1900's were primitive and rural ranchers were certainly cut off from the world. There was no way of sharing information regarding weather, fires or general problems, with neighbouring farms.
The invention of the telephone and subsequent roll out of a national system gave these isolated folk a glimmer of hope. However, phone companies were focusing on urban areas first, so in 1902, a group of Montana farmers decided to build their own phone network.
Farmers discovered that if you hooked phone sets to the wires of the barbed wire fences that separated the farms, calls could be made. Thus was born the first distributed "party line."
Farmers were now able to communicate and share important information. Even better, there were no operators, no bills and certainly no long distance charges.