Ethan was a Magnemite rancher and chased thunderstorms. His Magnemite would absorb electricity and he'd sell it to the neighboring villages. When Team Rocket stole the Magnemite, Arbok pushed Jolteon to Ethan, making his arm wounded after bashing to a rock. Ash took his pledge and delivered the electricity to the village. Ethan asked of him to join in the ranching. Ash refused, as he had to compete in the Orange League.
These Magnemite were used to provide power to nearby towns during blackouts. Fortunately, Ethan keeps them numbered in case of an emergency.
Number 6 was a Magnemite that did not listen much to Ethan and wandered off. When Ash got it after going to next town to carry electricity, Number 6 helped him defeat Team Rocket, evolving into a Magneton in the process.