Union Mutual Insurance Company celebrates 125 years of service to the Evansville area

"Farmers and others who are favorable to the organization of a Town Insurance Company are
requested to meet at the Town Clerk's Office to choose a board of directors and transact all
necessary business appertaining thereto."  This announcement appeared in the February 1874
Evansville newspaper and was the start for a business that has provided insurance protection to
local farmers for the last 125 years.  This was the beginning of the Union Mutual Insurance
Company organized in 1874.  

Two years earlier another mutual insurance company had formed in the town of Center, called
the Farmers Mutual Company of Center.  In 1912, these two companies would unite, still under
the name Union Mutual Insurance Company.  Leadership of the company passed from father to
son, just as the farms did.

Locally owned and operated the insurance company elected officers at their first official meeting
on February 26, 1874.  Thomas Earl became president, Almeron Eager, Secretary and Curtis S.
Firman, Treasurer.  Directors of the Union Mutual Insurance Company included farmers from
Porter, Union and Magnolia townships.  Each township had representatives on the board.  
Thomas Earl and E. G. Pound represented Porter Township farmers.  Almeron Eager, C. S.
Firman, L. Shiveley and L. G. Sawin represented Union township farmers and W. H. Doolittle
and Edwin Blakeley represented Magnolia township farmers.

The company issued policies for fire and lightening.  According to early records, the agent, E.
G. Pound, wrote policies and received a commission of $1.25 for each policy that was issued.  
The company's directors acted as investigators for the company and determined the value of
each property, usually based on the assessed value, according to township records.  No
building could be insured for more than $1,000, including the contents.  

The insurance coverage was restricted to buildings outside the incorporated limits of a town or
village, so no policies were issued for Evansville properties.  The risk of village buildings built in
such close proximity to each other increased the danger of losing more than one building during
a major fire.  The directors were wise to issue this restriction, since several major fires in
Evansville did destroy buildings that were side-by-side and risked many other nearby buildings.  
The losses would have bankrupted the small company.  

One of the first major loses for the company was a fire at the C. S. Firman farm in 1875 that cost
the company $1,180.  There was no fire department to protect the properties of the farmers,
since the Evansville fire department covered only areas within the village limits.  The bucket
brigade and what water was available from the farmer's well were the only sources of fire
protection for the area farmers.

At the 1876 annual meeting of stockholders and officers of the company, did vote to pay Firman
for his loss.  However, the officers and directors decided to take a careful look at the properties
that were insured.

Firman was not among those reelected for a seat on the Board of Directors.  Charles Miller was
elected in his place.  The policy that had been issued to Firman, application number 30, was not
approved for renewal.  At the same meeting the company appointed a committee of directors to
reevaluate the properties that were insured.

For many years, the Union Mutual Insurance Company did not have an office and the agent
worked out of his home.  Annual meetings were held in public halls, the village hall in Evansville
or at the home of one of the officers.  The annual reports by the secretary and treasurer
generally showed that the company was in good financial shape and there were only a few times
when there were major losses and policy holders had to be assessed extra premiums in order to
meet the coverage for a fire.

By 1889 there were 121 policies written in the Union Mutual Insurance Company records.  The
value of the property insured was $155,510 with coverage range from $200 to $4,000.  The
buildings included at least one school and a tobacco warehouse that was charged a double
premium for their coverage.  The area that the company wrote policies in had increased to
farms in the Dane County townships of Rutland, Brooklyn, and Dunkirk and the Rock County
townships of Fulton and Center.   In 1891, the Dane County township of Oregon was also added
to the company.  

As improved farming practices were introduced, there were new risks of loss to the insurance
company.  When steam engine threshing machines became a popular harvesting aid, there was
an increased fire hazard on farms.  At the annual meeting of the company in 1889 there was
some discussion about the risks involved with using the machine.  

A resolution was presented to deny coverage to anyone using a threshing machine on the
farm.  "Any policy holder using or allowing a thresher to thrash at his place, shall be at his own
risk from all fires caused by the use of the steam thresher."  Because there were so many of the
farmers present who used the machines, the resolution lost and the stockholders and directors
assumed the risk for using the threshers.  A similar resolution lost again in 1891.  

A few years later, in 1896, policyholder Joseph Gibbs reported that he was using a gas engine
to operate machinery on his farm.  The company agreed to insure him only if he assumed the
risk of any fires caused by the gas engine.   Storage of gasoline was also addressed a few
years later.  At the 1905 meeting, the directors voted to offer coverage when gasoline was
stored more than 50 feet from an insured building.

Careful management and conservative practices for writing insurance coverage had kept the
company in business, with few assessments of extra premiums for policyholders.  By 1897, the
company had written nearly two million dollars in insurance coverage since its organization and
$888,775.72 was currently in force.  

In 1901, the company began to buy reinsurance to cover large risks.  Premium rates for
policyholders were based on a mil rate of the assessed value of the property.  In 1901, the mil
rate was raised from 3.5 to 4 mills.  Assessments, if they were needed, were also based on a mill

A typical list of losses was printed in the 1908 annual report.  Steer killed by lighting; hay, straw,
etc; damages by fire; house and contents; and loss of barn were typical losses paid by the
company.  The cost ranged from $638.50 for a barn and contents, to $2 for damage to a barn.  
A calf or steer killed by lightening was valued at $9.

By 1912, the Union Mutual Insurance Company accepted a proposal to combine with the Center
Township Company and the officers of the Center Company.  The townships covered now
included Plymouth, Milton, Harmony, La Prairie, Rock and some buildings in the City of
Evansville and the Village of Brooklyn.  

John B. Whitmore, who had been the agent for the Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company of
the town of Center, became the new agent for the Union Mutual company.  

At their January 1913 meeting, the company officials voted not to insure automobiles.  The
coverage was considered too great a risk.   

Donald G. Whitmore, John Whitmore's son, became secretary and agent for the Union Mutual
Insurance Company in 1938.  Don had been a field agent for the Wisconsin Tornado Mutual

Each new development in technology brought new risks for the insurance company.  Increased
use of electricity and the accompanying risks were cause for concern in the late 1940s.  The
installation of clothes dryers and other modern appliances increase chances for fires in the
homes.  Sparks from tractor engine were also considered a fire hazard in farm buildings.

The company rented office space in a small building on East Main Street, known as the Van
Wormer building.  It was located directly west of the building that now houses Heads Up.  

In January 1951, Don Whitmore announced that Charles A. Maas was going to be his partner in
the Whitmore Insurance Agency.  Maas had been associated with the Union Mutual Insurance
Company as a Director since 1948.  

Maas had been a leader in agriculture for a number of years.  He had operated a nationally
-known purebred hog farm for many years and was a leader in bring the annual Black & White
Holstein Breeders show to Evansville.

In 1953, the company began writing wind and hail coverage, as well as fire and lightening.  The
company had always operated out of homes or rented office space.  However, they purchased a
house and lot on North Madison Street in 1953 and after determining that the house would not
make appropriate office space, decided to remove the house and building a new building at 15
North Madison Street.  

In February 1954, the Union Mutual Fire Insurance Company held a grand opening and open
house to celebrate their new home.  The new building included office space for Maas and
Whitmore, a meeting room for the directors, and office space for clerical staff.  The board of
director in 1954 included President, Malcolm Towns; Vice-President Charles Maas; Secretary
Treasurer Don Whitmore; Ed Ellis, Leon S. Patterson, Leslie Hook, Harry Broughton, Raymond
Ryan and Walter Haberman.     

In 1955, Maas took over as Secretary-Treasurer of Union Mutual and the following year, in April
1956, Don Whitmore sold his insurance agency to Maas.  Whitmore moved to the Hillsboro,
Oregon.  .  

The company celebrated its centennial in June 1974 with a program at the Evansville Country
Club that attracted more than 500 people.  Guests were invited to bring memorabilia about the
company, including old policies and other records.

Maas' son, Phil joined the agency in 1966 and in 1976, Steve Hagen took over the reins as
Secretary-Treasurer for the Union Mutual Insurance Company.  The company continues to carry
on an active insurance business at its office at 15 North Madison.  One of the directors,
Raymond Ryan, who has also served as the company's president and has been a director of
the company for 50 years.  The long tradition of service to neighbors in the Evansville area and
beyond continues.
Small building was located on East Main Street and served as an early office for
the Union Mutual Insurance Company.  They purchased the house on North
Madison Street and razed that to make way for a modern office that opened in
1954.  The new office had meeting room space on the west side of the building
and was frequently used as a meeting location for the Union Township Board and
a voting place for Union Township, Rock County, Wisconsin