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History of Dayton, Ohio 1889
Chapter Twenty-Six

(page 659)




Early History of Insurance-First Company Organized in Dayton-Montgomery County Mutual Fire Insurance Company-Dayton Insurance Company-Large Number of Companies Organized-Central Insurance Company-Miami Valley Insurance Company-Farmers' and Merchants' Fire and Marine Insurance Company-Ohio Insurance Company-Other Companies-General Remarks.


            FIRE and life insurance are of comparatively modern origin. The first companies organized to conduct insurance against fire losses were in England, and assumed practical shape only after the great fire in London in 1666. It is interesting to know that one company is still in existence in London and transacting the business of fire insurance, known as "The Hand in Hand," and is the oldest company in the world, having been organized in 1696.

            Capital was at an early date in the history of Dayton attracted toward investment in insurance stocks, and has continued not only a favorite character of investment, but has as well proved one of great profit. The first company organized for the transaction of the business of f ire insurance was The Firemen's Insurance Company. The charter was obtained from the Legislature of Ohio in 1835, with a duration of twenty years. Early in June, 1835, the stockholders elected the following directors: S. T. Harker, A. Grimes, John Rench, Thomas Barrett, David Stevenson, D. Z. Peirce, James Perrine, Valentine Winters, Ziba Crawford, Peter Baer, David Davis, and R. P. Brown. At a subsequent meeting, held June 5, 1835, the Board of Directors organized by the selection of Peter Baer, president pro tem, and D. Z. Peirce, secretary pro tem, and upon June 11th thereafter David Stone was elected president and Henry A. Pierson, secretary. The company continued in business during its then corporate existence, and enjoyed an excellent reputation. Special effort seems not to have been exercised for business, but the affairs were satisfactory to its stockholders.

            On the 12th day of April, 1856, the company was reorganized, and became incorporated tinder the laws of Ohio, with a capital of $100,000; and April 15th, at a meeting of the stockholders, the following gentlemen were elected directors: Henry Herrman, Andrew Gump, John F. Edgar, William L. Darrow, Valentine Winters, Samuel Marshall, Samuel Craighead, Youngs V. Wood, and Daniel Kiefer. The Board of Directors (page 660) organized on the 21st day of April, 1856, electing Samuel Craighead president;

            Jonathan Iiarshnman treasurer, and D. W. Iddings, secretary. On the 2d day of February, 1857, the board passed a resolution to increase the capital stock to $200,000, and upon the 2d day of March following the stock was all subscribed. Semi-annual dividends were declared until 1865, when the first dividend was passed.

            The laws of Ohio regulating the organization of fire insurance companies were very favorable, and the chances of fire loss were readily undertaken. The shares provided by law were twenty dollars each, and only four dollars was necessary to be paid in cash; the balance of sixteen dollars was secured by the notes of the stockholders properly guaranteed by names and personal surety.

            June 1st, 1868, the capital stock of the Firemen's Insurance Company was reduced from $200,000 to $100,000. The payment of dividends at an earlier date in cash instead of being gradually applied to the stock notes, compelled this measure. September 3, 1869, the balance due upon stock notes was required by the directors to be paid in cash, which was promptly done. The success attending this action in the business of the company induced the directors to again change its capital stock from $100,000 "to $250,000, which was fully consummated July 1, 1872. From that date to the present the capital stock of the company has not been changed, but its earnings have been placed to surplus, and its standing among the insurance companies of the United States has been a source of pride to parties interested in such subjects. Its earnings have been over two millions of dollars, its losses over a million and a half, and nearly twice its capital stock has been paid in dividends to it stockholders. Of its organization in 1856, Mr. Samuel Craighead and Mr. Valentine Winters yet remain to direct its affairs, and enjoy its success and prosperity. The wisdom of the selection of its president in 1856 has been demonstrated in the large and successful business transacted. Mutual fire insurance seems never to have been prosecuted to a very great extent in Dayton. The principle of being dependent upon each other and assessing for losses as they might occur attracted but one company.

            The Montgomery County Mutual Fire Insurance Company was organized January 17, 1840, with William J. McKinney, president, and E. J. Forsyth, secretary, and has continued in the business to this time (1889) with varied and not unsuccessful fortunes. Its capital depends upon the amount of the notes of the assured, and has varied. At this writing it amounts to about three hundred thousand dollars. Daniel Kiefer has been its president for many years, with D. W. Iddings its (page 661) secretary, succeeded by his son, William B. Iddings, now holding the position. This company has been very conservative and careful in its management, and has enjoyed the confidence and patronage of Dayton and Montgomery County-the entire fled of its operations-with very few losses and with benefits to all its patrons.

            One of the oldest joint stock companies in the State of Ohio is the Dayton Insurance Company, organized February 2, 1851, under a special charter granted by the legislature of Ohio, March 5, 1851. The incorporators of this company were Daniel Beckel, Joseph Clegg, William Dickey, Richard Green, William S. Westerman, Robert Chambers, and John Harries. The first officers were Daniel Beckel, president, and J. R. Dodds, secretary. In 1854, James R. Young was made secretary pro tem, and in 1855 he was made permanent secretary, Daniel A. Haynes succeeding Daniel Beckel as president. Mr. Young continued to act as secretary for twenty-five years, and will be remembered by our old citizens for his genial temperament and successful management. Ile was succeeded by Captain J. Harrison Hall, who continued with the company with Hon. D. A. Haynes in the presidency until 1885, when Hon. Lewis B. Gunckel became its president with Lewis J. Judson, secretary, the present popular and efficient officers. The capital of this company of $200,000 has never been changed, and its fortunate stockholders have garnered many choice dividends of one dollar per share semi-annually. The special charter, enjoyed by this company, gave it an early date prestige and it long continued a special attraction to capitalists.

            The decade of Dayton's financial history from 1860 to 1870 witnessed the organization of more fire insurance companies than any other city of the United States. The favorable law, under which organizations were effected, made it easy to associate gentlemen, who would readily embark their $20,000 and start a fire insurance company with a capital of $100,000. Many of them are to-day enjoying success and prosperity, yet the larger number of them succumbed to the inevitable. The passage of a law, and creating a State insurance department, to which all were obliged to make annual reports, required so much cash capital and prevented the old easy mode of making dividends out of the earnings and making no provision for the future or re-insurance, influenced many to re-insure their risks or business and pass out of existence. Our companies in those halcyon days of easy creation seem to have progressed as well as the large companies of the present time with their increased salaries, expenses, and difficulty of safely investing the large sums of money composing their capital. The field of operations was thus confined principally to this portion of the State, and if the success of the companies (page 662) is any criterion for judgment as to the best plans to be pursued in the conduct of a fire insurance business, then our present modes have not much bettered the class of companies, as Dayton has always enjoyed the utmost confidence of insurers in her companies. No scandal or failure ever attached to them, and they invariably made good their contracts, which is the sum, we take it, of successful fire insurance and the practical test of their value to the community.

            The companies of those days were not strong in cash assets, but the notes which were held in nearly every case could have as readily been converted into cash as can securities of cash companies now, with as much safety to the insured, as in the present cash investments of loans and bank stocks. Annual reports made to the State insurance department are too often the handiwork of skillful accountants, but the companies whose organizations we are about to describe reflected credit upon the city, did honor to the science of 'underwriting, and made money for their stockholders.

            The Central Insurance Company was organized in 1859 with a capital of $100,000, divided into cash $20,000, and the secured notes of stockholders of 80,000. Its directors were Henry Herrman, Robert Chambers, Andrew Gunip, George W. Shaw, Henry S. Fowler, Alfred Pruden, J. B. 0lwin, D. W. Iddings, A. R. H. Falkerth. Henry Herrman was the president and D. W. Iddings, secretary. The company transacted business a few years, Anthony Stephens and James A. Marlay succeeding D. W. Iddings as secretary, and abandoned the business, leaving a record behind of just dealing, careful business, and contracts fulfilled.

            In April, 1863, the Miami Valley Insurance Company was organized with a capital of one hundred thousand dollars and directory as follows: Jonathan Harshman, John K. McIntire, Joseph H. Gebhart, David K. Boyer, D. C. Reach, W. It. S. Ayres, George Lehman, F. C. Trebein, and Jacob Bunstine. Its officers were Jonathan Harshman, president, and W. R. S. Ayres, secretary. Upon the passage of the law requiring the payment of stock notes, this company fully complied, and has continued in the business for twenty-six years with nearly the same management except that in 1874 Alexander Gebhart became its president. Dividends have been regularly declared, the stock has been a source of profit to its stockholders, and the fullest confidence has been bestowed by the people. The company presents its card to-day to the public with a clean record of successful management, and a full title to the business it justly enjoys.

            February 1, 1864, the Farmers and Merchants Fire and Marine Insurance Company was organized with a capital of $100,000. The (page 663) were Alfred Pruden, Jacob B. Olwin, Emanuel Shultz, R. D. Harshman, J. H. Winters, H. H. Weakley, Augustus Kuhns, N. B. Darst, and Ziba Crawford. Its president was R. D. Harshman, and its secretary, H. H. Weakley. The success of this company was from the start assured, and for five years of its existence $10,000 per annum was paid to the stockholders in cash dividends. Its business was after a year or two largely confined to the safer class of risks. For eight years Mr. H. H. Weakley was its secretary, resigning his office in 1872. In all of Dayton's insurance companies the management depends principally upon the secretary, and the success depends largely upon this officer. In 1873, the Farmers and Merchants' Company found itself without a secretary, and its directors reinsured its risks. No company ` during its history enjoyed a better reputation for good management than the Farmers and Merchants' Company.

            The year 1865 brought with it to the list of fire insurance companies, four in number. The Union Insurance Company, with Youngs V. Wood as president and George M. Young, secretary, with a capital of $100,000, was at this time started and continued in business until 1870, when it was purchased and absorbed by the Dayton Insurance Company. The German Insurance Company was organized at about the same period, with John Bettelon, president, and William Gunkel, secretary, and in January, 1872 was reinsured by the Teutonia Insurance Company and ceased business. The Teutonia Insurance Company was organized in February, 1865, with a capital of $100,000, and commenced business in March following. The first officers were John Hanitch, president, and John Stoppleman, secretary, the latter being succeeded by Jacob Linxweiler, Jr., in 1867. Jacob Decker was elected president in 1875. This company complied with the insurance law of the State and paid its capital up in cash. At this writing the company occupies one of the finest offices in the city, and has the name and honor of being one of the most successful companies organized in Dayton. All are good, but it is no disparagement to say this one is the strongest in cash surplus assets. Its stock commands the highest premium among the investors and holders of insurance stocks.

            March, 1865, the Ohio Insurance Company, of Dayton, commenced business with an authorized capital of $150,000, of which amount only $100,000 was permitted to be subscribed. Afterward, at the earnest solicitation of its friends, the amount of subscribed capital was increased to $107,500. The directory of this company in 1865 was William Dickey, G. A. Grove, P. T. Dickey, H. M. Turner, Joseph M. Turner, John Wiggim, Jonathan Kenney, Abraham Cahill, and C. L. Vallandigham. (page 664) William Dickey was its president, and William H. Gillespie, secretary. January, 1880, William Dickey resigned the office of president, and J. A. Walters became his successor, and W. 11. Gillespie was succeeded in 1884 by John N. Bell, its present secretary. May 3, 1880, its capital stock was increased to $200,000, and June 23, 1885, it was reduced to $150,000, its present capital. This company has taken high rank, and has assisted in giving Dayton its excellent insurance reputation.

            February would seem to be the lucky month of the year for Dayton to organize and invest its capital in fire insurance. The Cooper Insurance Company was incorporated and commenced its business career, in February, 1867. The first officers were Daniel E. Mead, president, and D. W. Iddings, secretary. Its capital has continued at one $100,000, and its success has been very remarkable. Mr. D. W. Iddings, long identified with the office of secretary of various insurance companies, abandoned the business with the "Cooper." He had been identified to a greater extent with the organization of insurance companies than any other gentleman who has been associated with them. lie was the secretary of four different companies during his insurance career; two of which he organized. Mr. Iddings was succeeded by Oliver I. Gunckel, who found the Cooper but little known, and left it, in 1882, with a record that none of our companies has excelled. The Cooper Insurance Company has ever enjoyed high and meritorious standing, indeed no company stands higher.

             Mr. 0. I. Gunckel, after his resignation of the office of secretary of the Cooper Insurance Company, organized in January, 1882, the Columbia Insurance Company, with a cash capital of $150,000, and a cash surplus of $50,000, assuring to its stockholders a re-insurance fund and regular dividends. Mr. E. M. Thresher became its president and 0. I. Gunckel secretary, with a directory consisting of E. M. Thresher, George W. Kneisley, James Linden, R. C. Schenck, Jr., Eugene J. Barney, Albert Thresher, Samuel W. Davies, D. L. like, and Charles F. Gunckel. The encomiums that attach to the insurance companies of Dayton, justly earned from good management and the smoke, soot, and ashes to which so wuch of the earnings have in the by-gone years been reduced, belong to this company. Among the companies doing the business of fire insurance it is nowhere excelled from the time of the oldest, "Hand in Hand," of London, to the close and hotly contested days of the present.

           The insurance companies of Dayton have reflected credit upon the financiers of the city, and, except Harford, Connecticut, no city of the United States has had more companies with unblemished, untarnished (page 665) records than Dayton. It was left to the Firemen's Insurance Company to erect for itself a monument to assist and decorate the city, and an investment that has enhanced as the years have passed. We refer to the handsome building erected by "The Firemen's" upon the corner of Main and Second streets, at a cost of about eighty thousand dollars. The foundation was laid in 1880 and its occupancy was had in 1881, and it stands a monument of success, an object of pride in the city not excelled in the beauty of its modern architecture, and an example worthy of imitation by some of our other prosperous companies.

            The insurance interests of Dayton are among its crowning efforts, and the investment of the capital has added much to the general credit and honor of the city. The earnings of its companies have maintained a large clerical force, have accumulated large sums of money, which have, in turn, been loaned to the business public, offering proper surety, thus extending aid in building the other industries of the city. Litigation is comparatively unknown, and for the amount assumed none offer greater safety to the assured, and to the stockholder ample and generous returns have been extended, "by which the rich have enriched themselves. We venture the opinion that few branches of business can make a better showing. The combined capital of the joint stock fire insurance companies of the city, as given by the reports made to the insurance department of the State, January_ 1, 1889, was $950,000, and the surplus earnings since their organizations now in hand and invested with the capital was in excess, being $981,818, making the total cash assets of these institutions $1,931,818.

            From the same reports appears the sum of $8,539,808 paid as premiums or consideration for the contracts made since the organization of those reporting, from which $3,447,138 was paid in losses and damage by fire, and the very handsome sum given the stockholders of $1,396,294. This amount has been added to the capital of the city by these faithful toilers against "the elements," making evident the fact tht no mistake was made by early investors in these securities. Indeed, the suns thus shown is far short of the real sum earned, for the companies have not all reported, and many had passed out of existence before such reports were required.

            The city in these interests does not covet the title of being "the Hartford of the West," but aims higher, for no city excels, the amount of capital employed being considered, and none have had more organizations of this kind, enjoying higher credit and confidence, and she stands to-day fairly, justly, and faithfully in the midst of all, "The Gem."

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