This photo is used with permission from the book Heritage of Ixonia, Vol 1, and is of a sawmill owned by O.H. Wills and Mr. Gulliskson. It likely is similar to the Piper Gibb & Co. mill which was lost by fire in 1885. Local sawmills were necessary providers of lumber for the construction of homes and barns.
By HOWARD WIEDENHOEFT
As much as we enjoy our Wisconsin summers, we all know the improbability of the weather. Thunderstorms, lightning, and even tornados are unfortunate events we Midwesterners sometimes experience. For the insurance industry, these often mean mass damage and expensive payouts. In the 1880s, neither Ixonia Mutual Fire Insurance Company or Watertown Mutual Fire Insurance Company offered coverage for storm damage. But they knew the difficulties of large payouts due to the ravages of fire. Last month, we learned how in 1879 Ixonia Mutual used an assessment to help finance a large payout. In 1885, the company was once again challenged with a series of losses, each of them beyond the capabilities of the company’s treasury.
On Tuesday, January 20, 1885, Piper Gibb & Co., a mill located along the Rock River in Pipersville, was destroyed by fire. Ixonia Mutual’s adjusting committee reported “the loss of the building being certain and total and being satisfied that the fire originated from no cause for which the owners could be in any way aware or responsible” and four days later leveed an assessment of $1,600 to pay the loss.
Six months later, on July 16, 1885, a barn and contents owned by David Lewis was destroyed by fire and the company leveed an assessment of $650 to pay the loss.
On September 23, 1885, a barn and contents owned by E. R. Adams was destroyed by fire and the company once again leveed an assessment of $908 to pay the loss.
These three assessments leveed in 1885 by Ixonia Mutual’s directors totaled $3,158, which was over 0.8% of the total insurance in force by the mutual. By comparison, 0.8% of Forward Mutual’s insurance in force today would be over $7 million.
One can imagine these assessments were extremely hard on the policyholders. That the company made it through that difficult year is testament to the strong commitment the mutual members held for helping their neighbors.
Just like 1885, extreme loss years can happen today. The possibility of tornado causing mass damage is always present. Like all insurance companies today, Forward Mutual buys reinsurance to spread its risk and protect the mutual and policyholders from the effect of an extreme loss year. Our reinsurance company, Grinnell Re, reimburses Forward Mutual above a dollar limit on any one loss and/or a 72-hour period wind/hail event and a maximum total of all claims for the year. Preparing well for extreme loss years is Forward Mutual’s way of continuing a strong commitment of neighbor helping neighbor.