Photo used with permission from the book Heritage of Ixonia, by Carl and Alida Jaeger.
By HOWARD WIEDENHOEFT
In 1913, Ixonia Mutual presented at its annual meeting a resolution to insure automobiles. It did not pass. Interestingly, in 1914, Watertown Mutual also brought up a resolution to insure automobiles and its voters approved. Not to be outdone by its competitor, Ixonia Mutual reconsidered the idea and in 1915 they introduced their auto coverage.
Insuring automobiles was short lived for the mutuals because there were many issues. Autos were new to the rural community and by law, fire was the only thing for which they could be insured. Collision or liability were not coverages that either Ixonia Mutual or Watertown Mutual could offer.
Automobiles could only be insured for two-thirds of their cash value. Up until 1919, Watertown Mutual covered the cost of adjusting auto claims. However, in 1920 the mutual began requiring the insured pay for the adjusters travel expense if the damaged auto was outside their writing territory. In 1923, this requirement was changed to only if the damaged auto was more than 100 miles away.
Here’s a noteworthy item, indicative of the times: When Ixonia Mutual first decided to insure autos they also added the following bylaw: ”this company shall not be liable for damage or loss caused by fire originating by filling said automobile with gasoline after dark by the aid of any kind of light”. Obviously, this is before rural electricity and most light sources were highly flammable.
In 1918, Ixonia Mutual reported it insured 45 automobiles for a total value of $19,300, or $429 each. In 1920, Watertown Mutual reported its total auto insurance in force was $88,750. By 1923, Watertown Mutual insured half this amount and by 1930, the mutuals began moving their auto insurance to companies that wrote policies specifically for the protection automobile owners needed.
A Side Note
The Wiedenhoeft Farm has been in the family since 1862 and it’s seen much history. Located on Highway 16, which was originally Watertown Plank Road, the railroad, gas and telephone lines follow its course.
Our abstract has much information on when these easement of land purchases occurred. I also have my grandfather’s income and expense records dating back to April 1916 when he took over his father-in-law’s farm. His records include seven entries for hitching his horses and pulling out automobiles stuck in the mud in April and May, 1916. The total amount he earned for pulling the autos was $12.75. This was a lot on money at that time.
My grandfather also boarded men working to install the telephone poles and lines in 1916. We actually had phone service before we had electricity. In 1927, my grandfather’s brother was studying to be an electrician and, needing work, wired my grandfather’s house. However, the first light bill in my grandfather’s records wasn’t until 1933.
His records also show he purchased his first automobile in 1919. He paid $960, although I don’t know the make or model.
How far we’ve come!