Ixonia’s first hand pumper with chemical unit attached. Photo used with permission from the book Heritage of Ixonia, by Carl and Alida Jaeger.
By HOWARD WIEDENHOEFT
As trendy as barns have become for dance venues, the idea is hardly new. In fact, in 1923 the following resolution was passed at the Watertown Mutual Insurance Company’s annual meeting:
“Whereas during the summer months many barns are used for dances and whereas such undertaking is hazardous to said barn and other nearby buildings because of the use of cigarettes and smoking in general. Be it resolved the buildings and other property on such a farm is not insured from 12 o’clock noon the day of the dance and 48 hours after.”
Dances were an entertaining highlight in those days. And with the gathering of people came a recognition of the importance of fire protection. Throughout Wisconsin even small rural communities began forming fire departments, most commonly volunteer departments, and mutual insurance companies offered their support. In our area, both Ixonia Mutual and Watertown Mutual made regular donations to area fire departments. They encouraged their members to call a fire department in the occurrence of a fire, to which they paid $50 for responding.
According to the minutes, in 1925 members of Ixonia Mutual approved the purchase of a “chemical outfit for the village of Ixonia” for a cost of $374.15. This was an extinguisher made by the American LaFrance Fire Engine Company and was installed on the volunteer fire department’s horse-drawn hand pump. Additionally, beginning in 1937 and for many decades after, Ixonia Mutual paid half the liability insurance for its local fire department.
Today, mutual insurance companies in Wisconsin continue to support local fire departments. Each insuring company, including Forward Mutual, participates in what’s referred to as the “2% Fire Dues Program.” This means it pays to the state two percent of the fire insurance premiums it receives, which is then distributed to its local fire department to offset the cost of training.