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History of Otsego Mutual

Article Index
History of Otsego Mutual
A Legacy
A Legacy continued
The Ward Hinds Years
Decades of Loyalty
Patrick A. Burke's Tenure
Management Today
All Pages

In The Beginning

From the very beginning, a pioneer spirit has been the hallmark of Otsego Mutual Fire Insurance Company. It has provided generations of clients a level of quality and service that has set the standards in the industry.

Imagine a community where dams collapse three times in 40 years, the whole business district burns down and after the rebuilding starts, your general store and your sister’s home burn. Many people would decide it was time to leave, but not Silas L. Kelsey.

Instead of fleeing, Kelsey settled in to do something positive for his neighbors. And so, in 1897, only two years after seeing his livelihood turn to ashes, and knowing the success rate for fire insurance companies was dismal (in 1895, 27 fire insurance companies went out of business), Kelsey used his limited insurance background and started Otsego Mutual Fire Insurance Company.

Being the youngest of nine children, he was accustomed to working hard and with the support of his wife, Minnie and his friend Edgar Wright, started the company in a back room of his own home. Wright became the first president and Kelsey became the secretary and manager. This allowed him to be out in the field reaching and servicing the people that meant so much to him.

And that he did. Less than two months after opening, the company was not only issuing policies insuring the farm, village and business properties in Burlington Flats and the rest of Otsego County, but it was writing policies in the four surrounding counties as well.

By December 1898, as an added protection for his clients, he started Chemical Mutual Fire Insurance Company, which gave reinsurance protection. This additional security contributed to Kelsey’s confidence to expand the company into four additional counties. (The two companies merged in 1942.)

Silas L. Kelsey is kindly remembered as ardent worker, a devoted member of his church, and the real force behind the Otsego Mutual Fire Insurance Company. The local paper summed it up very nicely in 1900 when it wrote, "The Otsego Mutual Fire Insurance Company is deserving of special recognition. The strength of the company is sufficient guarantee of its solidity. It stands as a pillar of strength and receives the unbounded confidence of property holders here and elsewhere."