South Easthope Insurance beginnings

The original tin building owned by W.S. Russell was demolished in May of 1967.

By Mary Nicklas

Over the past few months we have seen the property at the corner of Woodstock Street and Jane Streets transformed, under the watchful eye of our seniors, into a majestic office building the home of the South Easthope Mutual Insurance Co. This company started with humble beginnings in 1871 with a small group of farmers who banded together to furnish fire and lightning protection. The first name of the company was The Mutual Fire Insurance Company of the Township of South Easthope. It served not only that Township but many of the surrounding communities.

The first meetings were held in the hotel at Sebastopol. The business of the company was carried on at the present site beginning in 1889. It was a two-storey, metal covered building. The Brownies, Scouts and Cubs held their meetings in the upstairs meeting rooms during the years 1950-1960.

In 1931, Mr. Edwin Caister was appointed secretary-treasurer, with his daughter Marguerite as his assistant. Marguerite was appointed secretary-treasurer in 1942 when her father retired. She remained in that position as well as being office manager until 1966 when Edward Pellow accepted that position. She continued in the position of secretary-treasurer until her retirement in 1973, having missed only three working days during that time.

In 1967, the old building which was cold and drafty and heated by coal stoves was demolished and a handsome new single-storey brick structure was put in its place. Later a two-storey addition was added to better serve the growing number of policy holders.

In 1972 on the 100th anniversary of the Company the board of directors decided to mark the occasion by extending an invitation to its policy holders to attend a Rib and Pigtail Supper at the Tavistock and District Community Arena on October 5th. There was such a good response that manager Edward Pellow had to break the event into two nights, Monday Oct. 4 and Tuesday Oct.5th for the more than 1600 members. The company began with 92 policy holders and $125,000 at risk. The financial statement for the year ending Dec. 31, 1970, showed close to 2,000 policy holders and $73,542,000 at risk.

In 1990 the Company was instrumental in having Tavistock ‘s first motorized fire vehicle restored. It was a 1926 model T. Ford fire truck which was originally purchased from Ingersoll at the cost of $1,400. A replacement was purchased in 1950 and after being equipped cost around $6,000. and the surplus truck was sold by auction to a local grocer for $64.00. A special room was added to the office to display the restored truck.

To celebrate their 125th anniversary policy holders as well as local residents were invited to Queen’s Park, Saturday, June 15, 1996. About 6,000 people attended and many sat down to a complimentary meal served in the arena by staff members and service club volunteers. The theme was country fair and there were several attractions for visitors to view during the afternoon and evening.

On February 20, 2015 the official ground breaking ceremony was held for the new head office. The same shovel was used for ground breaking in 1967 for the existing building. This new facility makes a statement that the South Easthope Mutual intends to remain part of Tavistock well into the future.

Acknowledgements: Tavistock Gazette, Stratford Beacon Herald, Fact & Fantasy