Insurance was a top priority to area’s new farmers

Those first sod-breakers who came to the Fahlun-Gennessee part of this county in the 1880s were very careful farmers. They or their families had been farmers in the “old country” and they were trying to do better here than they would have done back home.


One of their earliest concerns was insurance, but there was no place here to get it.

P.O. Hall moved to Gennessee Township from Chisago County in the later 1880s. That was just about the time that this group of farmers was looking around for protection for their homesteads and crops.

Hall proposed forming their own insurance company similar to the one of which he’d been a member over in Chisago County for several years.

The Acton & Gennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company was organized at a meeting in Hall’s home in 1880.

John Paulson of Acton was elected president of the new organization, with Solomon Peterson of Gennessee as secretary, and P.J. Falk of Acton the treasurer. The first action of the board was to appoint a committee to go to St. Paul and find out, from the state insurance commissioner, the proper way to incorporate such an entity. Apparently they were directed down the path of cooperatives rather than incorporation. Four years later the company was reorganized as the Farmers Mutual Insurance Company of Acton and Gennessee, Meeker and Kandiyohi Counties, Minnesota.

P.O. Hall was elected president, with John Broberg, secretary, and S. J. Fleckten and G. A. Glader, directors.

One of the bylaws of the new cooperative allowed only Scandinavians to become members and further, that only Scandinavian languages were to be used in the conducting of its business. The only other limitation to membership was that members could not also be insured by another company.

Apparently the Scandinavian requirements hampered the operation of the organization to the point that the matter was brought up at the next annual meeting. When a vote was taken to eliminate the Scandinavian requirement it did not pass. This opened the doors for the organization of a farmers insurance company in Willmar, which did not restrict languages. That was tough competition which, in effect, allowed it to be doing business while the cooperative was, in effect, limited to doing business only with Scandinavians. When the matter was brought up again in 1890 membership was opened to everyone, with all restrictions.

The company was formed to help farmers, who had suffered fire losses, to get back on their feet, so it paid three-fourths of each fire loss. It did not, however, cover tornado losses. Even so, members got together to help, as individuals, several of their fellow members who had been hit by tornados.

A number of these types of insurance companies were organized in this area on roughly the same pattern.

A few of them may still be in business. Those early pioneers were there to help their neighbors when help was needed — financially and personally—and succeeding generations have continued to serve in the same way.