Contributed by Loren H
Description: Farmers Mutual InsuranceDate: August 22 1929
Source: my granary
A small group of men mutually interested in agriculture and in the welfare of the farmer met here in May 1886 and established an organization which has since proved to be one of the best farmers organizations ever started, namely the Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company of Volga.
O J Sveen was elected president and J O Hjelle, secretary. According to the first annual statement issued by the secretary in 1888, the amount of property insured was $25,093. There wer fifty memebers in the company and there wre fifty policies issued. The expenses of the company wwere $81.07 and the balance on hand was $108.90. From this small and rather insignificant origin, the Farmers Mutual of Volga has grown and enlarged until in 1929, according to the report of the present secretary, Edmund Hillestad of Volga, the amount of property insured is $7,000,000, the number of policies issued is 1,789 and the number of members is 1,500.
The object of the Farmers' Mutual has consistently been to serve the farmer and to further his welfare and it has been the means of saving him many a dollar.
In 1916, Mr Hillestad the present secretary thought it would be inexpedient to continue to write tornado and windstorm policies in only one county. Accordingly in March of that year, Martin Stumley as president and Edmund Hillestad as secretary called a meeting at Sioux Falls for the purpose of organizing a tornado and windstorm insurance company that would embrace more territory.
The company was organized with a territory of seven counties and it was named the Farmers' Mutual Tornado Insurance Company of Lake County, Madison, South Dakota. Edmund Hillestad is president of this organzation and John Hasche is secretary. Since its establishment in 1916, this company has expanded until at the present time it is the largest farmers' mutual insurance company in the state, including a territory of forty five counties. The property insured is over 425,000,000 and the membership includes some 7,000. This company as well as the one of which it is an offshoot, has been of incalcuable benefit to the farmers of this territory during its existence.
Mr Hillestad, the president and secretary of the Farmers' Mutual Tornado Insurance and of the Farmers' Mutual of Volga, respectively is a pioneer of Brookings county. He was born in Dane county, Wisconsin, and came here in 1879 with his parents, Mr and Mrs Amund Hillestad, the family homesteaded on a farm seven miles south of Aurora.
Mr Hillestad later homesteaded on a farm in Oslo township, eight miles south of Volga. This was the home of the Ed Hillestad family until 1911 when they moved to Volga and at that time the farm was taken over by Ben Hillestad who lives there at the present time.
The blizard of 1888 stands forth distinctly in Mr Hillestad's memories of pioneer days. He went to the barn, he recalls, to let the cattle out, and before he had finished loosening the halters of the last cattle, the first ones to be untied were already returning to the barn, evidently having sensed the storm approaching. Mr Hillestad tried to drive them out and while he was thus engaged the storm descended with such a blinding fury that he could hardly see the cattle. It was with the utmost difficulty that he finally made his way back to the house.
But in spite of the hardships of the pioneers Mr Hillestad really enjoyed that life thoroughly, he says, and wishes that he could go back to the early days. Most people of the present day are not of the stuff of which pioneers are made, he believes they have not enough grit and endurance.
In 1911 Mr Hillestad retired from farming and moved to Volga, taking up the insurance work with which he is still connected. His keen sense of business administration has been clearly shown in the unusual progress which the Farmers' Mutual have made during these years.
Mr Hillestad has also been president of the Board of Directors of the First National Bank of Volga since 1903 and has filled this position with remarkable success.
His activiies of a civic and political nature had been so numerous as to make him one of the best known men in this community. He has served on the city council, has been school clerk in Oslo township for eighteen years, has been county commissioner for two terms and has served as State Representative for three terms, two terms while he lived in Oslo township and one term after moving to town.