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Chapter 4

War, Peace and More Growth - 1910-1920

A t the turn of the century, the company had fifty agents who traveled by train to conduct on-the-spot claims adjustments. The company's first automobile was rented in 1910 from a Portage Ford dealer, but it wasn't until 1921 that a company-owned vehicle was much discussed.

After a severe disaster in 1922, a second-hand Reo truck was purchased for $1,400 to be used by company repair crews. The fleet then added a small Ford truck the next year and a coupe in 1926. The Reo was replaced with a Graham 1½ ton truck in 1927 and a Ford truck in 1930.

As new inspectors were hired in the early 1930's, all were supplied with Ford coupes. Then, in 1935, after undergoing a financial crisis, all cars were sold. The impending war would soon curtail travel anyway.

After the war, more Fords were purchased. The fleet now comprises twenty-five cars at Portage and at various branches.

William Fulton
William Fulton
In 1910, William Fulton was made Vice President and also Inspector of the Portage Mutual. The following year, he was made President replacing Sissons who had 14 years service. Like the others, Fulton came from Ontario and settled near Portage, was a Rural Councillor from 1889 to 1893 and Reeve of the Municipality from 1884 to 1887 and again from 1911 to 1918. He was a city Councillor in 1881 and 1882.

The Mutual had to keep abreast of any legislation that would affect its operation. One instance in 1910 indicates that concern. A letter was written to Arthur Meighen, M.P., to watch for legislation to make insurance companies liable for all amounts written, even though the actual cost to rebuild or replace the structure was less. It would have meant every building that was to be insured would have to be examined by an expert builder or engineers, rather than the company agents, to ensure it wasn't over-insured. The company's vigilance and efforts ensured the legislation was defeated.

Meanwhile, a Manitoba chapter of the Women's Institute had begun and the farm wife had a new outlet to pursue her interests.

The Tidsburys

George Tidsbury, one of the seven Directors on the first board in 1884, was born in Scotland, settled first in Ontario, then farmed near High Bluff. He remained as founding Director until 1889.

Geo.
Geo.
M.G.
M.G.
Gillis
Gillis
Ron
Ron

In 1910, his son, Mathew Tidsbury, was elected to the Board and remained until his death in 1950. Mathew was Vice President from 1921 to 1935 and from 1935 to 1950 served as President of the company.

Tidsbury had a major influence on the company policy and assumed control after a financial crisis in the 1930's. He continued to operated his father's farm and served farmers through his efforts with the United Farmers of Manitoba and the Manitoba Wheat Cooperative Producers Ltd., which later became the Manitoba Pool Elevators.

In 1950, Gillis, son of Mathew Tidsbury, was elected a Director. He remained until his death in 1959. The most recent addition to the longest line of Directors from one family, Ron Tidsbury, has been a director since 1972.

James McKenzie was elected a Director in 1912, a position he held for 42 years. Another stenographer was added to The Portage Mutual staff in 1911 for a total staff of four stenographers, the Manager, Assistant Manager and caretaker.

The same year the company introduced cash premium policies. Unlike the assessment system pollicies, the cash policies involved a set premium on the risk to be paid at the time the insurance was taken out, or in several regular payments, each year.

In 1913, staff ranks swelled again with the hiring of the first bookkeeper, A.H. Thorpe.

A.H. Thorpe
A.H. Thorpe

A.H. Thorpe

Born in England, Thorpe came to Canada in 1892, worked on a farm and in a bank before joining the company. He served on the Portage School Board, the Portage General Hospital, the Anglican Church Vestry and other groups. Thorpe had a distinguished military career, having fought during the First World War and again during the Second War in the Veterans Guard retiring with the rank of Major.

Thorpe eventually became the company's first treasurer in 1920 and was appointed General Manager in 1935. He held that position until 1958. It also marked the first time the title "General Manager" was used. In 1955, he was elected a Director, becoming Managing-Director until early 1958 when he retired because of failing health.

Thorpe saw the company through the difficult retrenchment period after a failed expansion in the 1930's. His discipline as an officer and his accounting background were major assets.

He left the company in a strong financial position, having helped build reserves which had been so drastically cut during the expansion. He set the stage for the second expansion in the late 1950's and early 1960's.

When war was declared in August 1914, it thrust Canada and the rest of the British Empire into a bitter struggle against Germany and its allies. No permanent Canadian Forces were in Manitoba but there were a number of militia units, one of which was the 18th Mounted Rifles of Portage. As a temporary measure, the Canadian Wheat Board was established to handle grain sales. In the 1920's, the Wheat Board Act was passed. The Board would become a permanent and powerful force in the Western Canadian farm economy.

Quiet years followed for The Portage Mutual but business was still steadily growing. The Temperance Act was passed in 1916, prohibiting most liquor sales.

By 1917, the company had outgrown its first office and decided to add six feet at a cost of$1,801. Meanwhile, the company's support of the war effort was evident as company records showed a total of $60,000 in war bonds purchased.

Back on the farm, farmers were producing crops and livestock for the war effort. Wheat prices soared to well over $2 per bushel by 1917 and 1918 following a number of years of depressed prices. However, droughts in 1916 and 1918 hit farmers hard. In 1918, the Crow's Nest Pass freight rate agreement was suspended to compensate railways for large wage settlements imposed for railway workers. In 1920, it was restored for grain and flour.

In 1919, Winnipeg's General Strike had shocked many Canadians. Political unrest was evident with the struggling birth of the first labour unions in Canada. Labour legislation was in the offing.

The concept of "blanket" insurance was adopted by the Company in 1918. This meant that livestock and machinery would be covered anywhere on the farm, and not just in certain buildings.

Following the war in 1918, Janet (Nettie) Nicholson was hired, remaining on staff for 37 years. And as the decade ended, Joseph Trimble, the first of several Trimbles on the Board, was elected a Director.

Directors and Staff 1919

DIRECTORS and STAFF 1919

Back row: Ben Whitaker, Jas. McKenzie, Rita Taylor (Richardson), A.H. Thorpe
Middle row: Nettie Nicholson, P.D. McArthur, Clara Fraser (Sharp), M.G. Tidsbury, Ollie Chappel
Front row: J.W. Yuill, E.H. Muir, Wm. Fulton, Stratton Whitaker, A.T. Smith

The Trimbles

Joseph Trimble was a Director of The Portage Mutual from 1919 to 1934 and Vice President from 1935 to 1951. On the Portage Fair Board for many years, he was Director, Vice President and finally the President. He was also President of the Western Canada Fairs Association.

Succeeding him as a Director in 1951 was his son. J. (Toby) Trimble who remained as a director until 1980 when he retired. His grandson J. (Toby) Trimble Jr., has been a Director since then. Toby Jr. farms the land originally settled by his great-grandfather, William Trimble.

Jos.
Jos.
J. Toby Sr.
J. Toby Sr.
J. Toby Jr.
J. Toby Jr.
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Please note: The information provided within this page was originally published in 1984. Any "current", "new", "present" or other such references within this information were correct in 1984 but are not necessarily so now.
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