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Chapter 3

Boom Years Once Again - 1900-1910

I mmigrants poured into Western Canada after the turn of the century. Provincial population was 255,000 in 1901 and, by 1902, there were 4,000 people in Portage. Along with this burgeoning population, The Portage Farmers Mutual was also growing.

New Office of 1903
New Office of 1903
In 1903, it had purchased a lot and erected its own office building for a cost of just under $2000. Ten cords of wood at $32.50 were laid-in for winter fuel. A coal bin was installed several years later in 1910 and 15,135 pounds of coal at $44.26 put in for winter fuel. The small brick building was located next to Brown's Store on Campbell Street which is now the south portion of the Portage Credit Union Building on Royal Road. The street name was changed after the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939.
Cash Book Re: New Building
Cash Book Re: New Building

With the new building came a new Vice President, James Brydon who had been a Director in 1892 and from 1899 to 1902. A member of the Rural Council for several years and a successful farmer, Brydon served as Vice President until 1909.

By 1904, Manitoba's Population was nearly 330,000, and marked the beginning of the greatest boom the province had seen to date. Farmers were becoming less isolated with the advent of the telephone. Marketing of one's produce via this modern invention made life a little easier. It was a time when farmers were hearing words like "technological" and "production techniques". The gasoline engine age was making its debut and slowly replacing the steam era.

Manitoba farmers were becoming more efficient. Yields rose to an average of about 20 bushels of wheat per acre in 1906. But in 1901 and 1902, bumper crops caused storage and transportation problems. Meanwhile, the farmer's risks were increasing with new and bigger equipment to work the land, and large new barns.

It was evident to The Portage Mutual that farmers were demanding wind coverage and, in 1901 the company added windstorm damage coverage to its policies becoming the first insurer to offer fire, lightning and wind protection in one policy.

From Minute Book of 1901
From Minute Book of 1901
From Minute Book of 1903
From Minute Book of 1903

Four years later in 1905, the company began writing policies for town residents, schools and churches, its first move away from strictly farm insurance. But it wasn't until the 1940's and 1950's that the dollar volume of farm risks would be exceeded by other types of risks.

In 1905, the first Assistant Manager, W.B. Barnes, was hired and the first official stenographer, Elizabeth Cockburn, walked up the steps and began work.

The company's growth was strong. In 1905, nearly $5,000 in agent commissions was paid out.

Jumping forward, 1907 was an eventful year for the Town of Portage. It officially became a city.

T.H. Lamont
T.H. Lamont
In 1908, T.H. Lamont was made the new company Manager, replacing Snyder who died after eleven years on the job, the longest service by a staff member to date. Testament to his service, company records show over $14 million in risks written by the company and 11,000 assessment notices printed in 1908.

Lamont was born in Ontario, taught school in Manitoba and farmed for 17 years. He remained as Manager of The Portage Mutual until 1916, when he became head adjustor-inspector, a position he held until his retirement in 1933. An Elder in the United Church, he was widely known throughout the province.

Stratton Whitaker was hired in 1908 as assistant to Lamont, replacing W.B. Barnes. In 1909, the company proudly announced it had in its employ three stenographers.

H. Currier, Irene Chappel, Agnes Irwin, Stratton Whitaker, T.H. Lamont
H. Currier   :      Irene Chappel         Agnes Irwin         Stratton Whitaker         T.H. Lamont
Stratton Whitaker
Stratton Whitaker

Stratton Whitaker

Whitaker, born in England, rose to Manager in 1917. In 1930, he was also elected a Director thus becoming Managing Director. In fact, he was actually a Managing-Director-Treasurer for a short time since the Manager's job also included Treasurer's duties and often bookkeeping responsibility. Under Whitaker, the duties of Manager and Treasurer were separated.

Perhaps Whitaker's most significant contribution was his plan for the first major expansion attempt outside the province. He resigned as Manager and Director in 1935.

Like so many others at The Portage Mutual, Whitaker was active in community affairs in Portage. After leaving the company, he formed his own firm in Winnipeg and continued for many years in the insurance business.

As the decade ended, the number of farms had grown and Manitoba was in the midst of a building boom. In 1912, Manitoba's population nudged 441,000.

Board of Directors and the Staff
A.T. Smith; T.H. Lamont, Manager; Jas. McKenzie; Agnes Irwin' Irene Chappel; H. Currier; Stratton Whitaker; P.D. McArthur
Seated: M.G. Tidsbury; Wm. Fulton, President; Thos. Sissons; E.H. Muir, Vice-Pres.
From the Minutes of 1900- The directors have a close interest in underwriting
From the Minutes of 1900
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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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