The Town Mutual insurance industry started in New York State and spread westward. The Wisconsin Legislature approved this method of property insurance.
On March 11, 1894, 19 Swedish farmers met and formed the Trade Lake Town Mutual Insurance Company. This type of insurance was necessary because there was no other insurance available in rural areas. It was formed so rural people could insure each other.
The individual payment method was by assessments. If the losses were high the assessment was high and vice versa. For some years the only cost to the policyholders was the operational cost of the company. During the depression years, collections were slow to non-existent. In April of 1943 at the annual meeting of policyholders, the board was authorized to start collecting advance premiums.
When the company started, the only insurance carried was fire and lightning. The policies were written in Swedish and done long-hand. By 1910 the minutes were part English and part Swedish, eventually becoming all English. As the demand for other types of policy coverage grew, extended coverage was added. This coverage included wind, hail, liability, and other types of insurance. Homeowner and farm-owner policies developed in the years to follow.
In early 1900 the total amount of insurance allowed per policy was $ 4,000. Board minutes show this was gradually increased.
In the early years of the company, two policyholders were selected to audit the books. They were paid $.75 each for a total auditing cost of $ 1.50. The number of directors varied. In 1935 there were sixteen directors. Since then, the average number of directors has been nine.
The term “Town Mutual Insurance” came about because of companies writing coverage in only one township. Records show Trade Lake Insurance wrote in Trade Lake, Grantsburg, and Wood Lake townships. Years ago, townships were much larger. Trade Lake township extended as far as Birchwood. Today, the company writes by county. Counties written by Trade Lake Mutual include Burnett, Polk, Washburn, Sawyer, Douglas, Barron, St. Croix, and Dunn.