Although most attention has been focused on 20th Century insurance companies founded in North Carolina, there were active efforts in the 19th Century to establish insurance operations for protection as well as for generating capital.
Perhaps the first insurance company to advertise and write business in
North Carolina was the Massachusetts Fire Insurance Company,
which advertised in a Wilmington, NC, newspaper in Fall 1796, shortly after it
launched operations. Insurers writing business in North Carolina included
those from overseas (The Phoenix Insurance Company direct and through
agents in Charleston and then Norfolk), as well as insurers from the Northeast (Aetna Insurance,
Insurance Company of North America, Protection Insurance, United
States Fire Insurance Co., Howard Insurance Co., Merchants' Fire Insurance
Company of Baltimore, Eagle Fire Insurance Co. of New York, Washington
Insurance Company of New York (1818), etc.) and then Southern insurers (Charleston Fire
& Marine Ins. Co., Augusta Fire Insurance Company, etc.).
In addition to these companies, there were numerous insurance agents representing many different companies. Here is a separate listing of some of these early insurance agents (pre-1860).
On November 1, 1794, a notice appeared in the North Carolina Gazette (New Bern, NC) proposing the creation of The Newbern Company of Mutual Insurers. The proposal called for a short-lived mutual insurer (to operate until Dec. 31, 1796 or until losses had depleted company value by 50%. By the Nov. 8th edition, the paper reported that a group was willing to insure buildings up to the aggregate of £ 50,000 for all risks. A serious fire in Newbern on Nov. 17, 1794, may have changed the minds of the backers. There is no evidence that the insurer went into operation.
While there was a concerted effort in 1803 and 1810 to create a state mutual fire insurance company, nothing came of these initiatives. North Carolinians continued to have to purchase insurance coverage from British or out-of-state insurers. A North Carolina Mutual Fire Insurance Company was incorporated on January 8, 1839, located in Elizabeth City. However, there is no record that it ever became operational, and the name was later used by a different group of organizers.
Among the insurance operations started in the 1800s were:
Newbern Marine Insurance Company (Newbern, NC) January 1804 - 1817;
In January 1804, a private enterprise led by James McKinlay and nine other New Bern merchants was created The Newbern Marine Insurance Company. The firm was organized to provide marine insurance to local shipping and to lend money on bottomry bonds and real or personal securities. Generating a 20 per cent profit of $3,000 by the end of the year, the success led the group to seek authorization to incorporate from the North Carolina General Assembly, which was granted in December 1804. The enabling law also authorized the creation of the Bank of Newbern.
The early officers were James McKinlay, president and director (1804 - 1812+); William Shepard, secretary (in July 1805, he served as cashier for the newly established Bank of Newbern and later worked in the Newbern branch of the State Bank) and director; and nine other directors Samuel Chapman; Josiah Collins, Jr.; John Devereux; John Harvey; Moses Griffin; Francois Xavier Martin, John Stanly, Isaac Taylor and Alexander Torrans.
Samuel Gerock took over as secretary (<1808 - 1817) of the company. The firm operated apparently until at least the January 1817 annual meeting.
Newbern Marine and Fire Insurance Company (Newbern, NC) 1827 - n.d.
Elizabeth City Insurance Company (Elizabeth City, NC) existed by March 1829 (see Quarter Sessions). The company was apparently short-lived.
The Mutual Insurance Company of Fayetteville (Fayetteville, NC) 1837; a fire insurer chartered by the 1836-1837 legislature; the company began advertising for insurance policies from May through October 1837 in the Fayetteville Observer. Merchants Charles Peter Mallet served as the president and Warren Winslow served as Secretary. There is no evidence that this firm continued to operate.
North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company (Raleigh, NC) 1843/45-1864/65 Chartered in 1843, this fire insurer became operational in 1845; in 1859, the name of the company was changed by the legislature to North Carolina Mutual Fire Insurance Company. Officers, board members and company details are available in the links above.
North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company (Raleigh, NC) 1849- around 1865 the first life insurer by this name in the state. It had no connection with another later company of the same name (1919 see North Carolina Mutual & Provident Insurance Association 1898 below). Officers, board members and company details are available in the link above.
Greensborough Mutual Fire Insurance Company (Greensboro, NC) 1850 - 1865 A fire insurer writing policies in Greensboro' and other mostly central North Carolina towns. Officers, board members and company details are available in the link above.
Greensboro’ Mutual Life Insurance and Trust Company (Greensborough, now Greensboro, NC) 1851 - 1866 functioned as both a bank and a life insurance company. Ralph Gorrell, president (1851 - ); Lyndon Swaim, vice president; D. P. Weir, secretary & treasurer (1851 - 1860s)
Caswell Mutual Fire Insurance Company (Milton, NC) 1851-1861+ N. L. Walker, president; Benjamin Hines, vice president; N. M. Lewis, treasurer; A. L. Ball, secretary; Samuel R. Thornton, general agent
Fayetteville Mutual Insurance Company (Fayetteville, NC) 1853- 1867; fire insurance;
George McNeill, president ( - 1859 - );
David A. Ray, president (1867);
David A. Ray, vice president (< 1859 - <1867);
C. A. McMillan, secretary (- 1859 - 1867);
Hon. J. G. Shepherd, attorney (1867) for the firm;
During the company's first full year of operation (1854), the firm issued 524 fire insurance policies.
Newbern Mutual Fire Insurance Company (Newbern, NC) organized in 1855; Alonzo T. Jenkins, president
Atlantic Mutual Fire & Marine Insurance Company (Elizabeth City, NC) chartered 1859 The company began advertising on April 4, 1859, for insurance on "buildings, merchandise, furniture, mills, manufactories, ships and their cargo, and most kinds of property." The company was listed as Carolina City, NC.
John A. Parrott, president (1859 - )
Levi T. Oglesby, vice president (1859 - )
W. S. Long, treasurer (1859 - )
A. B. Chapin, secretary (1859 - )
E. A. Thompson, attorney (1859 - )
Officers, board members and company details are available in the link above.
Goldsboro' Mutual Insurance Company (Goldsborough, now Goldsboro, NC) chartered 1859
Salem Mutual Insurance Company (Salem, NC) chartered February 1859 - n.d. insurer probably ceased operations during the Civil War. The company was organized on Nov. 9, 1859, with E. A. Vogler as president and J. Boner as secretary. Boner had served as insurance agent for the North Carolina Mutual (Fire) Insurance Co. for six years. The company advertised its as the Salem Mutual Fire Insurance Co., but also announced creation of a Life Insurance Department in November 1859, but did not provide details.
Of course, there were numerous out-of-state insurers writing fire and life insurance on North Carolina risks.
Post Civil War Companies up to 1900
North Carolina Masonic Mutual Life Insurance Company (New Bern, NC) 1867 - 1870 D. T. Carraway, president (1867 - ); J. P. Dillingham, secretary-treasurer (1867 - ). In 1869, John D. Whitford was named director of the North Carolina Masonic Mutual Life Insurance Company. Click to see more details about this company.
North Carolina Home Insurance Company (Raleigh, NC) 1867/68- 1947 a fire insurer organized in 1868, chartered in 1867; in 1947, the company was merged with several others to become the Tri-State Insurance Company, which then was immediately changed to American National Fire Insurance Company of Columbus, Ohio. This operation was purchased by Great American Insurance Companies.
Presidents James H. Foote (1868- ); Gen. Robert F. Hoke (1869 - ); R. H. Battle, Jr. (1872 - 1877+); John Gatling ( - 1884 - ); W. S. Primrose (-1899-)
Vice Presidents W. E. Pell (1868- ); C. B. Root (1872 - 1877+); W. H. Crow ( - 1884- ); Ed Chambers Smith (-1899-)
Treasurers R. H. Rattle (1868 - ); Seaton Gales (1872 - ); W. S. Primrose ( - 1884 - ); Charles Root, secretary & treasurer (-1899-)
Secretaries Seaton Gales (1868 - 1872+); John Devereux (1877); W. S. Primrose ( -1884-); Charles Root, secretary & treasurer (-1899-)
North Carolina Life Assurance, Annuity & Trust Company (Raleigh, NC) 1867/68 - 1884 (in liquidation) Apparently re-chartered in 1872 as the North Carolina State Life Insurance Company;
Rev. W. E. Pell, president (1868 - 1872); Kemp P. Battle, president (1872 - 1876); W. E. Anderson, president (1877 - );
R. W. Best, vice president (1868 - ); F. H. Cameron, vice president (1877 - )
W. H. Jones, secretary-treasurer (1868 - 1877+)
Wilmington (N.C.) Life Insurance Company (Wilmington, NC) 1871/72 - <1877 Robert H. Cowan, president (1872 - ); John W. Atkinson, vice president and general insurance agent (1872 - ); F. H. Cameron, secretary (1872 - )
Old North State Insurance Company (Warrenton, NC) 1872 - <1884 a fire insurer; President William S. Davis, Treasurer & Secretary B. F. Long; John Devereux, Raleigh agent.
Pamlico Banking & Insurance Company (Tarboro, NC) 1873 - 1900s probably operated only as a bank.
George Howard (<1877 - 1878), president; Frederick Philips, president (1878 - 1883); H. L. Staton (-1896-), president; George Howard, Jr., president ( - 1905). W. S. Clark, vice president (-1896); Joseph Blount Cheshire, Jr., secretary-treasurer (1873 - 1878?), Job Cobb, cashier.
Wilmington Mutual Insurance Company (Wilmington, NC) 1884 - n.d. William A. French, president; J. K. Brown, secretary
Manufacturers & Miners Fire Insurance Company (Winston, NC) 1891 - n.d.
Carolina Insurance Company (Wilmington, NC) 1894 - into 1930s a fire and cargo insurer; President D. L. Gore; Vice President Clayton Giles; Treasurer Martin Stevenson Willard
Southern Stock Mutual Fire Insurance Company (Greensboro, NC) 1895 a fire insurer; President John Milton Worth, former NC State Treasurer and younger brother of NC Governor Jonathan Worth.
Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Association of North Carolina (Chatham Co .) 1896 - M. L. Holt, president; W. L. London, secretary & treasurer;
North Carolina Mutual & Provident Insurance Association (Durham, NC) 1898 - present owned and operated by African-Americans, this successful life insurer was organized in October 1898, and opened for business on April 1, 1899. The company changed its name in 1919 to the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. The first President John Merrick was followed by C. C. Spaulding, Asa Spaulding and others. Often attributed as the first insurer owned by blacks. The American Insurance Company of Philadelphia, founded in 1809/1810, was the first insurer created to sell insurance policies to blacks. However, this company was very short-lived.
Carolina Benevolent Association (Raleigh, NC) 1898 - life insurance company; S. B. Alexander, president; S. A. Ashe, secretary & treasurer; F. S. Blair, general manager; T. B. Womack, general counsel.
Note: There were several companies that sounded like they were North Carolina based insurers, but these companies were not headquartered in the state, although they marketed their policies here. Such firms included:
Carolina Life Insurance Company (Headquarters: Memphis with offices in Baltimore and other cities; bought in 1873 by the Southern Life Insurance Company of Memphis. Both companies went into bankruptcy in late 1875 or early 1876) Jefferson Davis became the president of the Carolina Life Insurance Company and served from November 23, 1869 to August 25, 1873. Confederate general Robert Hoke served as the Carolina Life agent in North Carolina for a time.
Contact Ron Vinson with any information or updates to this list.
Click images for larger view