Founded in 1914 by E. J. Brookhart, the great-uncle of current Chairman, President and CEO, Bill Montgomery, Celina Insurance Group has developed into a multi-line insurance provider offering auto, non-standard auto, home, commercial auto, commercial property and casualty, umbrella and farm coverages.
Located in Celina, Ohio, we are a financially strong company, which achieved a direct written premium of $119 million during 2013. Celina Insurance partners with independent agents who offer various insurance products throughout Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Iowa and West Virginia.
The State of Ohio chartered The National Mutual Automobile Association. Mercer County (Ohio) folk were not as confident in the idea as was the founder, Edgar Jacob (E.J.) Brookhart. "It is a
"hare-brained" idea," remarked one local. "A "wild-eyed" proposition," echoed another. But Brookhart knew he was witnessing a revolution as the people in his community began populating the streets and roads with automobiles.
He felt lower rates for insurance could be offered to the rural community by a small-town insurance company because Eastern insurance companies sold their coverage at rates based on big city experience. An attorney with real estate and insurance experience, he had the knowledge and courage to take on the obstacles and plunge into the future. World War I had begun as other enthusiasts joined Mr. Brookhart in his venture. The first Board of Directors were J.D. Johnson, president of the Board (later to serve in the Ohio Senate); O.F. Rentzsch, vice president; W.T. Palmer, treasurer; and E.J. Brookhart, secretary. In those days the secretary, rather than the president, was the guiding hand of a mutual insurance company.
Organized under the section of Ohio laws governing the formation of a mutual assessment insurance association, the company could write only automobile fire insurance. The first members of the association were 20 residents of Celina, Ohio.
"It is a "hare-brained" idea," remarked one local. "A "wild-eyed" proposition," echoed another. But Brookhart knew he was witnessing a revolution..."
The association had its first fire loss - an auto was destroyed in a paint shop. Work had been completed, but for some reason the insured did not pick up the car. Because the company was on the assessment plan, there was not enough money to pay the loss and funds had to be borrowed from the bank to pay the claim of a little over $500. Original charges for membership were only $1 plus a $1.50 policy fee and 20 cents per $100 of insurance.
These were experimental rates since no company had the experience of any size or value on automobile insurance. But by the end of 1915, approximately 8,000 policies had been sold throughout the state by the fledgling company. Soon the association members concluded there was a need for broader insurance coverage. As more people learned to drive, there was more than fire damage to worry about - auto theft was an increasing risk. To cover these risks, the company would have to reorganize into a mutual insurance company. The association had the qualifying number of policyholders, but not the required $10,000 worth of assets. But E.J. Brookhart had faith; he borrowed the money personally and advanced it as guaranty capital. In 1916, the new charter was issued and The National Mutual Insurance Company was born. Business was handled out of a two-room office with only one clerk. Mr. Brookhart described the early days thus: "Of necessity I was publicity manager, home office underwriter, field man, loss man, mail boy, and office janitor, in addition to trying to take care of a local insurance agency here in Celina."
A few years passed, and coverage for general fire, lightning, and tornado on buildings and contents was added. Times were changing and management realized there was a need for automobile liability insurance if they were to keep pace with the growing competition because, by this time, there were enough cars on the road that they were starting to hit each other. National Mutual was a fire company; a casualty company was needed.
The Celina Mutual Casualty Company was organized to take care of the liability lines. The same men of vision headed up this enterprise.
National Mutual grew and prospered but again, E.J. Brookhart had to show his confidence in the future of the operation and finance an effort at growth. He advanced $35,000 to bring the surplus of the company up to the statutory requirement of $100,000 to enable the company to write a nonassessable policy. With this move, it met its competitors' offerings and grew.
Through the years, the Celina Insurance Group of companies has continued to operate from faith, confidence, and effort. E.J. Brookhart guided the companies through two world wars and the Great Depression. In 1923, a young statistician joined the companies, C.M. (Chad) Montgomery, brother-in-law of E.J. Brookhart. He was a key person in the growth of the companies. During the Depression, growth was difficult but no layoffs occurred. However, all wages were cut 10% and no women were hired if their husbands still had jobs. The companies held on.
From two rooms, the companies grew into a two-story building on Main Street, Celina.
Upon Brookhart's death in 1950, C.M. Montgomery was elected general manager and secretary of both companies.
C.M.'s son, Don W. Montgomery, joined the companies as general counsel. A graduate of DePauw University and Columbia University's Law School, he had been an Assistant Attorney General for Ohio as well as Prosecuting Attorney for Mercer County.
A new home office building was dedicated at Insurance Square, Celina, Ohio. The American Association of Nurserymen, Inc. awarded The Celina Mutual Insurance Company with its prestigious Commercial Landscaping Award. In conjunction with her beautification of America program, Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson personally presented the award to Don Montgomery.
The Celina Insurance Group expanded the corporate headquarters building in Celina, Ohio.
William W. Montgomery, Don's son, joined the group. William Montgomery is also a graduate of DePauw University and received his law degree from Ohio Northern University School of Law. He served two terms in the Indiana House of Representatives and also was a member and later chairman of the Public Service Commission of Indiana.
William W. Montgomery was elected president and chief operating officer of the companies.
Celina Insurance Group celebrated its 90th anniversary. The company was also recognized with the Mercer County Community Business of the Year award.
William W. Montgomery was elected Chairman of the Board of the Celina Insurance Group companies.
From humble beginnings as a fire assessment company in 1914, the Celina Insurance Group has progressed through many phases to its current multi-line status. Each time insurance laws changed and more enhancements became available, Celina Insurance Group responded quickly. When insurance laws were changed in 1953 to enable a single company to write both property and liability insurance, The Celina Mutual Casualty Company became The Celina Mutual Insurance Company and began writing both lines. The National Mutual Insurance Company also expanded its operation to include liability insurance.
Chairman, President and CEO Bill Montgomery comments on the ever changing philosophy of the insurance world:
"The more things change, the more they stay the same, or so it seems. If agents and company together keep the faith, go about the mission with confidence, and put forth the required effort, we will progress beyond the wildest dreams of our founder. E.J. Brookhart built that first company with the capability and the desire to discharge its obligations completely and fairly. It was a company founded on safe, conservative principles, and a company dedicated to the safety and security of its policyholders. Our companies have grown and survived with the same dedicated efforts of many people, but much remains to be done."
He goes on to say, "The insurance world is experiencing monumental change today, and some uncertainty. However, it can be no greater than in 1914 when a company was formed with the interests of local people in mind who were generally unsupportive of the whole idea. The Celina Insurance Group remains a regional company focused on providing the best coverage and service available. We're big enough to respond, but small enough to care. All of us will continue to work hard and add value to the core values of the company, Stability. Innovation. Relationships."
Unlike a stock company, a mutual insurance company is owned entirely by its policyholders. Each owner, or policyholder, has a vote in matters of the company. Policyholders elect and approve a mutual company’s Board of Directors.
Mutual insurance companies have deep roots. In 1752, Benjamin Franklin started America’s mutual property and casualty industry with the formation of the Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire. Centuries have passed, but Franklin’s insurance legacy lives on among the hundreds of American mutual companies.
Celina Insurance Group stands committed to the mutual insurance model because we serve Main Street, not Wall Street.
Celina Insurance Group was founded in 1914 as a mutual company to allow local automobile owners to share the collective risk against fire. It’s the benefit of policyholders—not stockholders—that guides the Company’s decisions. Because Celina Insurance Group is free of stockholders’ short-term concerns, we can take a long-term approach to our business.
 Wright, Janet; Virginia Wadsley, Janice Artandi (1994). The History of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, A Century of Commitment, 1895–1995. Indianapolis, IN: National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. pp. 1–5.
Celina Insurance Group is committed to developing and enriching the local area. Our company and employees donate time and money to local charities each year.
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