The Preferred Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Chenango County, as it was first known, was founded in 1896 by Frank E. Holmes. Holmes modeled the company after the first insurance company in the United States, “The Philadelphia Contributionship for Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire,” founded by Ben Franklin in 1752.
As a mutual fire insurance company owned entirely by its policyholders, the company offered broader coverage at a considerably lower cost than was charged by stock insurance companies of the time, which operated for the profit of investors. With only a skeleton management team of just three employees, including Holmes, his wife Cora, and an office clerk, Holmes introduced a new operational format by selling policies through a network of agencies.
In 1899, the offices of Preferred Mutual burned to the ground, along with 11 other buildings in New Berlin. Ironically, Holmes carried no fire insurance on his business property. Fortunately, the company was able to quickly regain its footing and began a long record of growth and profitability.
Today, Preferred Mutual Insurance Company employs more than 270 people and operates in association with over 450 independent agents located in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.
Artifacts from Preferred Mutual's history are on permanent loan exhibit at the Chenango Historical Society.