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100 Years at American Insurance

1922 Founder OM Mackey -- How It All Began

This is a story we have not told before now. It was told in detail in the Lewiston Morning Tribune, The Elders / Oliver M. Mackey (published on Dec. 25, 1977), by Thomas W. Campbell. Tom interviewed OM Mackey in 1977 when he was 93 years old about his life and business ventures. In the article, Mackey is pictured at his home at 724 9th Ave in Lewiston as he sits by a picture window with his cat. He chats with old friends who drop by. Excerpts from the article are provided here combined with other history and perspectives for today’s readers….

The year was 1919, it was 3 o’clock in the morning and Oliver M. Mackey had just alighted from a train at the Camas Prairie Railroad Depot (now the Train Station on Main Street in Lewiston). 

OM Mackey’s mission in Lewiston was to look the place over and consider whether it would be a logical spot for a new bank. It was not in his mind to undertake a walking tour of the city at that hour, but he was met at the depot by an enthusiastic resident of the city, the late James E. Babb, a Lewiston attorney. 

“We walked up and down the street,” Mackey said. “We looked at the Bollinger Hotel and then we looked at the De France Hotel.” Even in the darkness, Mackey concluded that Lewiston appeared to have a bright future and that he wouldn’t mind being a part of it. “There was a sawmill coming and they were getting ready to build the Lewis-Clark Hotel,” Mackey said. “I could just feel it.” 

Mackey returned to Westville, Ill., a suburb of Danville, to report his findings to A.L. Lyons, his father-in-law. 

AMERICAN NATIONAL BANK (changed in 1925 to AMERICAN BANK & TRUST CO) 

The Lewiston bank was a joint venture of O.M. Mackey and his father-in-law, A.L. Lyons, who was a banker at Danville. The new Lewiston bank was located at 624 Main St. They opened their new bank in Lewiston on Aug. 16, 1920 to great success, calling it the American National Bank. Lyons was president and Mackey the cashier. “When it opened for business at 9 in the morning there were already 15 persons waiting at the door to make the first deposits. An excellent volume of business was done during the day and deposits were over $50,000,” reported the Lewiston Morning Tribune. 

By 1927 the bank had financed and built the Carssow building, named after Dr. O.C. Carssow, an original investor in the bank, at 9th & Main St in Lewiston.  The building design was influenced by the recent building of the Lewis Clark Hotel in 1922 and had Spanish tile valances and arched windows. This became the home for American Bank & Trust Co, American Insurance and Loan Co and various retail, service and professional offices. The bank was one of the few independent banks in the state that survived the Great Depression. 

Mackey was bank cashier until 1943, when he became president after the death of his father-in-law, A.L. Lyons.  The bank was sold in 1955 to First Security Bank, who remodeled the building with marble siding and rectangular windows, as it looks to this day. First Security Bank sold the building to its present owner, Wells Fargo Bank, in 2000. 

MACKEY-THIESSEN INVESTMENT CO. (AMERICAN INSURANCE AND LOAN CO) 

The vision of business opportunity caused OM Mackey to create the Mackey-Thiessen Investment Co. on Oct. 9, 1922 to explore the emerging opportunities of insurance and consumer loans. Influenced by the bank name, on Oct. 10, 1926, the name was changed to AMERICAN INSURANCE & LOAN CO.

Then, late in 1927, the bank and insurance operations were moved into the new Carssow Building at 9th and Main Streets (current home of Wells Fargo Bank) where the two businesses operated side by side. A year later, on Aug. 15, 1928 AMERICAN INSURANCE was sold to an Iowa transplant, Harry Christy and his wife, Blanche Sullivan Christy (Frank “Sully” Sullivan’s aunt). So began, the first generation of Sullivans to own and operate AMERICAN INSURANCE. 

GREAT WESTERN MUTUAL ASSOCIATION  

On April 15, 1935, during the Great Depression, OM Mackey started Great Western Mutual Association, with a group of investors and Harry W Christy as President.  They grew the life insurance company from scratch to nearly 10,000 policyholders and $8,000,000 of in-force life insurance in 18 years (1953). The company continued until March 31, 1964 when it was sold to Rushmore Mutual Life. 

OM Mackey, died three years after his 1977 Tribune interview at the age of 96. As a resident of Lewiston, Mackey was deeply involved in the city’s business and civic life. He was the past president of the Lewiston Chamber of Commerce, President of the Idaho Banking Assoc, Idaho representative to the National Banking Association, a charter member of the Lewiston-Clarkston Kiwanis Club, and past Exalted Ruler of the Lewiston Elks Lodge.

In 2022, we are celebrating our 100th Year of History, which all began with our Founder OM Mackey. 

Source: The Lewiston Morning Tribune, The Elders / Oliver M. Mackey (published on Dec. 25, 1977), By Thomas W. Campbell

100 years at American Insurance

This is “our” history – yours and ours! Since 1922 AMERICAN INSURANCE has become an inseparable part of the communities it serves. Our history is also the history of the business and civic leaders who helped shape and build our local communities.

Since 1922 (when we were insuring Model-T Fords) up to the present day, we have historic pictures, articles, and advertisements to share with you. Learn about the “who”, the “why” and the “events” that shaped our history and our local community.

Watch this page for updates as we tell our story all throughout the year of 2022 to highlight our century mark in the LC valley! We’re excited to tell our story and yours as well of our 4 generations of Sullivan family ownership.

Four Sullivan generations have had the privilege to touch the lives of thousands of our neighbors - as customers and employees, as claimants who receive needed insurance benefits, or as civic support and leadership to make our community strong. Watch this page for updates as we tell our story all throughout the year of 2022 to highlight our century mark in the LC valley!

Wish to reach out to tell us your agency connection? Contact Marketing Manager Stephanie Herbert at community [at] am-ins [dot] com or (208) 413-6242 to share your story.