Skip to content

Frequently Asked Questions

All You Ever Wanted to Know About Insurance

General Questions: History

History - Founder OM Mackey

History - How It All Began - Founder OM Mackey

The story of the founding of American Insurance would not be complete without first understanding the life and times of O.M. Mackey, an Illinois banker looking for new opportunities for business growth in the lead up to the "Roaring 20s". 

His story was told in detail in the Lewiston Morning Tribune article, 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. 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, 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 BANK & TRUST CO (formerly American National Bank) 

The Lewiston bank was a joint venture of O.M. Mackey and his father-in-law, A.L. Lyons, who were bankers in Danville, Illinois. They opened their new bank, originally located at 624 Main Street in Lewiston, Idaho 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.  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 operations and building was sold in 1955 to First Security Bank. In the year 2000, First Security Bank merged with Wells Fargo Bank, which owns and operates a branch in this same location today. 

AMERICAN INSURANCE AND LOAN CO. (formerly Mackey-Thiessen Investment 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 AND 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 W. Christy and his wife, Blanche (Sullivan) Christy. So began the first generation of Sullivan family to own and operate AMERICAN INSURANCE. 

To learn the full story see these related articles:

GREAT WESTERN MUTUAL LIFE INSURANCE CO (formerly 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 (LMT Obituary - May 1, 1980).

VIDEO - View the Founder :30 video story below. 

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

« Back to General Questions - History