ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Founded in the early 1930s, family owned and operated Bethel Insurance is a full-service independent insurance agency with offices in St. Clairsville and Barnesville.
Almost since its inception, the company has sold Ohio-based Westfield Insurance products. This year marks the agency's 75th year with Westfield.
On hand recently to receive the 75-year award - in the form of a Howard Miller barometer/thermometer - were the third and fourth generations in the business, Robert L. and R. Clay, respectively. Founder Otis O. Bethel sold insurance and real estate until he was 83. His son, Craig, retired in 1983 at age 75. Both lived to be in their 90s.
"Not many agencies have been around this long, and certainly not in the same family," said Rick Kies, Westfield regional agency manager for Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Michigan, who traveled from Cleveland to St. Clairsville to present the award. "Seventy-five years is big."
"Reaching this milestone is an indication that we're a stable company. We've been around and we hopefully will continue to be around for some time," said Robert L. Bethel, who joined his grandfather, father and brother, Richard, in the business in 1964. Richard Bethel left in 1968 to work for The Ohio Company in Columbus and, later, Cincinnati.
Robert Bethel's son, Clay, earned his insurance license in 1983 at the age of 19. He kept up his license over the years but only joined the firm's Barnesville office four years ago.
"I'm proud to be involved in a stable, long-standing insurance office with my family and be able to continue to provide the service that customers have grown to enjoy and expect," Bethel said.
The agency got its start during a rocky time in American history. Otis O. Bethel, born on a farm outside Flushing, had worked many different jobs in his life - farmer, teacher, auditor's clerk, banker. When the stock market crashed in 1929, he was the third-ranking officer of Dollar Bank in St. Clairsville. He was give the task of selling the bank's foreclosed homes. Those owners needed insurance, so he began to sell homeowner's insurance.
When the bank went under in the early '30s, Bethel went into business on his own, opening an office at 131 W. Main St., next door to the Belmont County Courthouse. The business has remained in that location.
In recent years, Robert L. Bethel acquired Insurance Services and Peters Insurance in Barnesville, as well as Kemp Insurance in Belmont. Bill Skaggs of the former Insurance Services, and Clay Bethel are the agents in the Barnesville office at 141 E. Main St.