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Washington County, Illinois

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Washington County Abstract Company 100 Years Old
Nashville News
Nashville, Illinois
October 21, 1987
courtesy of Jo House
      The Washington County Abstract Company with offices in the Holston Building in Nashville, is celebrating its one hundredth birthday this year according to secretary Louise Beckman.
 
      Beckman has been associated with the firm since 1969 when she and James B. House purchased it from the estate of Justice Byron O. House.
 
      The early history of the Washington County Abstract Company is rather sketchy. However, in 1871 Tindale and Cone, successors to Pierce and Walker were preparing abstracts in Washington County. In a "History of Washington County, Illinois (with illustrations descriptive of its scenery and biographical sketches of some of its Prominent Men and pioneers)", which was compiled in 1879, the following appears:
 
      "John S. Tindale was born in New Castle, Delaware, October 11, 1832. At the age of 19 he entered Dickinson College at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he remained for nearly two years, after which he taught school for a short time. In 1866 he came West and settled in Okawville. He taught school until 1869 when he moved to Nashville and engaged in the compilation of the records and abstract business.
 
      "He was the first man in the County to write up and compile a full set of abstract books. He adopted the Warren and Durfee System of Abstracting, which is expensive in its compilation, but when complete, the best and superior to all others in use. By their aid, it can be readily ascertained at a glance where defects exist in titles.
 
      "In days gone by when land was cheap titles were not looked after so closely but with increased values came the necessity of a more perfect title. These abstracts of Mr. Tindale's have been compiled at considerable cost of both time and money, and they are regarded by business and professional men as entirely correct and reliable as it is possible to make them."
 
      In 1878, Jones and West succeeded J. S. Tindale and Company. Mr. Jones apparently became discouraged with the title business since in the old Warren and Durfee Grantor-Grantee index in the Washington County Abstract Company office is a notation to the effect that it is completed to page 1189-1 and following that the words, "life too short to finish same. O. C. J." In 1882 Tindale was again preparing abstracts.
 
      In 1883 the Washington County Courthouse and a number of other buildings in Nashville burned. Hearsay has it that suspicion of arson fell upon the then owner of the abstract records and just prior either to his indictment or trial, he committed suicide. It was the conjecture of the authorities that his reason for starting the fire was that his safe could withstand a fire and the courthouse vaults could not, thereby making his records invaluable.
 
      Thereafter the abstract records passed into more reliable hands, and an old minutes book of the corporation reveals:
 
      "On this day Thursday, March 10, 1887, there met at the office of Forman Brothers in Nashville, Illinois, Amos Watts, John McElhanon and C. M. Forman for the purpose of organizing a joint stock company under the provision of the statute in such case provided, which stock company is to be known as the Washington County Abstract Company, the object being to purchase the abstract books belonging to the firms of Hisey and Boucher and Watts and Forman and to consolidate the same for the purpose of carrying on an abstracting business. The shares to be in the sum of Fifty Dollars each, and to number one hundred and twenty. It is agreed to apply to the Secretary of State for a license to open subscription to said corporation."
 
      Watts, McElhanon and Forman were lawyers. Watts, who later became a Circuit Judge, was the uncle of Amos H. Watts and Wadsworth W. Watts, both retired Chicago lawyers.
 
      The certificate of incorporation issued by Henry D. Demont, Secretary of State, is dated March 12, 1887, and the company has been operated as a corporation ever since.
 
      In 1911, H. H. House and Oscar H. Rinne purchased the stock and when the latter was elected Circuit Clerk in 1916, House became the sole owner. House died in 1944, and the company was purchased from the family by his son, Byron O. House, who later served on the Illinois Supreme Court from 1957 to his death in 1969.
 
      Not only has the House family owned the company for over 70 years, but Judge Amos Watts, one of the founders, was the great-grandfather of Justice House's wife, Mildred. Thus, by marriage the connection goes back over 100 years.

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