In 1887, when Henry Clay Beck founded the Chattanooga Abstract Company, his family was already firmly established in the newly created city known as Chattanooga. His father had been owner of a quarry that was located on the present site of the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club. Stone from that quarry was used, among other projects, to build the piers of the Walnut Street Bridge, as well as the steeple of the old Centenary Methodist Church downtown and the wall around the Hamilton County Courthouse.
Beck served as Hamilton County Register at that time, and he saw an opportunity to pursue a business that was in its infancy. Prior to that time, when someone purchased property, research was done by an abstract agency and given to a lawyer. The lawyer simply offered an opinion whether the deed was secure; and, for the most part, the opinion was only as good as the lawyer.
There was a need in Chattanooga for a company that would insure titles to property. So, in 1890, Beck created Title Guaranty and Trust Company of Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Abstract Company a wholly-owned subsidiary of that company. Title Guaranty was the first title insurance company south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Only Title Company in Chattanooga.
Title Guaranty is also the oldest title insurance company south of Philadelphia and the only title insurance underwriter in Chattanooga. Other title companies in this area serve only as agents for out-of-town insurers.
“This makes us special in two important ways,” says Charles O. Hon III, the great-grandson of the founder and the sixth president of the company. “First, it enables us to make decisions locally on what or how to insure, whereas at other companies the decisions are made out-of-town and usually out-of-state without that personal feel of the people or property involved. Second, and perhaps most importantly, it keeps the premium dollars in Chattanooga. They become part of the economy, rather than going to a corporation in some other city.”
That attitude of “down-home” service mixed with top professionalism has received national recognition. In fact, in 1988-89, Hon was elected president of the American Land Title Association, the national trade group of the title insurance industry.
A Heritage of Quality Service.
“In my 20 years in the business, I’ve seen some drastic changes,” says Hon, noting specifically the way title insurance is marketed. “It has changed from men in green visors approaching their business very conservatively to a time when there is a new emphasis on marketing.”
Title Guaranty has changed and grown with the times. It now has two branch offices, one on Shallowford Road and one in Cleveland, Tennessee. And quiet, efficient computers have replaced the green visors. But some things haven’t changed. From its offices on Walnut Street, which it has occupied since 1925, Title Guaranty takes pride in its traditions, for it has a heritage of quality service to Chattanooga for more than a century.