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Moulthrop-Clift, Incorporated
Bay City "Centennial" business dating back to 1849.
by Marvin Kusmierz (Feb. 2003 - Updated Nov. 2005)

MCI Building: Madison & 6th Street (photo 2005)

Moulthrop-Clift, Inc. traces it's roots back to 1849 and John Drake who was sold insurance policies the early pioneers of Bay City, at a time it was known as the village of Lower Saginaw. Several mergers took place over the years to form the present company. The last merger took place in 1968, when the W.O. Clift & Company and Guy Moulthrop Insurance Agency consolidated their businesses to form Moulthrop-Clift, Inc.

Up September 2005, the company had dated its history to 1867. They became a Centennial business in 1967. n 1992, they received a plaque from the Michigan Historical Society which is proudly displayed at their home office in Bay City. However, the new information developed in September, which was discovered by Bay-Journal and shared with Blair Mouthrop, MCI's vice-president set in motion a series of events that were handled by Guy Moulthrop, the president of MCI that lead to the society's acceptance of the 1849 date as when MCI was established.

The History of Moulthrop-Clift, Inc.

John Drake - Pioneer Insurance Agent

While we know that John Drake was doing business in as early as 1849, I was not able to establish when he arrived here or from where he came. Its clear from the records found that he made an a living selling selling more than just insurance during the pioneer period as the population wasn't of sufficient size to support a livable income solely from insurance policies. He also promoted himself as selling agent for lumber, and may have sold other products as well.

Ad in 1866-67 Pioneer Directory

In 1849, the area of present Bay County was still attached to Saginaw County. It wasn't until 1857 that Bay County was organized, it during that year the village of Lower Saginaw changed its name to Bay City. A decade later, John placed ran the ad shown on the right that indicates his major focus was on selling insurance policies, while to much lesser extent he promotes his additional services as an assistant assessor, land agent and notary public.

It was around this time period that lumbering industry had establish a strong footing in the valley. The former villages of Bay City, Saginaw, East Saginaw and Midland were now cities and their populations were growing rapidly, which helped support Drake's leaning more heavily on the insurance business.

From the 1870 Michigan Census (see right-hand column), we learn that Drake is 63 years old and was born in Scotland. Living with him are Emma Drake, age 45 and William Fennif. Emmas is recorded as keeping house and is most likey his wife. Finnif works as a commission agent (salesman) and may be a relative of Emma or John, or possibly an associate staying temporarily at John's residence.

Drake and Clift-Bush Consolidation.

In 1895, John Drake decided to consolidate his business with Clift-Bush agency, which was a partnership owned by William O. Clift and Adelbert E. R. Bush. John at this time would have been 88 years based the 1870 Census information, and it's unlikely at that he any plans of continuing to sell insurance polices at that age. The deal with Clift-Bush was probably a financial arrangement allowing Clift-Bush to increase their customer base, while John picked us some cash before retiring from the business. That year the agency previously purchased the business of Mr. Corwin who died, which was a fairly substantial business he acquired from C. B. Cottrel in 1885.

Crapo block, n.w. corner of Center & Washington aves.

Information from the 1893-94 Polk Directory lists Adelbert E.R. Bush as a general insurance agent in partnership with C. B. Corwin and they are located at 407 Crapo Block (Washington Ave.). Both are selling polices for the Michigan Mutual Life Insurance located in Detroit. Bush and his wife, Catherine, are residing at 815 N. Johnson street, and Corwin is living at 1413 Sixth street.

W. O. Clift & Sons.

The Bush & Cliff partnership in 1898. William O. Clift continued the business with son, Lyle, under the name of "W.O. Clift & Sons." The following information from the 1922 Polk Directory gives a little more insight into the activities of this business:

- Clift, Lyle M., (sp. Helen), Clift & Curry and W.O. Clift & Son, Attorney-at-law, 816 Adams.
- Clift, William O., President Savings Building & Loan Assn., 1409 6th St.
- Clift, W.O. & Son (Wm. O. Clift, Lyle M. Clift, General Insurance, 816 Adams.
- Curry, Volney M., W.O. Clift & Son, General Insurance & Real Estate Loans, 816 Adams.

William O. Clift

Myron W. Clift

Lyle M. Clift

Moulthrop and Clift Consolidation.

In 1968, the W. O. Clift & Co. and the Guy Moulthrop Insuarance Agency merged and this began the present with Moulthrop Clift, Inc. business.

Guy Moulthrop had operated his own successful agency since 1927. When the two businesses merged it was decided that the W.O. Clif & Sons would close their office in the Phoenix block (S.w. corner of Washington & Center) in favor of Moulthrops location in the Davidson block (n.e. corner of Washington & 4th street).

Picture of founding members of Mouthrop-Clift, Inc.

Front row:
Guy R. Moulthrop (1900-1974), Guy T. Moulthrop (Current Chairman), Lyle M. Clift (1892-1976)

Back row:
Henry G. Rexer, Charles W. Grube, Jack A. Ryman, John D. Wheeler, Robert A. McKinley, (all retired)

Today, Moulthrop-Clift, Inc. is located at 701 N. Madison Avenue (n.w. corner of Madison avenue and Sixth street). They also have an office in Midland.

At 135 years of continuous service, Moulthrop-Clift, Inc. is among a rare few local Centennial companies still doing business.

Article updates:

    Oct. 16, 2004:
    When this article was orginally published in February 2003, the understanding was that the history of Mouthrop-Clift, Inc. dated back to 1867 and John Drake. However, in September of this year, new information has been found that shows John Drake was selling insurance as early as 1849, some 18 years earlier than previous known. This new data was submitted to the state which has validate the 1849 as most accurate represent the company's beginning. Therefore, the 1867 updated to read 1849.

Viewer Comments/Contributions:

    Oct., 2012: Two newspaper articles contributed by Bill Clift, 2nd great-grandson of W.O. Clift.

    The Bay City Times-Press May 8, 1895.


    It Passes into the Hands of A. E. R. Bush and W. O. Clift.

    Since the death of James B. Corwin, business circles have been wondering who would succeed to his prosperous insurance agency. Negotiations for the business were closed yesterday afternoon, when it was announced that his old and reliable clerk, A. E. R. Bush, for 77 years connected with the office, had joined with W. O. Clift, the popular cashier of the Commercial bank, and purchased the business.

    No more agreeable news could reach the business community, as both gentlemen are thoroughly competent to take hold of the agency and carry it along on the same practical and successful business when under the charge of the late Mr. Corwin. Mr. Bush and Mr. Clift both have the respect and confidence of the community, and both being sound business men, make the team an especially strong one. The Corwin agency succeeded to the well know agency of the late Charles B. Cottrell, and Bush & Clift succeeded to one that has been equally successful.

    The Times-Press wishes them the best kind of success.

    Bay City Sunday Times - July 14, 1895.


    Bush & Clift and John Drake Consolidate Their Insurance Business.

    The Sunday Times is pleased to announce the consolidation of the old and well established insurance agency of Bush & Clift, who recently succeeded the late James B. Corwin, and John Drake. The business of the consoidation will be conducted under the firm name of Bush and Clift, in their present location, rooms 300 and 307 Crapo block, to which Mr. Drake will move on Monday next, and where he may be found in the future by his numerous patrons and friends.

    Mr. John Drake is too well and favorably known to the citizens of Bay City to need extended mention here. Suffice it to say he is the pioneer insurance agent of the Saginaw valley, having been in the business since 1869.

    Mr. A. E. R. Bush has been associated with the agency of which is now one of the representatives, for the past 17 years, it being his duty to see the placing of line, and when it is stated that during this period all losses have been paid promptly and without litigation, it speaks volumes for his business methods and ability.

    Mr. W. O. Clift is also favorably known, having been associated with the Commercial bank from the time it began business. He is a genial, pleasant gentleman, with a host of friends, and will prove no drawback to the company. But on the other hand will add strength and popularity to the firm. He is now a full fledged insurance agent and is giving his entire attention to the business.

    The fourteen companies represented by these agencies are the strongest and best doing business in this community and the combination will give the new firm facilities for writing large lines of insurance that are certainly unequaled in the Saginaw valley.

    The firm not only does fire insurance business but write life and accident risks in the Travelers Insurance Co. of Hartford, Conn., which is conceded by all to be the strongest accident company in the world to-day. They will also do a plate glass business representing one of the best company's in this line. In connection with the insurance they will also have money to loan on desirable real estate security.

    The consolidation makes an unusually strong combination and one which will be regarded by the community as an eminently representative insurance bureau.

    Success to the new firm.

Related Pages
Bush-Clift Merger, 1895
Clift, William O.
Drake, John
People Referenced
Bush, Aldelbert E.R.
Bush, Catherine(Mrs.)
Clift, Lyle M.
Clift, William O.
Corwin, James B.
Cottrel, Charles B.
Curry, Volney M.
Drake, Emma
Drake, John
Fennif, Wm.
Grube, Charles W.
McKinley, Robert A.
Moulthrop, Guy R.
Moultrhop, Guy T.
Rexer, Henry G.
Ryman, Jack A.
Wheeler, John D.
Subjects Referenced
Aetna Insurance Co.
Artic Co.
Connecticut Mutual LIfe Ins.
Crapo Block
Davidson Building
Habitant Furniture Co.
Hartford, CT
Historical Society of MI
Home Insurance Co.
Immanuel Lutheran Church
Internal Revenue
International Co.
Irving Co.
Lambert Printing Co.
Manhattan Co.
Metropolitan Co.
Michigan Mutual Life Ins. Co.
Phoenix Co.
Phoenix Building
Travelers Mutual LIfe Ins.
1870 Michigan Census
Record: Roll 662, Page 407R
Drake, John, age 63, Fire Insurance Agt., born in Scotland.
Drake, Emma, age 45, keeping house, born in England.
Fennif, William, age 30, Commission Merchant, born in Canada.
History 701 N. Madison
The block that includes the 701 address has had a historical signicance since Bay City was platted. It includes one of four quadrants off Jefferson and Center sts. that make up Battery Park, and it housed the old county jail on the south west section of the block for many years, and which was demolished in 2005 to make way for a new central library.
History 701 N. Madison:
- 1863 thru 1890: German church (see {Religion/Immanuel Lutheran Church}).
- 1920: Dental lab.
History Present building:
- Constructed abt. 1926 for Lambert Printing Co.
- Abt. 1934, it was night club, then later, the Habitant Furniture Co.
- Since 1941, it was a business school.
- 1912, property to it's north is a garage repair shop.
- 1967, property to it's north is a sales & service facility.
- 2005, adjoining property
- Present, property to it's north a parking lot.
Internet Resources
Moulthrop-Clift, Inc. - Home page of featured heritage company.
Article Sources
Bay City Times, article 1 Mar 1999 by Tasha Gatlin
Moulthrop-Clift, Inc. documented history provided by Guy Moulthrop, Sr.
Pioneer Directy, 1866-67, micro-film, Bay Co. Library
Polk Directory, 1893-94, micro-film, Bay Co. Library
Polk Directory, 1920, book, Bay Co. Library
Bay City Tribune, micro-film, article Aug. 4, 1895.
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