Burtschi Brothers Title Co. had its beginning on Aug. 5, 1890, when Julius Louis Burtschi acted as the go-between on a $700 loan from William Sonnemann to Katy Mayz.
The next year, Julius opened an office on the second floor of a new Gallatin Street building, on the site of his birthplace. This second year, he made seven loans and built the first of 800 houses that he would build during his lifetime.
The son of Swiss emigrants, Daniel and Franceska Woegtli Burtschi, Julius was born in Vandalia in 1867, four years after his parents had emigrated to America from their home in Nuglar, Solothurn Canton, Switzerland.
His father, a tailor, died in 1881, leaving his widow and sons, Oswald, Theodore, Martin, Julius L., Daniel and Joseph Charles.
Joseph remembered that after his father died, his mother began selling vegetables from her garden located on the site of the current city hall (the former First Bank building).
In 1894, Joseph joined Julius in the firm as bookkeeper and general detail man, which meant that in addition to his regular duties, he started the fires and swept the floors. All for $17 a month, a good wage in those days.
After a few years, they formed a partnership. The brothers made a well-balanced team. Where Julius was impulsive, spontaneous and instigated business deals, Joseph was methodical and analytical, and completed the transactions begun by his brother.
As their business increased and the number of houses being built grew, so did the need for updating abstracts. An increasing amount was being paid out for abstracting, so, Julius, never one to miss an opportunity, arranged with a local abstractor to use his records for a flat fee. It was then Josephs job to bring the abstracts up to date when a loan was made. This was the beginning of their abstract and title business.
The brothers also became agents for several insurance companies, and in 1894 issued their first insurance policy.
In 1910, Julius and Joseph organized the Commercial Bank, and chose the site of a capitol-era tavern, the Old Capitol on Gallatin Street, on which to erect their new building. This building stands today and is home to the offices of Burtschi Brothers & Co., now owned by Patsy Shutz.
The Commercial Bank merged with the Farmers & Merchants (now First Bank), in 1914. Joseph served as director of the Farmers & Merchants Bank, and was its president for 18 years.
In 1914, the formal partnership between Julius and Joseph ended. Julius had long been interested in the business opportunities he saw in Decatur, and moved to that city.
Joseph became the sole owner and chief executive of Burtschi Brothers & Co., remaining active until his death in 1962.
Burtschi Brothers & Co., begun 117 years ago, offers a wide variety of title and land deed services. The business is still growing, and recently has expanded into an adjoining office building.