So much has happened on the planet Earth during the past one hundred years. Land ownership, development, and transfer have been important elements of that century of history. Our role in that portion of our history has been and continues to be to research and report of matters that affect land and the integrated opportunities that it provides. Chautauqua County has many diverse land uses for residential, agricultural, recreational, industrial purposes. The American Dream of home ownership continues to drive the fundamental portion of our business. The following pages present a glimpse into our own history and how we have changed with the times.
Until October 7, 1907, title searches were performed in Chautauqua County by the County Clerk or his functionaries only. On that date, the Buffalo Abstract Company completed its first abstract of title in our county and during the next two years made over 2,000 more.
On October 16, 1909, the first meeting of the incorporators and directors of The Chautauqua Abstract Company was held at the office of Wilson C. Price in the Fenton Building in Jamestown. Mr. Price was elected Secretary/Treasurer, Frederick P. Hall was elected President, and A. B. Ottaway was elected Vice President. Others members of the new group included A. N. Broadhead, A. C. Wade, and George V. Blackstone. Ziba L. Squier was present in his capacity as agent of the Buffalo Abstract Company. It was resolved that the group assembled purchase the Chautauqua County branch business of Buffalo Abstract Company for $5,000. An office was leased from the County for $75 per year and the company was on its way!
The company has had remarkable stability having had only six managers during these past 100 years: August Johnson (1909-1939), Clarence Page (1939-1960), Willard R. Morton (1960-1983), J. Conrad Zenns (1983-1991), Thomas A. Price (1991-2000), and our current President and General Manager, Jon R. Ortendahl.
By 1920, business had increased and the company needed larger quarters. The next step was the purchase of the office building at 28 South Erie Street in Mayville. A fireproof vault was added to the building for the storage of duplicate originals of all abstracts produced.
In 1964, Manager Willard Morton recognized that the company had outgrown the space of its office building at 28 South Erie Street. Property was acquired on East Chautauqua Street that was strategically positioned near both the court house and the post office, and a modem office building was constructed.
In 1968, The Chautauqua Abstract Company acquired American Abstract Corporation by corporate merger, significantly building the company’s customer base, experienced staff, and volume of vault records of title searches. During the same year, the company acquired all of the duplicate originals of abstracts of title made by the Chautauqua County Clerk’s Office from 1920 to 1968. Another mass acquisition of records to also use as tools was the collection of survey maps made by licensed land surveyor David S. Findlay. As we continued to grow, physical additions to the building were made in 1970 and 1989. This location continues to serve our customers and us well. Recent record storage matters have focused on computer storage and retrieval with multiple back-up systems.
In 1983, the company expanded its operations into Cattaraugus County through the purchase of Empire Search Corporation from its sole owner, J. Francis Kelly. Mr. Kelly started his title searching career in 1930 with Empire State Abstract Corporation and became manager of its branch office in Cattaraugus County in 1946. He purchased the assets of the branch office in 1964 and worked steadily until the 1983 merger. Within the past few years, we have begun to serve our customers for special orders in other nearby counties such as Allegany and Livingston.
The Chautauqua Abstract Company entered the new millennium in a particularly strong position to provide excellent service to its customers.
Two reasons for this confidence are:
Our financial reserves provide solid protection to our customers and their clients in the event of a claim, whether immediate or many years after a land transaction. This strength will also enable us to invest in technologies that will facilitate expedient service while continuing our ability to deliver accurate and thorough products.
The title business is full of complex details coupled with critical time” deadlines. The ability to handle the unique pressure is developed and mastered through on-the-job training and continual mentoring. Our narrow focus on the title aspect of real estate gives us the opportunity to become experts in our field. We are fortunate to have many veterans on our staff who are able to lead the way in upholding the high standards of reliability, knowledge, and attention to detail so necessary in the business. Of our current staff of twenty-four employees, eleven have served the company for more than ten years, three have served more than twenty years, and four have served more than thirty years.