Waddell and Coxe was founded in 1894 by Mr. Duncan Cameron Waddell , Mr. Joseph Sluder and Mr. Francis X. Coxe. The business plan was to draw upon the insurance experience of Mssrs. Waddell and Sluder along with the coal assets of Mr. Coxe. This was at a time when our city streets were unpaved and lined with power and phone lines. The air hung heavy with smoke from coal burned to heat homes and businesses. In Asheville, the Biltmore House was in the midst of preparing for its 1895 Christmas Eve opening. Grover Cleveland was president and the nation was in the midst of a depression caused by the panic of 1893.
D. C. Waddell and Joseph Sluder had previously worked together in the Asheville insurance firm of Webb and Sluder. Mr. Coxe was the owner of the original Battery Park Hotel resort overlooking Asheville. He also owned vast tracts of anthracite coal in Pennsylvania, thus our interest in the coal business. Mr. Sluder was well known in Asheville and was a very successful salesman. Mr. Waddell was a descendent of General Hugh Waddell, who served under George Washington. His grandfather was speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives for more than 10 years, and his father was president of the most prominent bank in western North Carolina. Mr. Waddell had previously served as an officer of his dad's bank, which included an insurance agency.
Our operations have been housed in several locations, but have always stayed within blocks of our original location on Court Square. Previous locations include 14 years at the Druhmor Building, 12 years at 16 Patton Ave, 39 years in the Paragon Building and 20 years in the Public Service Building. In 1985 our current office building was constructed at the corner of Hilliard Avenue and South French Broad Avenue.
The insurance business has seen drastic changes over the years, but one constant remains for our firm. That constant is our pledge to provide the best insurance products and services to our customers. In the late 19th century we represented a wide diversity of companies, much as we do today. Some of the companies represented then such as Agricultural of Watertown, Madgenburg of Germany, Travelers, Orient of Hartford, Lancanshire Insurance Company and Palatine of England have long since perished and/or have been replaced by modern carriers such as Maryland Casualty, Zurich, Travelers and Auto Owners. With these carriers and others, we are able to meet the insurance needs of the Buncombe County community for Personal Lines, Commercial Lines, Life and Health Insurance.
A most important event in our history took place November 7, 1900, when we signed a supervisory General Agency contract with the Maryland Casualty Company. That relationship continues today with Zurich and is the basis for much of our operations. We operate as the marketing and underwriting branch for Zurich in 18 counties of Western North Carolina, contracting with more than 50 independent insurance agencies.
Mr. Coxe died in 1907 and Mr. Sluder took on increased responsibilities. He was our chief salesperson until his untimely death in 1928 when he was struck and killed by an Asheville streetcar. Steven R. Adams joined the firm in 1922 and was a principal when the company was incorporated in 1926 as Waddell, Sluder, Adams & Co. By that time we were completely out of the coal business and had found lucrative markets in the auto liability insurance and employers liability markets. Unfortunately, things were not to continue on such a positive path as the Great Depression brought about hard times for the company, our employees and our agents. With a corporate capitalization decrease, salary cuts and a strong will to survive, the company was able to continue and later to prosper again.
Until the mid-1950s Waddell, Sluder, Adams & Co. remained principally a retail operation and wrote many of the more prominent commercial accounts in Buncombe County. Our wholesale representation of Maryland Casualty / Zurich has continued to expand throughout our marketing territory and strong growth has been recorded each year by both our retail and wholesale operations. The success of our operation stems from the dedication and talent exhibited by both our current and past employees. Messrs. Waddell, Sluder and Adams set the tone when they established their own tenures of 56, 31 and 50 years respectively. Since their time others have established similar commitments to the company such as Mr. Robert Cordell with 52 years, Mr. William Adams, Jr. with 49 years, Mr. Robert Gelder, Sr. with 34 years, Mr. Robert Gelder, Jr. with 35 years and Julia Adams with 34 years.
Second and third generation family members Robert Gelder, Jr., past President, and Julia Adams, President, currently own and operate the company with the same commitment to their customers that has been in place for more than 100 years. With solid company relationships in place to provide needed products in today's competitive environment and with a trained staff that averages more than 20 years of service to the company, we are well positioned to move forward with confidence into the future.