The History of Land Title and Title Insurance in South Dakota

Land Title Guaranty Company was founded in 1955 by Ernest and Bonnie Carlsen in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Ernie Carlsen was the pioneer of title insurance in South Dakota.

Pioneering Title Insurance in South Dakota

Ernie is a native of South Dakota, and received his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of South Dakota. In 1952 Ernie was living in the State of Washington, and was a Vice President for The Title Insurance Company of Idaho. Under a contract between the U.S. Government and The Title Insurance Company of Idaho, Ernie was using title insurance to insure all of the transactions related to the condemnation and purchase of land for the dams on the Missouri River and for the interstate system.

While doing this work, Ernie developed relationships with many of the county abstractors and Ernie was asked by his company to introduce title insurance as a product for use by the real estate industry to assure titles in South Dakota.


Ernie pioneered title insurance into South Dakota in the 1950’s at a time when abstracts and attorney’s opinions were the accepted method to assure titles. Carlsen traveled throughout South Dakota and enlisted many abstract companies to become agents for The Title Insurance Company of Idaho. This was the beginning of a new era that would change the real estate industry in the state.

Lenders and buyers were becoming more sophisticated during the post-World War II boom years with particularly lenders requiring title insurance in many real estate markets as huge housing developments took shape across the United States.

It takes many years to shepherd such a change from using abstracts/attorney’s opinions to using title insurance. Ernie was successful in helping South Dakota become a modern state within the financing world by pioneering this national trend of using title insurance. The introduction of title insurance was an important leap in making South Dakota a more acceptable process for financial institutions to make loans in the state.

Since the 1960’s and early 1970’s, title insurance has been required by all lenders for loans secured by mortgages, particularly with those lenders who sell their mortgages on the secondary market. Today, abstract and attorney’s opinions are rarely used in South Dakota, and Ernie was the person who brought this significant change to South Dakota.

The Founding of Land Title in 1955

After all of his work in introducing title insurance into South Dakota, Ernie and Bonnie Carlsen decided to form Land Title Guaranty Company in Sioux Falls. As required by South Dakota state law, Ernie and Bonnie built Land Title’s title plant by making photographic copies of all the documents in the Register of Deeds office located at the Minnehaha County Courthouse (now the Courthouse Museum) and created an index to quickly find the documents for any parcel of property in the county. After working two years building the title plant, Land Title commenced business as an abstract company and title agency in May, 1955.

From 1953 to 1960, Land Title was conveniently located across the street from the old Minnehaha County Courthouse (now the Courthouse Museum) at 6th Street and Main Avenue. At this location Land Title took over the office space of USA Today founder, Al Neuharth whose weekly newspaper, SoDak Sports, had gone out of business after one year. From 1960 until 1963, Land title was located at 116 South Main Avenue where the Block 11 parking ramp is located. From there Land Title moved to 111 North Main Ave. where 1st Dakota Bank is now located and was in that location until 1985. From 1985 to 2007, Land Title was located at 9th and Main in what is now known as the Security National Bank Building at 101 South Main Avenue.

In 2005, Land Title sold its interest in the Security National Bank Building and purchased the former DakotaCare Building at 22nd and Minnesota Ave. In 2007, DakotaCare moved to a new facility and Land Title commenced business at this location on May 29, 2007. In August of 2012 they moved in to their current location at 3809 S. Kiwanis Circle.

Land Title Joins the Meierhenry Group of Companies

On the last day of 2013, Land Title Guaranty joined the Meierhenry group of Title Companies. Sabrina Meierhenry, Todd Meierhenry and Mark Meierhenry have more than 20 years in the title business. Land Title joins it’s sister companies which write title insurance in Turner County, Davison County, Hanson County, Aurora County, Brookings County and Gregory County; and its cousin companies in Moody County, Beadle County and Hughes County.

Our Expertise


For more than 55 years, the real estate industry in Sioux Falls has relied upon the expertise of the people of Land Title for the best title insurance and closing services available in South Dakota.

Land Title is an active member of both the South Dakota Land Title Association (SDLTA) and the American Land Title Association (ALTA). Our professionals have been presenters many times at both the state and national conventions during our 55 years in business.