This week marks the 150th anniversary of the co-founding by Alexander Ephraim Case of Marion’s oldest continuous business. What today is known as Case and Son Insurance began in 1868 as Case and Billings Agency, a real estate, loan, and insurance business.
Born in 1838 in north-central Pennsylvania, Case moved west after being discharged from the Civil War in 1865. He homesteaded in Marion, a frontier town beset by raids conducted both by Indians and by lawless white men disguised as Indians. At the time, Marion County and its school district included the entire southwest quarter of the state. Students from Fort Larned, Fort Dodge, and other remote outposts all traveled to Marion for their schooling.
After receiving an insurance commission and being admitted to the bar in 1868, Case partnered with Levi Billings, who had come to Marion in 1864 to join his uncle, original 1860 settler William H. Billings, in a dry goods and grocery business. Both Levi and William Billings were county commissioners. The first meeting of the county commission occurred in William Billings’s home.
Case and Billings Agency grew rapidly after it was appointed to sell lands granted to the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad when it built its main line through Florence and Peabody. Case also served as Marion County surveyor, starting in 1866, and as a state legislator and county attorney in 1869.
Case and both Billingses were part of a six-member delegation that persuaded publisher A.W. Robison to move this newspaper, then known as the Western News, to Marion in 1870. Others in the delegation were A.A. Moore and J.H. Costello, who had founded post offices in Durham and Lost Springs a year before Marion was settled, and Dr. J.N. Rodgers, who founded the school in Marion.
Case had five children. Three died as infants, including twin daughters who died along with their mother, Case’s first wife, Mary, shortly after she gave birth in 1880.
In addition to the real estate agency, Case and Billings co-founded Cottonwood Valley Bank in 1876, but it closed amid the same economic panic that condemned Chingawasa Springs resort in 1893. Billings moved to Idaho, and Case’s son Rosse joined the agency, transforming it into exclusively an insurance agency.
Alexander Case died in 1929. His great-great-grandson, Alex H. “Casey” Case III, now runs the agency.