Ghosts on Main Street: The Marion Protective Association – the Assurance of Insurance

January 3, 2019

By Julie Traynor

There are ghosts of the Marion Protective Association still among us, even though the local insurance group disbanded nearly 30 years ago. Tucked away in the back of desk drawers and found among things labeled ‘important papers’, Marionites still find membership documents and they wonder just what it is they’ve found…and if it has any value. The answer to that question is two-fold. No, it no longer has any value. And yes, it holds an interesting history and held a spot in the social lives of those whose name is on the papers.

The Marion Protective Association became official on January 12, 1912, just 107 years ago. It was in part the brain child of Permelia Davison (wife of David Davison and mother of David Davison, of the Marion Bank), who sorely saw the need. The Davison’s, together with Andy Bentley, Joe Lowry and Sam Watt who drew up the Constitution and by-laws, and 33 of their friends and neighbors, set the Protective’s rolling. The original charter allowed for 50 members, between the ages of 18-70 and in reasonable health. At its height the Protective’s counted almost 800 members.

This is the Protective Association photo of my great grandfather and early Osceola County pioneer Milton Beebe. He passed away in 1936 in the heart of the Depression, when Protective Association benefits were keenly appreciated. 

This is the Protective Association photo of my great grandfather and early Osceola County pioneer Milton Beebe. He passed away in 1936 in the heart of the Depression, when Protective Association benefits were keenly appreciated. 

The principal of the “Protective’s” as the Association was commonly known, was simple and is Article 1 of the Constitution and By-Laws.

“Object – The object of the Association is to unite all gentlemen and ladies of good repute, and reasonably good health…to harmonize in love and neighborly affection, and to provide a fund for each and every member in case of death.”

How it functioned essentially boiled down to this. Each member paid a $1.25 membership fee. Of that $1 went into the death benefit fund and 25c went to a general fund. When someone made a claim upon a member’s death, members again paid $1.25. Of that $250 went to the family of the deceased.

The Protective’s also held a monthly meeting, originally in the large meeting room above Lowry’s Store and later in the Marion Twp. Hall. These well attended meetings were pot luck dinners with entertainment. In the early days of the group, music figured prominently and continued to do so for years. During the 1950’s and ‘60’s Travel Log movies and slide show presentations of member’s trips were the norm. These meetings were very well attended and often the hall was standing room only.

Many well remembered Marionites were members and served as officers. The first was J.D. Fry, an early teacher who helped to organize the school district. Olive Piper McLeod was President in 1949, a capacity she filled for 20 years, as well as that of secretary until she left Marion in the early 1960’s. Vern Williams filled the presidential shoes in 1961. Other secretaries were Mabel Sheets and Edna Salisbury.

The Marion Protective Association did well for many years because it grew. There were more new members than those lost. This rhythm began to decline into the 1970’and slowly but surly the membership dwindled until it was dissolved, unable to meet its objective. However, they always fulfilled the mission of the Loyalty statement.

“The purpose is to promote friendship as well as assistance in time of need.” One cannot ask for more than that.     Assistance comes in many forms and the Protective Association offered so much more than money.

The last secretary and president of the Protective’s was the late Phil Hatfield. The group was dissolved by 1990.

On a personal note…I have to say that I very much enjoyed and remember the social side of the Protective’s. I often accompanied my grandmother to the Pot Luck meetings at the hall. They were special because it was a date with her and because these entertaining meetings, filled with much conversation, laughter, song-singing and great food, were better than a wedding reception for a kid. Those were the days when everyone in attendance knew everyone else, no matter how large the crowd.

I, like many folks in these parts, have ‘Protective Papers’ stuck away in a shoe box. Fern Berry joined in June, 1949. At that time she had been a widow for 4 months and was 51 years old. I do not know if my grandfather who died in February of that year, was a member or not. My parents joined in June of 1961 and I have their papers as well. My grandmother’s claim was paid in 1968; my parents, who both died after 1990, were not.

Assessment notices were sent to members via a postcard through the mail and were payable through the mail to the secretary, or at a number of businesses about town, including the bank and the grocery stores. Payment could be made at the check out counter at the IGA. The allotted assessment was collected, the perforated card duly marked, initialed and separated. The money was kept in a brown bag under the cigarettes and collected by the secretary or treasurer. Many times the $1.25 was paid in change, carefully saved just for that purpose.

The Protective Association’s payment went toward the payment of services for funerals and is probably responsible for the purchase and placement of many a headstone in these parts. Another lasting monument of sorts, are the photographs taken of early pioneers and founding membership of the group, many of these are available for viewing in the Big Photo Album at the Marion Library.

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