Hon. Nelson Case. It would be difficult to properly and justly review the history of Oswego and its responsible men through whose activities and public-spirited endeavors this city had attained its present importance and prestige, without giving due attention to the life of Hon. Nelson Case, who for forty-eight years had been a resident here, and who as a lawyer, judge, city official and counsel for large business interests, had been prominently identified with the municipality’s progress and development.
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Judge Case was born at Falls, Wyoming County, Pennsylvania, April 22, 1845, a son of Chauncey and Mary Elma (Roberts) Case. He comes of Revolutionary ancestors, and belongs to one of America’s old families, the original ancestor being John Case, who emigrated from England, and was one of the original parties to receive land grants at Simsbury, Connecticut from the Crown, and the first delegate to the General Court from Simsbury. He died February 21, 1704. William Case, son of the emigrant, was born January 5, 1665, and died at Simsbury, March 3, 1700. His son was James Case, the great-great-grandfather of Judge Case, who spent his life at Simsbury, where he was born March 12, 1693, and died September 26, 1759. Amasa Case, the great-grandfather of Judge Nelson Case, was born at Simsbury, October 18, 1731, and after a life passed in agricultural pursuits, died August 18, 1824. Among his children was Amasa Case, Jr., the grandfather of Judge Case, who was born at Simsbury, October 29, 1753, followed farming all his life, and died in 1834.
Chauncey Case was born at Simsbury, Connecticut, August 27, 1802, and was there reared and educated. He was a young man when he went to the Susquehanna Valley of Pennsylvania, and for a time divided his time between peddling and farming, in addition to which he kept a store at Falls. In the fall of 1845 he went to Lee County, Illinois, where he was a pioneer on the outskirts of civilization, and there improved a farm from the wilderness and continued to be engaged in agricultural pursuits until his retirement. On this farm Nelson had his home and worked till he came to Kansas. At the time Chauncey Case left the farm he moved to Mendota, Illinois, where his death occurred in 1884. He was first an old line whig and later a republican, and was a strong and active member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was married in the Susquehanna Valley, Pennsylvania, to Mary Elma Roberts, who was born in Pennsylvania, November 29, 1810, and died on the home farm in Wyoming Township, Lee County, Illinois, November 7, 1853. They had the following children, all born in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania: Miriam Eliza, born October 16, 1829, who acted as a mother to the other children after the mother’s death, and died unmarried, at Chicago, Illinois, March 23, 1916; John Alvin, born August 4, 1831, went to California during the gold rush of 1850, from whence he enlisted in the Civil war, through which he fought as a Union soldier, and after his discharge he returned to his old home in Illinois, engaged in farming near Paw Paw, where he died March 14, 1916; Edwin Nathaniel, born January 3, 1834, a retired farmer of Paw Paw, Illinois; Henry Chauncey, born January 11, 1837, who served in Company D, Thirty-fourth Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, throughout the Civil war and was wounded at the battle of Stone River, then returned and engaged in farming until his death, which occurred at Belvidere, Illinois, February 12, 1913; Francis Marion, born February 15, 1839, who served all through the Civil war as a member of Company K, Seventy-fifth Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, had a severe scalp wound in the battle of Perrysville, and is now a retired farmer at Paw Paw, Illinois; Harriet Merey, born June 8, 1842, married the late A. T. Morrow, a civil engineer, and died at Winfield, Kansas, September 10, 1911; Nelson; and Julia Clarantine, born March 28, 1849, who died October 5, 1854.
Nelson Case attended the district schools of Lee County, Illinois, following which he spent a year in Clark Seminary, at Aurora, Illinois, and three years in the Illinois Normal University, at Normal, where he was graduated in June, 1866. Next, for one year, he engaged in teaching school, and was principal of the school at Tolono; but in the fall of 1867 resumed his studies, entering the law department of the University of Michigan, from which he was graduated in 1869 with the degree of Bachelor of Laws. In May, 1869, he came to Oswego, Kansas, and here had continued in a general civil and criminal practice, his present offices being in the Condon State Bank Building. His home is at No. 106 Illinois Street, in addition to which he owned a farm of 225 acres southeast of Oswego.
More than twenty-five years ago Judge Case was ranked among the foremost lawyers of the state which rank he had never lowered. His cases in the Supreme Court of the United States, and also in the courts of Kansas, show him to be a student of the keenest insight and a practitioner of the broadest views.
Judge Case had always been an intense hater of the saloon with all its methods and influence. From the time he first came to Oswego he had been the recognized leader of the temperance forces in that part of the state. Before state prohibition was thought of he was fighting for, and to a certain extent secured, the banishment of saloons from his town. He championed the cause of prohibition when the constitutional amendment was submitted, and had been one of the constant fighters for its enforcement all the years since.
Besides his attainments at the bar, Judge Case ranks as one of the literary men of the state. He is said to have the finest private library in Southern Kansas, and one of the best in the state. He is fond of handsome books, but he keeps his books for use rather than for show. In the main confining his business to the day time, he had planned to reserve his evenings for study, for his family, and for social work and enjoyment. In the ’90s he wrote and published a history of Labette County, which F. G. Adams, secretary of the State Historical Society, pronounced ideal. In 1902 his “European Constitutional History” was published by Jennings & Pye of Cincinnati, and was soon adopted as a standard text book in a number of the leading colleges of the country. This was followed in 1904 by his “Constitutional History of the United States,” published by The Trow Press of New York. These works received high commendation from critics in the leading publications in this country. Besides these more pretentious books Judge Case had been the recognized historian of his locality, and had contributed a large amount of material to the local papers, some of which had been collected and sent out in pamphlet form. In the ’80s he was editor of the Oswego Independent for three years.
Judge Case belongs to the progressive republican party, in the formation of which he took part in 1912 at the convention at Chicago, as a delegate from his district. For many years he had been a delegate to county, congressional and state conventions of the republican party. In various positions and on a number of occasions he had been before the public as the repository of important trusts, and in every case had acquitted himself honorably and capably. For many years he was city attorney of Oswego; he had been a member of the board of education, superintendent for some years, and president of the board for fifteen years; for thirteen years he had been a member of the city council, and during the greater part of this time had been president of the body. He had also received appointments at the hands of several governors of the state, who have recognized his fine legal and executive abilities. In 1880 Governor Saint John appointed him probate judge, and after serving the balance of that year he was elected for the two succeeding terms. Governor Humphrey appointed Judge Case a member of the board of regents of the State Normal School at Emporia, where he served six years.
As one of the active members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Judge Case had always held one or more lay offices, including those of recording steward and trustee. For thirty-five years he was superintendent of the Sunday school, and in 1915 was given the rare honor of being elected superintendent emeritus; in 1900 was a delegate to the General Conference, held at Chicago. He had been continuously since spring of 1883 a trustee of Baker University, and president of the board continuously since 1897. For a number of years he was a director of the First National Bank of Oswego, he assisted in the organization of the Deming Investment Company, of which he was general counsel and president for a term of eighteen years, and for the past twenty-five years had been general attorney for the Condon State Bank. He holds membership in the Commercial Club of Oswego and had identified himself with every movement for the general welfare and for the advancement of Oswego and its citizens.
In 1909 Judge Case received from Baker University the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.
On February 22, 1872, Judge Case was married at Attica, Indiana, to Miss Mary Elizabeth Claypool, daughter of Wilson and Sarah Claypool, both of whom are deceased, having been farming people near Attica. Mrs. Case died February 1, 1892. They had no children of their own, but had two adopted children: Blanche, the wife of Prof. Harmon Hoover, now deceased, of Baldwin, Kansas, who was professor of history and philosophy at Baker University; and Walter Hodgin, who for eight years had been connected with The Telegram, of Long Beach, California. Judge Case was again married, May 31, 1900, at Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to Miss Georgianna Reed, daughter of Dr. C. A. and Augusta Reed, the latter of whom died in 1892, while the former is a practicing physician and surgeon of Eureka Springs. Two children have been born to Judge and Mrs. Case: Miriam Woodworth, born April 21, 1901; and Hortense Reed, born March 27, 1903, both attending public school at Oswego.