The Ruese insurance agency celebrates its 135th anniversary
SIDNEY – January 1, 2021 marked the 135th anniversary of the founding of a local insurance company with humble roots. Ruese Insurance Agency Inc. has been around for a few years – literally! For more than 100 years, Ruese has set up his offices in the courthouse square in downtown Sidney, despite several relocations. Currently, their offices are at the Courtview Center on the east side of Court Square, just a few blocks from the building where their parent agency started.
A young man named Lafayette Merrick Studevant arrived in Sidney shortly after moving to Anna with his parents from Indiana in 1875. He began his career as an apprentice in the local newspaper office before moving to Columbus Grove in 1879 where he spent a year publishing a newspaper. In 1880, Studevant entered a business school in Lima, and after graduating, he accepted a position as an accountant for an Allen County bank. He briefly spent time as a cashier in Ridgeville, Indiana, before returning to Sidney and becoming the accountant of the Philip Smith Manufacturing Co.
On January 1, 1886, LM Studevant started a commercial enterprise in the field of fire insurance. He called his fledgling business “The People’s Insurance Agency”. His office was located on the second floor of the Hickok building at 103 N. Ohio Ave., which currently houses Simply Cozy Co. It was in this same office several months later that Studevant met a group of like-minded people. to organize another construction and loan facility in Sidney.
On October 1, 1886, the same group of citizens met again, this time in a courthouse meeting room, to draft a state charter and solicit action. The leaders were elected alongside a board of directors, LM Studevant being chosen as secretary. On October 23, Studevant announced that the company’s books were open for membership from its insurance office on Ohio Avenue. In the fall of 1887, the offices of the People’s Savings and Credit Association moved north into the JC Royon Building to occupy the “Carey Bank Room.
As his insurance agency and nascent savings and loans grew, more space was needed to conduct their business. At the southeast corner of the plaza, the new Robertson building seemed like the perfect choice. 1899 was a busy year for Studevant, as it was during this period that he took part in the organization of the First National Exchange Bank. Rumor has it that he was fed up with going to Piqua to make deposits with a federally funded bank, so he helped set one up here in Sidney. Peoples Insurance Agency has also expanded to include farm and property insurance alongside fire insurance. William Kingseed also joined the insurance company, giving it the brief new name “Studevant & Kingseed Insurance Co.”
Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, Herman Theodore Reuse started his own business by becoming an insurance agent. Ruese was born on a farm just outside New Bremen near Schwaberow Cemetery on State Road 274 in 1874. He started his career as a teacher before moving to the insurance industry. According to the Sidney Yearbook for 1908, he had his own office in the Amos building on the south side of the courtyard. Also in 1908, HT Ruese was appointed Shelby County Auditor, a position in which he served two terms until 1912. It was around this time (1910) that the Peoples Insurance Company was made up of the types of companies of insurance and insurance policies:
• Accident: Aetna Accident Ins. Hartford Co., American Fidelity Ins. Co. of NY, Fidelity & Casualty Co. of NY and Hartford Insurance Co. of Cincinnati
• Automotive: Columbia Ins. Co. of NJ and Insurance Co. of NA of NY
• Bonds: Fidelity & Casualty Ins. Co. of NY and Fidelity & Deposit Ins. Cincinnati Company
• Fire and cyclone: Aetna Ins. Hartford Co., American Central Fire Ins. Co. of St. Louis, Atlas Assurance Co. of London, Cincinnati Underwriters of Cincinnati, Columbia Ins. Co. of Dayton, Commercial Union Fire Ins. Co. of Chicago, Connecticut Ins. Hartford Co., Cooper Fire Ins. Co. of Dayton, Fidelity Fire Ins. Co. of NY, Fire Association of Philadelphia, Franklin Ins. Co. of Phila., Georgia Home Ins. Co. of Columbia, Georgia, Glens Falls Ins. Co. of NY, Hanover Fire Ins. Co. of New York, Hartford Ins. Co. of Connecticut, Insurance Co. of NA, Michigan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Minister Mutual Ins. Co. of Ohio, Ohio Farmers Ins. Co. of LeRoy, O., Orient Ins. Co. of Hartford, Pa. Fire Ins. Co. of Pa., Philadelphia Underwriters Ins. Co. of Pennsylvania, Queen Ins. Co. of NY, Royal Exchange Assurance Co. of London, Scottish Union & National Ins. Co. of Eng., Shawnee Ins. Co. of Topeka, St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. of Minn., And Sun Ins. England Co.
HT Ruese eventually became the director of the Peoples Insurance Agency, and in 1923 he and Jesse L. Dickensheets purchased the agency, which then moved to the Woodward building at 119 S. Ohio Ave. Around 1927, the Peoples Insurance Agency moved to the Mathers Building next to the Monumental Building at 125 ½ S. Ohio Ave., a few buildings south of its previous location. On July 18, 1929, it was announced in the newspaper that HT Ruese, his sister Florence and his only son, Lloyd Ruese, were the founders of the newly named “Ruese Insurance Agency Inc. Lloyd had been helping his father for two years before his constitution, probably after the retirement of Jesse Dickensheets, who later died of failing health in 1931.
In 1934, HT Ruese became the first manager of the state liquor store in Sidney, a position he held even after his retirement from his insurance agency. By 1940 Ruese had retired from his post as director of the Ruese Insurance Agency, Inc., leaving the family business to his son, Lloyd. HT Ruese died a few years later, on October 29, 1946. Over the years, the “family” part of Ruese Insurance Agency Inc. grew further when Robert Dunham, Lloyd’s son-in-law, joined the agency in 1953. In 1960, the company moved from the Mathers Building across Court Square to 116 S. Main Ave. Dunham then became part-owner of the business in 1964, when secondary articles of incorporation were filed. In 1978 Lloyd Ruese was honored by the Westfield Insurance Company for 50 years of continuous service with the Ruese Insurance Agency, Inc. Soon after, Lloyd retired, passing the company to Robert Dunham, before his death in 1982. .
Paul Gahagan joined Ruese Insurance Agency in 1969, helping to make Ruese one of the largest multi-line agencies in the region, and became part-owner of the company three years later, in 1972. On January 1, 1975, the Belser Agency , Inc., one of Shelby County’s largest agencies, merged with Ruese Insurance Agency, Inc. Joseph Belser, their owner, became Vice President alongside Paul Gahagan under President Bob Dunham. Mark Dunham, Robert’s son, joined Ruese Insurance Agency in 1980 after graduating from the University of Wittenburg and completing his five-month training with Westfield Insurance Co. Robert Dunham retired from the company on 31 March 1987, leaving Paul Gahagan the sole owner of Ruese Insurance. Agency, Inc. The following year, in December, their articles of incorporation were dissolved and in January 1989, Ruese Insurance Agency merged with Phelan Insurance Agency, Inc., each retaining their respective names and offices. That same month, their offices were moved to the new Courtview Center, which had been built on the same site as Ruese’s old office building. Also in 1989, Rudy Keister also started working for the agency after graduating from the University of Wittenburg. In June 1995, new articles of association were re-filed and the following year, 1996, Mark Dunham and Rudy Keister purchased the agency and became the new co-owners.
Over the past 20 years, Ruese Insurance Agency Inc. has experienced several other mergers with local insurance groups. 2001 was an important year for the expansion of Ruese Insurance Agency, Inc. In January 2001, Ratermann Insurance Agency in Fort Loramie merged with Ruese Insurance Agency Inc. of Sidney to expand their products and services to their customers while retaining their same locations and staff. A wider selection of insurance companies such as Cincinnati Insurance Company, Westfield Group, Indiana Insurance Company, Motorist Mutual, Utica National, Monroe Guaranty and Progressive was then available to policyholders not only in Shelby County, but also in several from surrounding counties. A few months later, in April 2001, Bennett Insurance Agency Inc. also merged with Ruese Insurance Agency, Inc. Through the actions of this seamless merger, the two oldest agencies united under one banner to serve the citizens of Sidney and Shelby. County. On February 1, 2003, Ruese Insurance Agency purchased McColloch-Baker Insurance Service in Piqua, which became its first office outside of Shelby County. Five years later, in January 2008, they acquired their second Piqua office: MJ Koon and Sons Insurance, further expanding their reach and range of services.
To date, Ruese Insurance Agency Inc. provides insurance to numerous individuals and corporations in and around Shelby County. Thank you for 135 years of service and I hope many, many more!
The old Ruese building was located on Main Avenue in downtown Sidney.
This article was written by Jane Bailey, Curator of the Shelby County Historical Society, with information provided by Rudy Keister and Josh Ross of the Ruese Insurance Agency Inc. and Deb Geuy of the Peoples Federal Savings and Loan Association.