Rev. Dr. Michael M. Stolz. It would be impossible to do justice in a brief sketch to the life of this devoted follower of Christ and pioneer Methodist leader of Kansas. Doctor Stolz entered the ministry while the great Civil war was being fought. He served faithfully in Indiana and elsewhere, and for nearly forty years had been identified with the Kansas Conference. He is now retired from the active ministry, a resident of Salina, but though past eighty-one years of age still finds congenial employment as librarian of the Kansas Wesleyan University.
He was born April 30, 1836, at New Berry, Pennsylvania, a son of William and Jane M. (Smith) Stolz. Both parents were natives of Pennsylvania and had nine children, six sons and three daughters: Michael M.; Alexander, deceased; William H.; David S., now a resident of Ellsworth, Kansas; Daniel S., living in Los Angeles, California; Joseph, of Los Angeles; Elizabeth M., of White Plains, New York, widow of Clinton Fish; Rebecca Jane, wife of George Leonard of Williamsport, Pennsylvania; and Caroline, deceased.
The common schools of Pennsylvania furnished Doctor Stolz his early education until he was eighteen years of age. He then entered the Dickson Seminary at Williamsport, where he spent two years. Coming west to Indiana in 1859, he entered the old Asbury University, now DePauw University, at Greencastle, Indiana. He was a student in that old Methodist institution until he graduated in 1862. Of the class of twenty-four who at that time entered actively upon the duties of the world he is now the only survivor.
In the year of his graduation he joined the Northwest Indiana Conference of the Methodist Church. He was regularly ordained a deacon two years later and two years after that an elder. As a member of the Northwest Indiana Conference he filled a number of important posts until 1874 when the Conference appointed him a missionary to Washington Island in Lake Michigan. He spent three years in that isolated and difficult position, where his high character and devoted Christian faith enabled him to perform a splendid work among the inhabitants, who were composed of fishermen, sailors, and of several different national stocks, including Danes, Norwegians and Islanders.
In 1877 Doctor Stolz was sent to LaPorte, Indiana, and in the following year was transferred to the Kansas Conference. His work had been done almost entirely in the western part of the state. Forty years ago the population of Western Kansas was sparse and widely scattered and church organizations were correspondingly few and far between. It fell to the lot of Doctor Stolz to organize the old Wilson Circuit, the headquarters of which were at Wilson. He had charge of that for three years, his circuit including Wilson, Sylvan Grove, Bunker Hill, Dorrance and a section of that county known as “The Flats.” Following that for three years he was at Brookville. In 1883 the Kansas Conference was divided into two conferences, one being still known as the Kansas and the other as the Northwest Kansas. At the time of the division he was stationed at Brookville, and subsequently spent one year at Solomon. In 1886 he was appointed superintendent of the Ellsworth District, embracing a group of seventeen counties in the northwestern part of the state. He remained actively in charge of the new country for six years. In 1892 he was appointed dean of finance of the Kansas Wesleyan University at Salina, a post he filled for five years, and in that time did much to lay a solid foundation for the financial prosperity of this university. Then he was again called to the post of district superintendent, this time in the Norton district, where he remained two years. He was next appointed superintendent of the Salina district, a post he filled six years. Doctor Stolz had the unusual record of having filled the post of district superintendent fourteen years.
After this long and exacting period of service he took a superannuated relation, and spent three years practically retired in California. In 1913 he was appointed to his present post as librarian of the Kansas Wesleyan University, and he enjoys a comfortable home at 120 East Jewel Avenue in Salina.
Many pages might be filled with the interesting reminiscences of Doctor Stolz. In fifty odd years of ministerial experience he had met all sorts and conditions of men and had also experienced all the hardships of life on the frontier, particularly as a circuit rider. It is a matter of interest to recall that the first marriage ceremony he ever performed was in Posey County, Indiana, in 1863, and for his services in joining the man and woman in wedlock he accepted a coon skin in payment. During war times he also preached on the Otter Creek Circuit in Indiana. His position was then of peculiar difficulty. Many of the inhabitants in that section of Indiana were Southern sympathizers. He was steadfastly a supporter of the Union, and his life was again and again threatened by those who warned him to desist praying for the success of Lincoln and the North. He continued to pray and remained unafraid in spite of all efforts to intimidate him.
On August 24, 1864, near Lebanon, Indiana, Doctor Stolz married Eliza H. Coombs, who was born August 8, 1842, at Mount Vernon, Ohio, a daughter of Isaac and Helen (Starbuck) Coombs, the former a native of New Jersey and the latter of Massachusetts. Mr. and Mrs. Stolz had nine children, five sons and four daughters, namely: Alma Jane; Edward B.; Elizabeth M.; Grace, deceased; William H.; Lillian, deceased; Rupert deceased; Albert; and Ralph E.
Doctor Stolz is a Royal Arch Mason and a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. On August 8, 1914, he and his good wife celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. More recently, on April 30, 1916, Doctor Stolz was made aware of his own eightieth birthday by a remarkable tribute of respect and esteem paid him by the student body of the Kansas Wesleyan University. The domestic science department of the university made and presented him with a cake decorated with eighty candles, and at the ceremony of presentation the student body in general gave him a bouquet of eighty roses. There were several felicitous addresses, and it was an occasion long to be remembered.