Biography of Martin L. Foltz

Martin L. Foltz. His span of years greater than the average lifetime had been spent by Martin L. Foltz as an active citizen and resident of Kansas. He is one of the few survivors of that epoch when the nation’s destiny hung upon the outcome of the conflict in Kansas. He is also one of the survivors of the great Civil war, in which he served almost from the beginning to the end in the Union army. For many years his home had been in Williamsport Township of Shawnee County.

Born in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, April 15, 1841, he is a son of Christian and Anna (Keifer) Foltz, who were of Pennsylvania German ancestry. In the family were twelve children, and he was the youngest. In 1857 he and his three brothers, Daniel, Frederick P. and Cyrus, made up a party and set out for Kansas. It was their intention not only to found homes in the newly organized territory, but also do what they could to make Kansas a free state. When they left Pennsylvania they traveled out of Pittsburg on a boat down the Ohio River, finally landing at St. Louis, and there took another boat up the Missouri as far as Kansas City. At Kansas City, or rather at Westport, since there was no Kansas City at that day, they outfitted and with wagons and their farming and household utensils came overland to their destination. The brothers settled in what is now a part of Shawnee County. At first they had to buy practically all their forage, paying 2 1/2 cents an ear for unhusked corn to feed their oxen.

The country sixty years ago was an almost unbroken waste of prairie land. Some timber studded the streams, and only here and there did a lonely settler’s cabin indicate the oncoming tide of civilization. Some of the bottom land bad been taken up, but agriculture was very crude and simple. When the Foltz brothers arrived in Kansas the pro-slavery element seemed to predominate.

During his early years in Kansas Martin Foltz lived with his brothers Frederick and Daniel, who pre-empted land near where Wakarusa now stands. There he engaged in breaking the prairie sod, and it was necessary to go either to Leavenworth or Atchison to get the plows sharpened. For years it was customary to drive surplus stock to market overland to Kansas City. Good sized hogs brought only $2 apiece, and corn sold at 10 cents a bushel, with other product in proportion.

Of the four Foltz brothers Daniel and Martin are the only ones now living. Two of them were soldiers in the Civil war. Daniel was a member of the Eighth Kansas Regiment and in one battle was slightly wounded. He is now living with his children in Montana.

Martin L. Foltz was sixteen years of age when he came to Kansas. He was twenty when the war broke out and he enlisted at the first call for 75,000 troops. He was mustered in at Kansas City in an independent cavalry organization attached to the Second Kansas Infantry. His enlistment was for three months, but he really served about eight months. After being mustered out he re-enlisted in August, 1862, in the reorganized Second Kansas Infantry, which had been merged with a cavalry brigade. Practically his entire career in the army Mr. Foltz spent on acout duty. He was a soldier in some of those notable campaigns by which the country west of the Mississippi was wrested from the control of the Confederacy. He was slightly wounded in the eritical battle of Wilson Creek where the brave General Lyon fell. He was also at Pea Ridge, Prairie Grove, Old Fort Wayne and many skirmishes. During much of his army career be was first duty sergeant, and in the latter part of the war was orderly sergeant. Mr. Foltz received an honorable discharge in September, 1865, several months after the close of actual hostilities.

With the conclusion of the war he returned to Kansas and bought eighty acres south of Wakarusa. Since those stirring days of the war his life had been quietly and industriously spent. Farming and stock raising have given him an ample prosperity, and with the aid of his wife he had built up a substantial fortune. He now owned three quarter sections of land.

In 1866, half a century ago he married Rebecca Heberling. Three children were born to their marriage, Frederick, who died in infancy; Junius H.; and Nevin M.


Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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