ROBERT FOCHT, a sterling newspaper man of Kansas, is editor and proprietor of the Democratic Messenger, the only democratic paper published in Greenwood County. Mr. Focht has been a resident of Kansas since boyhood, and his family were pioneers of Greenwood County, and the different members have borne more than their individual share in its development and destiny.
As the name indicates, the family is of German origin. The first American was George Focht. When a youth he left Germany and made the passage to America on a sailing vessel, arriving in the colonies when the Revolutionary war was still in progress. It was a familiar practice of those days that immigrants who had no money to pay their passage would bind themselves out to some business man on this side of the Atlantic for a period of service to pay the passage money. The employer of George Focht was a merchant in New York City. The young German lad was indentured to that merchant for a period of five years. Instead of being set to work in a store, he was sent into the army as a substitute and fought through the last three years of the Revolution in Washington's army. By virtue of that service his descendants, including Robert Focht, are eligible to membership in the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution. After the war he married and they settled in New York. His son Adam brought his family from Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, to Ohio, and was one of the pioneer settlers in Union Township of Auglaize County. Auglaize County has been the home of the Focht family for several generations. One of the sons of Adam Focht was Samuel Focht, and he in turn was the father of the late Daniel Focht, who became widely known over Greenwood County, Kansas.
Daniel Focht was born in Auglaize County, Ohio, December 17, 1845, and died at his home in Madison, Greenwood County, Kansas, June 29, 1915, aged sixty-nine years, six months and twelve days. His early life was spent in Ohio, and he was one of a very large family of children. He was survived by three sisters and four brothers, namely: Mrs. Matilda Black, of New Hampshire, Ohio; Mrs. Sarah Borton, of Lamar, Colorado; Mrs. Mary Umbaugh, of Springdale, Arkansas; Allen Focht, of Uniopolis, Ohio; William Focht, of Twin Falls, Idaho; Dr. A. E. Focht, of Great Bend, Kansas; and Lewis Focht, of Emporia, Kansas.
Daniel Focht became a man of considerable prominence in Auglaize County, and from that state he brought his family out to Madison, Kansas, in 1885. He first located on a farm, but in the fall of the same year moved to Madison. He was a successful farmer and also a general contractor. The close of his active career came in October, 1913, when he was stricken with paralysis, but he lived nearly two years longer. Whether in Ohio or in Kansas he showed a splendid public spirit and a willingness to co-operate with every movement for the public good. A distinction claimed for him is that he introduced the first road drag ever used in Madison Township. He appreciated the economic advantages of good roads, and was a constant worker for them. While living in Auglaize County, Ohio, he served two terms as county commissioner. Those terms were marked by many public improvements, including a system of drainage ditching by which thousands of acres of low swampy lands, were drained, and also the construction of many miles of high class highways. He served for twelve years as postmaster of his town in Ohio, and at one time was prominently mentioned as a candidate for the United States Senate. He was a member of the Lutheran Church.
On November 27, 1866, Daniel Focht married Miss Sarah Spees, who is still living. They became the parents of eight children, two of whom died in infancy. A brief record of those who grew up is as follows. Otto, a resident of Madison, Kansas, has represented some of the largest publishing firms in the United States, and is now recuperating for his health. The second in age is Robert Focht, of Eureka. Edwin who died at Madison, Kansas, July 31, 1899, at the age of twenty-seven, was a school teacher. Ferdinand is a shoe salesman for the Bradley-Metcalf Shoe Company and lives at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Samuel follows general employment at Denver, Colorado. Mary Alta is the wife of A. C. Standley, connected with Sowders hardware firm at Madison, Kansas.
Robert Focht was born in Auglaize County, Ohio, September 7, 1869, and was sixteen years of age when the family came to Greenwood County, Kansas. He acquired his early education in the public schools of Uniopolis in Auglaize County, and also was a student after coming to Madison. At the age of eighteen he left school and the following year was spent as teacher in District No. 24, near Hamilton, Kansas. He then taught for twelve years in Greenwood County, and finished his career as an educator with four years and four months of service in the office of superintendent of schools of Greenwood County. He served from 1899 until 1903. His many qualifications for the office and his personal popularity brought him a unique distinction. Mr. Focht is a democrat, and was elected county superintendent in a republican county. At the second election he was the only democrat elected in the entire county, and furthermore had a larger majority than any republican candidate.
Mr. Focht has been an active newspaper man for fifteen years. In the fall of 1903 he bought a half interest with E. F. Hudson in the Democratic Messenger, and two years later acquired the entire property, and has since been editor and proprietor. The Messenger was established in 1882. In that year a Mr. Smith published the first issue of the paper at Severy, but in the fall, of that year removed the plant to Eureka. It is the official paper of Greenwood County, and has a circulation not only to the majority of homes within this county, but to surrounding counties, and a large list also goes outside the state.
Mr. Focht himself is an ardent democrat, and in the fall of 1912 was elected to the Legislature, serving one term. He was a member of the judiciary, educational, library and printing committees and at the same time promoted the best interests of his home constituency. For the past six years Mr. Focht has been a member of the Eureka School Board.
Fraternally he is affiliated with Fidelity Lodge No. 106, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, at Eureka; Ossian Lodge No. 58, Knights of Pythias, at Eureka, of which he is past chancellor commander, and with Beetle Camp No. 858, of the Modern Woodmen of America at Eureka. In 1916 Mr. Focht built a modern home on South School Street.
This sketch would not be complete without some mention of Mrs. Focht, who is associated with him in the editorial management of the Messenger and is a woman of exceptional culture and many broad interests. Mr. and Mrs. Focht were married at Eureka, May 4, 1899. Her maiden name was Harriet M. Case. She was born in Franklin County, Ohio, was educated in public and private schools at Worthington, Ohio, and since her marriage has been devoted to her home, the newspaper office and is one of the prominent fraternal women in Kansas. She is a member of the Methodist Church, is affiliated with Queen Bess Chapter No. 56 of the Eastern Star, has filled all the offices and is past most excellent chief of Greenwood Temple No. 23 of the Pythian Sisters, and has been representative to the Grand Temple; is past noble grand and has attended the Grand Lodge in Ohio of the Rebekahs, her local membership being with Eastwood Rebekah Lodge No. 557, at Eureka; is receiver for Eureka Lodge No. 234 of the Degree of Honor; and for five years was oracle of Riverside Camp No. 5028 of the Royal Neighbors. Mr. and Mrs. Focht have one son, Marcus Robert, who was born September 9, 1901, and is now a member of the sophomore class in the Eureka High School.
Mrs. Focht's ancestors were colonial settlers in Connecticut. The Case family originated in England. The American immigrant was Sir John Case, who located in Connecticut many years before the Revolutionary war. He was the father of twelve sons, the fifth of whom was John Case, and he and some of his brothers served as soldiers in the Revolution. The great-grandfather of Mrs. Focht was Isaac Case, who was born at Simsbury, Connecticut, and became one of the early Connecticut pioneers in Ohio, locating on a farm in Franklin County, where he died.
Mrs. Focht's grandfather was Isaac Neuton Case, who was born in Franklin County, Ohio, in 1805. He became a farmer, and subsequently lived retired at Worthington until his death in 1890. He was a member and lay preacher of the Universalist Church, and was a charter member of the Odd Fellows Lodge at Worthington.
After the death of his first wife; Emily Vining Case, who was born in Ohio and died in Franklin County, that state, Isaac Neuton Case married Mrs. Julia Gardner Case, widow of Irving Case. One daughter was born to this union, Ida Melona, now the widow of G. W. Burt, a prominent stockman who died at Eureka, Kansas.
Marcus Case, father of Mrs. Focht, was born in Franklin County, Ohio, in 1836, spent his life there as a farmer and died at Linworth in the same county in 1911. He was a soldier in the Civil war, having enlisted in 1864 in the One Hundred and Thirty-third Regiment of Infantry, and served until the end of hostilities. In politics he was a strong republican, and for many years held the office of justice of the peace or squire, and was the third consecutive generation of the family to hold a similar office. He was past noble grand of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Marcus Case married Charity McCutchan, who was born in Ohio in 1837, and died in Linworth, in that state, in 1889. Their children were: James Reid, a retired resident of Columbus, Ohio; John M., who was a merchant and died at Claremont, California, in 1912; Blanche, wife of J. D. McDonald, a retired merchant at Columbus, Ohio; Mrs. Focht; Nora, wife of A. D. Burt, one of the leading merchants at Eureka, Kansas; and Mrs. Helen Temple, in the Government service, and for a number of years was employed in the census bureau at Washington, District of Columbia.
A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, 1918, transcribed by students from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, March 15, 1999.
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