Martin Mohler

HON. MARTIN MOHLER. Kansas has always been a progressive state. Its history proves that. But progressiveness is a spiritual attitude and by its very nature its material environment is constantly changing. Thus it was as possible for progressiveness to exist and flourish twenty-five or thirty years ago when Kansas was beset by mortgages, whirlwinds and sod houses, as in the present era of comfortable substance and prosperity. Hence it is possible to refer to the late Martin Mohler's distinction as one of the most progressive secretaries of the State Board of Agriculture Kansas ever had without disparaging in any sense the accomplishment of his honored son, Jacob C. Mohler, who is the present secretary of the State Board of Agriculture.

Martin Mohler came to Kansas in the early days in 1871, and for three terms, six years, was secretary of the board of agriculture, from January, 1888, to January, 1894. In the fourteenth biennial report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture is found an appropriate tribute to his life and its activities, written by a man who had known him practically ever since he came to Kansas, and from that article is adopted the following sketch for publication in the Standard History of Kansas.

Martin Mohler was born in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, March 20, 1830, and died at Topeka, Kansas, March 20, 1903.

During his boyhood he availed himself of every opportunity of securing an education, finally graduating from the Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois, being one of the three members of the second graduating class of that institution. He then returned to Pennsylvania and engaged in teaching, it being his ambition to devote his life to educational work, but for sufficient reasons he relinquished his cherished purpose.

For a man of his energy, the slow movement of affairs in an old established community like Pennsylvania made him restless; so he followed the course of empire westward, locating in Osborne County, Kansas, in 1871, securing a half section of land which he improved, surrounding it with hedges and planting trees and flowers, so that the passersby in those early days were attracted to it as a traveler in a desert is attracted to an oasis.

Looking into the future, he was impressed with the responsibility resting upon the first settlers, advocating the importance of laying broad, deep and secure the foundations of all institutions in the county, so that those coming after could more firmly build the superstructure.

The hardships of those early days were severe, causing many to surrender and return to the place whence they came, but with a sublime faith he did not murmur nor complain, continuing the work with energy, hope and good cheer.

He held several positions of trust in Osborne County, where he resided until elected secretary of the State Board of Agriculture in 1888, when he moved to Topeka, where he resided till death.

During his regime as secretary he realized that methods in Kansas farming required many changes so that he untiringly applied himself to the study of soils, seeds and seasons, suggesting many improved methods that have helped to make Kansas one of the best agricultural states in the Union. The sixth biennial report, issued under his direction, was awarded a medal and diploma at the Paris Exposition in 1889, as the best of its kind in the world. A man entitled to this recognition has not lived in vain.

Mr. Mohler was a man of culture and refinement, strong character and sterling integrity. He settled all questions of public and private affairs by the one test, Is it right? and never on the ground of the best policy. He was a firm believer in the golden rule and practiced it in his dealings with men. He was a Mason, and belonged to other fraternal societies. As a member of the Presbyterian Church he endeavored to fashion his life in harmony with the teachings of the Nazarene, with an earnest desire to develop in his own life the best qualities of mind and heart and work for the elevation of mankind.

Like all thinkers, he had times of depression; however, such times were as a passing cloud; he never remained low in the valley covered by the damps and mildews of misanthropy; and while his nature was somewhat ecstatic, he seldom sought the glittering peaks on the mountain top, preferring to live midway on the mountain side, where the genial rays of the sun might rest upon his habitation and where the influence of the extreme would not disturb the serenity of his life. He was eminently social, enjoying the companionship of friends, whom he entertained with his accumulated knowledge and cheered with his optimism.

At his death he was survived by his widow, two daughters and two sons: Margaret L., Mrs. W. A. Neiswanger; Laura A., Mrs. Bev. H. C. Buell; Jacob C. Mohler and Frank M. Mohler.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed October, 1997.
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