Martin Klein, living a retired life in the town of Potter, Atchison County, Kansas at the advanced age of four score and two years, is one of the oldest of the Kansas pioneers, who for over sixty-one years of his long life has lived in the Sunflower State, and has seen the stream railway take the place of the overland freight trains, hauled by oxen and mules, and has witnessed the automobile superseding the farm wagon and horse and buggy as a means of transportation. On his lonely claim in the north part of Leavenworth County, near Potter he could see the great trains passing along threw Ft. Riley road from Leavenworth to Salt Lake; he remembers the dread visitation of the grasshoppers in the seventies, when the "hoppers" came in dense clouds, ate up all the growing crops and left devastation and desolation in their wake Martin Klein is one of the best known of the old-timers in this section of Kansas and took an active part in the slavery contest which was bitterly waged on Kansas soil, and nearly gave his life in defense of his principles, later to shoulder a musket in defense of his adopted country.

Martin Klein was born March 2, 1833 in Alsace-Lorraine, a son of Peter and Teresa (MIERS) Klein, both of whom were born and reared in Alsace-Lorraine, and were of ancient French extraction. When Martin was fourteen years of age, his parents in 1847, left their native land and immigrated to Oneida County, New York, where they settled on a farm near Rome. The elder Klein prospered in the land of his adoption and Martin grew up imbued with American ideals along with the other five children of the Klein family. Martin was the youngest of a family of six children born to Peter and Teresa Klein. Three brothers of Mrs. Klein, Joseph Miers and two others, were soldiers who serve under Napoleon Bonaparte, and were members of the Grand Army of Napoleon which marched to the siege of Moscow. Two of the brothers were killed at Moscow, and Joseph was one of the few out of the many thousand of soldiers who lived to return home and tell about the ill-fated expedition which cost Napoleon his grand army.

In the fall of 1854, Martin Klein left his old home in New York and set out for Kansas, to grow up with the country. He arrived in Leavenworth on September 18 of that year, and lost no time in taking up a claim in Leavenworth County, which served as his home until 1900, when he retired to a comfortable home in the home of Potter. Six years after his arrival in Kansas he married Miss Paulina HAWLEY, whom he espoused on March 29, 1860. She was a daughter of Francis H. And Louise Hawley, both of whom were natives of old Virginia, and were early settlers in Kentucky, where Mrs. Klein was born November 12, 1826. She departed this life January 4, 1907 in Potter, Kan. She was a loving and faithful helpmeet to Mr. Klein for forty-seven years, and endured with him many hardships incident to the pioneer life in Kansas.

When Mr. Klein first came to Kansas in 1854, the turmoil and the border warfare waged between the pro- and anti-slavery forces, was just beginning, and he, being a pronounced anti-slavery man, was thrown into the thick of the fight. He was an accurate marksman and the revolver, and often found occasion to make use of his ability with the pistol. He was so active in his work in behalf of the Free State party that he was marked for vengeance by border ruffians. An occasion which is memorable and marked the savagery of this warfare, is worth recording: "On a Sunday in the spring of 1856, when Mr. Klein was at church, three strangers came to church, ostensibly to buy corn from him. After the bargain had been struck, and he had agreed to sell the men the corn wanted, they insisted on him accompanying them to Easton, Kan., in order to get his pay for the corn. This Klein refused to do. During the parley one of the men had kept a hand hid under his coat on the plea that he had a sore member. The wind blowing the coat flap to one side, Klein noticed that the man was concealing a revolver in his hand. They finally showed him a warrant for his arrest. He then knew that his life was in danger, and again refused to accompany the men to Easton. He turned to go back to the church and they opened fire on him, firing eight shots in all, four of which took effect in his body, one shot striking him in the head, one in the side, and one in the hip. He fell to the ground and the ruffians rode away, leaving him for dead. Happily, the wounds were not fatal, and he recovered, and lived to see the final triumph of the cause which he loved, and for which he had sacrificed his peace and nearly lost his life in advocating. During those early days Mr. Klein served as constable and deputy sheriff and was constantly in danger of his life. In the fall of 1856, he and others of the Free State men deemed it prudent to leave their homes and go to Lawrence, Kan., where they joined the citizen army, which was being organized in defense of Free State principles. He took part in several incipient battles and scraps with the pro-slavery advocates during those years, and when the war broke out he enrolled in the Kansas Militia and fought in Captain BAIRD's company when it marched to battle against General Price's army of invasion.

Mr. Klein has a keen remembrance of his first day in Kansas, when he walked a distance of twenty-four miles from Ft. Leavenworth to find his brother-in-law, Charles C. FOSTER. He was all day finding Foster's claim. Starting out without his breakfast, he lost his way and it was 8 o'clock that night before he arrived at his destination, footsore, weary and hungry. The prairie grass in those days grew as high as a man's head in the bottom lands, and was knee high on the uplands and the richness of the soil was apparent to a man brought up on a farm. From his cabin door Mr. Klein could look out in the distance and see the old Ft. Riley trail which led from Ft. Leavenworth to Salt Lake. One morning on arising he saw eighty covered wagons standing on the trail, each of which had hitched to it six yoke of oxen. This was a sight worth seeing and entertaining to a plainsman, being an indication of the onward march of civilization as it moved ever westward. On one occasion while serving as an officer of the law, Mr. Klein was sent to the cabin of Jim Foster, a noted border desperado, to effect his arrest, but Foster was absent at the time from his home on the bluffs overlooking Big Stranger Creek. After the war was over, Mr. Klein settled down to farming and peacefully tilled his acres until his retirement to Potter. He took an active and influential part in the affairs of his community, and has always been allied with the Republican party, never however, having been a seeker after political preferment, and never held office except the post of school director in his district.

Taken From:

History of Atchison County, Kansas

by Sheffield Ingalls - 1916

Submitted by:

Clemi Higley Blackburn, September 2003