JOHN FRANZ Biography - Pioneers, Explorers & inventors


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JOHN A. FRANZ, of Rozel in Pawnee County, is an active farmer and spent the           
first thirty-one years of his life in Germany. In the month of February, 1880,         
he emigrated from the Fatherland and in the course of the same year arrived in         
Pawnee County. Few of the early settlers of this section experienced a more           
complete change from their former condition and environment than Mr. Franz. He         
had lived in a country where industrial affairs were regulated by centuries of         
practice and experience, came out to Western Kansas where the country was still       
raw and unimproved, and where civilization had to be built from the ground up.         
The prosperity that has followed his efforts is all the more remarkable and           
creditable on this account.                                                           
Mr. Franz was born August 6, 1849, in Saxony, near Erfurt. His people had lived       
in that section for 200 years or more and generation after generation of them         
had followed milling and manufacturing. His father, Eberhart Franz, was a miller       
and a man of considerable wealth. He married Maria Hoffman. Their children were:       
John A., Edward and Emilie. The only one of the family to come to America was Mr.     
Franz. He was reared in Germany and acquired a liberal education in what would         
correspond to an American high school. He also learned his trade as miller under       
his father. When old enough he served his time in the German army in the Light         
Cavalry. He was in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870-71, as a member of the Fourth       
Hussars. Most of his work was guard duty, performed at Gravelotte and Sedan.           
After he had been in service about a year he was discharged and then returned to       
his business as a miller.                                                             
In February, 1880, he sailed from Bremen on board the Rhine for New York. His         
family followed him after he had acquired settlement in Pawnee County. While his       
work in Germany had been as a miller and manufacturer, he had some practical           
knowledge of how farming was done, and in combating the special conditions of         
Western Kansas he was perhaps not at any greater disadvantage than most of his         
neighbors. He paid $200 on a relinquishment on the southwest quarter of section       
28, township 20, range 19, and began farming and stock raising. For a time he         
occupied the little sod house he found on the quarter section. He at once             
engaged in the cattle business and also broke up some land to raise feed. His         
initial efforts as a stockman were subject to misfortune, since he lost 200 head       
during the blizzard of 1885-86. He gradually recovered from that loss and in the       
days of the free range he grazed large herds. He also got into the wheat               
industry and for a number of years has grown an extensive acreage. In 1893 he         
had 1,800 acres in that crop. That was his crowning disaster as a wheat grower.       
The wheat came up but never matured, and his header never went into the fields.       
He refused to be discouraged by this experience, and practically every year has       
sown wheat. In 1917 Mr. Franz put in 800 acres, the results of which have not         
yet appeared. The biggest yield per acre was thirty-five bushels. The best             
average yield came in 1914, when he harvested twenty-eight bushels to the acre.       
That year he also threshed his heaviest crop, putting about 15,000 bushels             
through the separator. Mr. Franz recalls the time when wheat sold in Western           
Kansas as low as 35 cents a bushel. He never sold any of his own wheat for less       
than 50 cents, and the price has been steadily increasing until it reached what       
was long regarded as the wheat grower's ideal, $1 a bushel, and in recent years       
has ascended almost to the $2 mark. A bushel of wheat is now worth almost as           
much as an acre of ground was when Mr. Franz came to Kansas.                           
Besides his quarter section Mr. Franz took up a timber claim and improved both         
of them. Out of his profits he also dealt extensively in land, buying and             
selling. He finally acquired 2 1/2 sections, in sections 20, 28 and 33. He was         
responsible for bringing this large acreage under improvements and put two             
sections under the plow. As farming became more and more profitable he abandoned       
the cattle business on a large scale. His cattle are chiefly of the Shorthorn         
and Galloway strains. The easiest money he ever made in Western Kansas came from       
buying calves and selling them as two year olds. He was frequently a shipper by       
car load lots to the Kansas City markets. As time went by and finances became         
easier he built a substantial home, barns and granary, and put two complete sets       
of improvements on his farm.                                                           
Mr. Franz is one of the directors of the Farmers Elevator Company at Rozel and         
is a stockholder in the State Bank at Burdett. When he moved to Rozel in the           
fall of 1909, he erected a large bungalow on his place and has made numerous           
other improvements. His home lacks none of the conveniences now of the best city       
places. His house is completely modern, heated by furnace, lighted with               
acetylene gas, and has running water and bath.                                         
Politically Mr. Franz is a republican. He served as trustee of Grant Township,         
as school director of district No. 46, and in 1909 was elected a county               
commissioner and spent four years on the board. His associates during that time       
were Brinkman, Shady, Zook and Gilkerson. The chief work of the board during his       
term was the building of county roads and cement bridges.                             
Mr. Franz has been twice married. In 1871, about the close of the Franco-Prussian     
war, he married Miss Emma Zitzman. She came out to Kansas, and died about five         
years after they located on their claim, in 1885. Amanda, their oldest child, is       
now a resident of Denver, Colorado, and the wife of George DesPrisay, their           
children being George, Peter, Helen and Mary. Emma, wife of Luther Braley of           
Alva, Oklahoma, has the following children, Clarence W., Eddie, Hugh, Amelia,         
John, George, Maybelle, Richard and Alpha. Hugh, the third child, a farmer in         
Pawnee County, married Sarah Beeman, and their children are Dewey, Edith and           
Ralph. Amelia, the fourth child, was the wife of William Springel, living in           
Republic, Washington, where she died in February, 1918; they had the following         
children, Dora, Paul, Lawrence and Lou. Augusta, the fifth child, married Lew         
Heaton, who is a missionary of the Seventh Day Adventist Church at Honolulu;           
they have two children, George and Margie. Albert, the youngest child, is a           
Pawnee County farmer, and married Maggie Beeman. Their children are Amanda,           
Irvin, John, Laverne and Lola.                                                         
On March 17, 1889, at LaCrosse, Kansas, Mr. Franz married Miss Clarissa Smith,         
daughter of James E. Smith, mentioned below. Mr. and Mrs. Franz have five             
children: Ida May, who graduated in 1917 from the Kansas State Normal; John E.,       
who took some courses in the Kansas State Agricultural College at Manhattan,           
married Irene McElroy and has a daughter, Dorothy May, and is now a practical         
farmer; Dr. George, who also studied in the Agricultural College of Kansas, is         
now a veterinary for the Government, and is stationed at Omaha, he married Pearl       
Aulthouser; Ella, a student in the Agricultural College of Kansas; and Nora.           
James E. Smith, who has lived in Pawnee County for over thirty years and is now       
retired, was born in Coshocton County, Ohio. September 6, 1843, a son of William       
and Lucy A. (Kridler) Smith. His mother was of German descent. William Smith was       
born in Virginia, was a soldier in the War of 1812, and spent his last years in       
Tuscarawas County, Ohio. He and his wife reared a large family, and several of         
the sons were soldiers in the Union army. James E. Smith had a limited country         
school education, and when a few days past eighteen he enlisted in Company E of       
the Thirty-eighth Illinois Infantry. He joined his regiment in Southern Missouri,     
saw his first fighting there, and afterwards was on the east side of the               
Mississippi and at the siege of Corinth and in the Kentucky campaign against           
Bragg. He was in the battle of Stone River, and at Chickamauga was wounded in         
the left hip and taken prisoner. He spent several months in Libby prison at           
Richmond, and suffered extremely from his wound, gangrene having set in. After         
his parole he recuperated in the North and finally rejoined his command in time       
to participate in the Atlanta campaign. He was almost constantly under fire from       
June 10th to September 5th of 1864. At the end of three years he was granted his       
honorable discharge. He joined the Union League in Illinois, this organization         
being the origin of the Grand Army of the Republic, and has taken an active part       
in the Grand Army.