We are fourth generation ranchers in the Flint Hills of Cowley County, Kansas. My Great Grandfather John Foltz moved here around 1885 with his family from Illinois. He settled in Grant Township in the Southeast part of the county. Both he and my maternal Great Grandfather Coleman Minor participated in the Cherokee Strip Land Rush. Although both gave up their claims they continued to ranch in the Grant Township area. There they settled down to raising cattle on their homesteads with their families. By all accounts John Foltz was a stern, pious man who was the unquestioned ruler of the household.
By the standards of the time he was prosperous. The size and productivity of land holdings measured rural prosperity. He had a 321-acre farm, built over the years with the labor of his six sons. Some of his original land is still in the family.
My grandfather, Edwin Foltz was the next to the youngest of John and Isabel’s children. He was a cowboy and a cattleman. His skills with horse training was renowned in the area. My dad told me that there were three men in the area known for their ability to train horses. The other two were good at finish training a horse or mule. My grandfather was known for taking a spoiled animal and breaking him of his bad habits. He was a horse trader as well and always had a string of horses and mules.
He worked on a large ranch in New Mexico before he married my grandmother. He once told me that he was assigned a string of seven horses. Each morning he would rope that day’s mount and ride all day checking fence and cattle. His partner was a full blooded Indian. We learned later that he was killed in a range war. Grandfather was very fond of him and his death was sad news.
After he married my Grandmother, Grace Minor they moved around the Grant Township area several times. We know of at least six locations they lived at. He finally bought 120 acres where the current ranch headquarters is now and settled down. As a boy and young man I watched him build a herd of cows from Hereford stock. His knowledge of cattle and how to get the most from breeding was fascinating. I spent a lot of summers working for him, hauling hay, clearing rocks out of pastures (using them to stop erosion in creeks and streams), fixing fence and working cattle. The day after Thanksgiving was always busy. That’s when we worked cattle, branding, dehorning, vaccinating and castrating.
My dad, Don Foltz, left the farm after high school. He served in the Army Air Corp in World War II. He had a love of airplanes and worked for Cessna Aircraft where he met my mom and at Boeing Airplane Company where he retired as a Tool Coordinator. In the meantime he invested in more property in Cowley County, when he died his holdings along with my grandfather’s was considerable.
The land brought him back home after retirement, where he added on to my grandfather’s house and lived out the rest of his life with my stepmother. He never ran cattle but became a conservator of the land. Clearing invasive trees and brush, his pastures were well cared for. He was truly a Grass Farmer, before the term became popular and was the recipient of a Conservation Award.
I was raised in Wichita, Kansas while my dad was employed at Boeing. The farm always had a big draw for me and my dream was to be there some day.
My wife and partner Shirley was also raised in Wichita, her roots are in Arkansas and we still have ties there. We attended church together and later married.
I also retired from Boeing as an engineering manager. It was an early retirement directly related to the ‘911’ event. That paved the way for us to make the move to Cowley County and start a cattle operation. After my dad passed we inherited the house and adjoining property. Before moving in we remodeled the kitchen and added a formal living room. The house now has had three generations of Foltz’s living in it, each adding their own touch. This is the base and headquarters for the Beaver Creek Farm operation, just one half mile from Beaver Creek in Southeastern Cowley County.
A conservationist with the National Resource Conservation Service told us about raising grass-fed beef and that’s what got us started. Grass-fed appealed to us on several different levels. One is that this is not new, it’s the way my Grandfather and Great Grandfather raised cattle. We have a cow-calf herd of Angus and Hereford cattle and enjoying the life of raising cattle naturally. We direct sell our beef to customers at home, at farmers markets by the cut and by bulk quarters, halves and whole beef packages.