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No intelligent resident of Kansas would dispute the assertion that in Marcus A. Low, of Topeka, is found one of the really big men of the state. He is a man of many achievements. His ability in the law had led to distinguished position with great corporations; his ranching and developing of oil and gas properties have been conducted on so large a scale as seemingly might have been weighty enough interests to engage the ordinary man; his political foresight and intnition have caused his selection for public office as high as he would accept, but not upon these evidences of keen foresight and broad vision rests Mr. Low’s most enduring fame. It is as a railroad builder he will be recalled by the people of Kansas who have so proflted through his tireless energy.
Marcus A. Low was born August 1, 1842, in the State of Maine. When four years old his parents, Frederick P. and Mary J. (Robinson) Low, moved to Belvidere, Boone County, Illinois, where the father engaged in farming and other occupations. In 1869 the family moved to Hamilton, Missouri, and that place continued to be the home of the parents during the remainder of their lives.
In the public schools of Belvidere Marcus A. Low continued until he was fifteen years of age, at which time he entered the academy at Auburn, Maine, with the intention of completing the academic course. He fell ill, however, and returned to Illinois. From there, in 1863, he started for California, and after reaching Folsom City became principal of the schools there, about this time beginning the study of law, at Sacramento and continuing until the fall of 1866, when he returned once more to Illinois, where his parents still resided. At Belvidere he continued his law studies, with Attorney Ira M. Moore, and in the same year was admitted to the bar and immediately afterward entered the senior class in the law department of the Michigan State University, at Ann Arbor.
Mr. Low began the practice of law at Hamilton, Missouri, and made rapid progress, as early as 1873 being employed as attorney for the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacifle Railroad, and continued at Hamilton until 1875, when, for one year, he practiced at Gallatin, Missouri, as a member of the firm of Shanklin, Low & McDougal. It was while there that Mr. Low became a division solicitor for the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, and in 1876 moved to Trenton, Missouri, which was headquarters for that road. He continued as division solicitor and in the spring of 1885 was elected president of the St. Joseph and Iowa Railroad and constructed a line of railway from Altamont by way of St. Joseph, Missouri, to Atchison, Kansas.
In the spring of 1886 Mr. Low organized the Chicago, Kansas & Nebraska Railway Company, under the laws of Kansas, and was elected its president and general solicitor and took general charge of its location and the construction of its lines. He also, at this time, commenced the construction of lines of railway which extended westward from St. Joseph through Horton and Belleville, Kansas, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and another line from Horton through Topeka to Herington, Kansas, from which point a line was constructed south through Wichita, Kansas, and Indian Territory to Fort Worth, Texas. Branch lines were built from Chickasha to Mangum, Indian Territory, and from Bridgeport, Texas, through Jacksborough, to Graham, Texas. Still another line was commenced which reached Santa Rosa, New Mexico, by way of Hutchinson, Kansas, and Liberal, Kansas. A line was also constracted from McFarland to Belleville, and another was built from Herington by way of Abilene, to Salina, Kansas.
Through these avenues the state was being rapidly opened up and business prospects were bright in every section tonched by easy transportation. A line starting at Horton, Kansas, and running northwest was built through Sabetha and Berne, Kansas, to the porth line of the State of Kansas, from which point the line was constructed by the Chicago, Kansas & Nebraska Railroad Company, by way of Beatrice and Fairbury to Nelson, Nebraska. A short time later a line was constructed from Fairbury, Nebraska, to Belleville, Kansas, and still later from a point on the line near Fairbury to Omaha, Nebraska. In 1888 Mr. Low organized the Kansas City & Topeka Railway Company, with authority to build a line between these two points. Under this charter extensive terminals were constructed in Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri. Mr. Low was the active and dominant figure in the carrying on of all this vast constructive work.
Early in the spring of 1886 Mr. Low moved to Atchison and from there to Topeka, Kansas, April 1, 1887, and this city had been his home ever since, benefiting by his public spirit and honoring him in every way that may be acceptable to so prominent and useful a citizen. As a constant evidence of this usefulness may be mentioned the great park system of Topeka. He was a member and the first president of the city park board and it was under his personal direction and supervision that all the city parks were laid out, built upon and elaborated, a public service of inestimable value.
In 1892 Mr. Low was appointed general attorney of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway Company, with jurisdiction of lines in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas and continued as such, exercising his great ability for this corporation until August 1, 1912, when, having reached the age of seventy years, he was placed on the retired list. For many years he had been a director of the Bank of Topeka; is a director of the Inter-State National Bank of Kansas City; for twenty-five years had been a director of a bank at Horton; and is a director of the State Savings Bank of Topeka. For a time, in the midst of his other activities, he engaged in ranching on an extensive scale in various places. For some twelve years he had been interested in a large way, in partnership with Governor Stubbs in developing oil and gas properties in Oklahoma, Kansas and in Texas, his business perceptions being just as keen as in younger years and his judgment unimpaired.
In 1867 Mr. Low was married to Diantha L. Hovey, and they have two children: Dean R. and Vera, the latter being the wife of Albert T. Reid, of Topeka.
In politics Mr. Low had never veered from his allegiance to the republican party. In 1876, in 1890 and again in 1904 he was a delegate to the National Republican conventions. He is a Mason, having served as master of his lodge, as high priest of his chapter and as eminent commander of his commandery of Knights Templar. He enjoys hunting and fishing as occasional recreations and is a member of the Shawnee Golf Club, the Country Club, the Topeka Club and the Topeka Commercial Club.