An enumeration of those men of the present generation who have won honor
and public recognition for themselves and at the same time have honored the
state to which they belong would be incomplete were there failure to make
prominent reference to the one whose name initiates this review. He is
characterized as a man of great breadth of wisdom, indomitable perseverance
and strong individuality and yet in his entire life there has not been one
esoteric phase, his history being as an open scroll, inviting the closest
scrutiny. There is, however, in him a weight of character, a native sagacity
and fidelity of purpose which commands the respect of all and he has left
his impress for good, while yet a young man, upon the political, medical and
business circles of Richland county, whose interests he has ever had at
Dr. Martin D. Foster was born in Edwards county, Illinois, September 3, 1861, the son of Blashel and Emily (Houser) Foster, the former having been born near Lexington, Indiana, and the latter at Salem, North Carolina. Grandfather Martin Houser was a minister of the Moravian church, one of the greatest, in fact, in this country. He was a native of North Carolina and moved in the early days to Indiana, where he was identified with the early history of the state, having established the town of Hope, which he laid out. He later moved to what is now West Salem, Edwards county, Illinois. Grandfather William Foster was born in England, and became a minister in the Christian church. After coming to America he located on government land near West Salem, in an early day, many English settlers having come to the same locality. Grandfather Houser had eight daughters. He drove from Hope, Indiana, to Salem, North Carolina, taking two daughters at a time, taking two every two years. They were educated in a female seminary there. He made several trips in that way. He preached on Sundays and farmed through the week days. He took up much land and became wealthy for those days. The father of the subject was reared and educated in Edwards county and became a farmer, rearing his family there. He and his wife now live in Monmouth, Oregon, to which state they moved in 1888. Five children were born to them, all of whom are living, the subject of this sketch being the third in order of birth.
Doctor Foster was reared on the farm and received his early education in the public schools. Being ambitious he studied hard and later entered Eureka College. In 1880 he entered the Eclectic Medical Institute at Cincinnati, from which he graduated with high honors in 1882. He later graduated from the Hahnemann Medical College in Chicago in 1894. In the fall of 1882 he located in Olney and began practice which he continued for many years, his success being instantaneous from the first and he built up a very large business, his practice extending to all parts of the county, being known as one of the best general practitioners in this part of the state.
He continued to practice medicine until he was elected Congressman. In the fall of 1904 he was a candidate for Congressman on the Democratic ticket from the Twenty-third district, but was defeated in the Roosevelt landslide. In 1906 he was the unanimous nominee for this office and was elected by a majority of one thousand three hundred and fourteen votes, and the able and conscientious manner in which he served his constituents soon proved their wisdom in his selection. He was on the Committee of Pensions, Mines and Mining, and he made a splendid record, especially was his work commendable in reference to pensions. In the fall of 1908, Doctor Foster was nominated without opposition to succeed himself, and with one exception he carried every county in the district, including one county which Taft carried. His home township, which is one hundred and fifty Republican, he carried by three hundred and fifty majority, and carried the county by seven hundred and thirty-one. This shows his high standing and popularity in Richland county and the Twenty-third district. Doctor Foster was elected Mayor of Olney in 1895, or a term of two years and was again elected in 1903 for two years. During his incumbency of this office he did many things that will be of permanent benefit to the city and community, making a record that was highly praised by all. He served for four years as president of the School Board, and he was a member of the Board of Pension Examiners for eight years.
The harmonious domestic life of Doctor Fostor began in 1888 when he married Alice Igo, who was born in Shelbyville, Illinois, the talented daughter of Samuel and Catherine Igo. Mrs. Foster was called to her rest in 1889. No children were born to this union. The subject was again married, his second wife being Lulu B. Cliffe, a woman of gracious personality, whom he married October 27, 1891. She is a native of Olney, the daughter of Rev. William and Martha (White) Cliffe, the former a native of England and the latter of Indiana. Reverend Cliffe was chaplain of the Ninety-eight Illinois Regiment during the Civil war and was a prominent minister of the Methodist Episcopal church for many years. He died in 1869. His wife is also deceased.
Doctor Foster is a member of the Masonic Order, the Knights Templar, being Past Eminent Commander of the latter; he is also a member of the Shrine, and is a charter member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, No. 926, and is Past Chancellor of the Knights of Pythias. He belongs to the Modern Woodmen of America. He is a liberal subscriber to the Christian church of which he is a member. Mrs. Foster is a faithful attendant of the Methodist Episcopal church. Our subject is a member of the National Eclectic Medical Society and also the Illinois State Medical Society.
Doctor Foster is widely and favorably known throughout the state, his abilities well fitting him for leadership in political and social life. The terms progress and patriotism might be considered the keynote of his character, for throughout his career he has labored for the improvement of every line of business or public interest with which he has been associated, and at all times has been actuated by a patriotic love for his county and her welfare. No man in Richland county is better known or held in higher esteem, and because of the high position he has gained so young in life, the future must necessarily hold much of good and promise for him.
Extracted 21 May 2019 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 501-503.