Born in Logan County, Kentucky, on September 10, 1834, Robert Coleman "Cole" Foster Jr. was the son of Robert Cole Foster Sr. (1808–1880) and Annie Jannett Henley Sims Foster (1806–1881). Cole moved to Kansas in 1856 with his parents and siblings. Robert Sr. established what became a "prosperous" farm near Leavenworth. He also served for several years on the Leavenworth County Commission.
Robert Jr. (known as "Cole") received a public school education in Kentucky and Tennessee and briefly attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, before beginning the study of law back in Kentucky. He subsequently graduated in the spring of 1856 with a degree in law from Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee, just before his move to Kansas Territory.
Cole was admitted to the bar in Leavenworth County, Kansas, and practiced law there prior to his election as a delegate to the fourth and final Kansas constitutional convention in 1859. This election, which took place in March, authorized holding the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention and named the delegates to it. This was the first time in Kansas that the Democratic and Republican parties, as such, faced each other in a contest at the polls. The Republicans elected 35 delegates, while the Democrats elected 17. Robert C. Foster Jr., from Leavenworth County, was one of the Democrats chosen.
In 1862 and again in 1864, Robert Jr. was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives, and in 1866 he won a term in the state Senate, being one of only three Democrats in that body. Foster was the Democratic Party's unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Congress in 1870. During this time, in May 1866, he was involved in founding two ferries on the Missouri River near the old town of Delaware. One belonged to the Junction Ferry Company, while the other was owned by the Platte Valley Ferry Company.
Cole married Amanda M. Harrelson of Leavenworth on October 18, 1871. Her father and brother also operated ferries on the Missouri. During the 1870s, Cole continued the practice of law in Leavenworth and was, according to an 1879 biographer, "recognized as among the popular and influential members of the Democratic party of the State."
Employed as an attorney for the MK&T Railroad, Robert came to Denison, Texas, in 1875. He also was an attorney for the Dallas & Wichita Railroad. The Denison City Directory of 1876-77 listed his office at 124 West Main Street. He lived at the northwest corner of Houston Avenue and Sears Street.
In November 1878, Foster was elected to the Texas Legislature by an overwhelming majority. He served in the Sixteenth (1879–1881), Eighteenth (1883–1885), and Nineteenth (1885–1887) Texas Legislatures. His official biography at this time stated:
Mr. Foster is a member of the Baptist church, and a Democrat thoroughly Jeffersonian in his principles. He was chairman of the committee on Educational Affairs, and a member of the House committees on Penitentiary and Judiciary No. 1, during the session of the Nineteenth Legislature. This distinguished gentleman's varied experience, wide observation, fine elocutionary powers, and devotion to the interests of the State made him a safe leader in the House and won the respect, confidence and esteem of his brother members.
Back home, Robert now lived at the northwest corner of West Sears and North Tone Avenue (1107 West Sears). Denison City Directories for 1887 and 1889 list him as "general agent and assistant secretary, MK&T Railroad, south division." In 1891, the partnership of Foster & Wilkinson (Alfred E. Wilkinson) officed upstairs at 102 West Main Street—the Lebrecht Building, owned by Mayor Louis Lebrecht. The partners were "attorneys for receivers of the MK&T Railway." Foster was still "assistant secretary and general agent for the MK&T Railway."
About this time, Foster began to capitalize on his knowledge and contacts at the MK&T Railroad. In March of 1890, he helped found a company to build a line connecting Denison to Sherman and Dallas.
According to Chris Cravens in the Handbook of Texas Online:
The Sherman, Denison and Dallas Railway Company began on March 20, 1890, as an extension of the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad system in the state. The road was chartered to build from Denison through Sherman to Dallas, a distance of eighty miles. The capital was $100,000, and the business office was in Denison. Members of the first board of directors included B. P. McDonald and C. H. Osborn of Fort Scott, Kansas; D. A. Taylor of Hartford, Kansas; E. P. Cowan of Dallas; Tom Randolph, C. T. Lyon, and T. D. Joiner of Sherman; and R. C. Foster and A. T. Drew of Denison. The company laid ten miles of track between Sherman and Denison in 1890 but never extended it to Dallas, since the parent line already operated two lines between Dallas and Denison. The MKT purchased the Sherman, Denison and Dallas on November 11, 1891, and conveyed it to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Company of Texas on November 18, 1891.
In 1900, Robert helped found the St. Louis, San Francisco and Texas Railway Company to build a line between Denison and the Red River. According to the Handbook of Texas Online:
The St. Louis, San Francisco and Texas Railway Company was chartered on March 9, 1900, in the interest of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad Company (Frisco), to build between Denison, Texas, and the Red River. The charter was subsequently amended to allow the railroad to build from Denison to Sherman. Initial capital was set at $200,000 and the office was located at Denison in Grayson County. The office was moved to Fort Worth in 1904. Members of the first board of directors included R. C. Foster of Denison; H. D. McDonald of Paris, Texas; W. C. Preston and W. A. Tuley of Dallas; D. B. Robinson and Benjamin F. Yoakum of St. Louis; and J. H. Atterbury of Letchfield, Illinois. The 5.3-mile line of the SLSF&T to Denison was completed in early 1901, and was extended to Sherman in March 1901 via trackage rights over the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. The company connected with the Frisco line from Sapulpa, Oklahoma, at the Red River. In order to attract the SLSF&T, the city of Sherman offered the company a bonus of $15,000, right-of-way, and forty acres of land for a terminal. The company also built its shops at Sherman. In 1903 the road earned $15,571 in passenger revenue, $443,617 in freight revenue, and $237 in other revenue. On June 25, 1904, the SLSF&T acquired the Red River, Texas and Southern Railway Company. This fifty-three-mile-long railroad was opened between Sherman and Carrollton in 1902 and reached Dallas and Ft. Worth over a combination of leased track and trackage rights. Two other Frisco properties-the Blackwell, Enid and Texas Railway, operating between the Red River and Vernon, and the Oklahoma City and Texas Railroad, which had built between Red River and Quanah-were acquired on June 30, 1904, and July 25, 1904, respectively.
more at David Minor, "ST. LOUIS, SAN FRANCISCO AND TEXAS RAILWAY,":
In addition to his work as an attorney and investor, R. C. Foster raised jersey cattle on his dairy farm outside Denison. He also maintained a residence there. So says Industrial Denison, a photographic book published around 1908.
Between 1891 and 1900, publications such as Famous Jersey Cattle and Holstein-Friesian Herd-book regularly listed prize-winning animals belonging to "Platter & Foster, Denison, Texas."
Andrew Fox Platter, a founder of Waples-Platter Company, owned the Lawn Farm Jersey Company in Denison and was known to be an enthusiastic breeder of jersey cattle. It seems likely that "Fox" Platter and "Cole" Foster had some jointly owned cattle enterprise. They lived less than a block apart on West Sears Street.
Robert C. Foster Jr. died at Denison, Texas, on January 6, 1910. His wife, Amanda, passed away on December 19, 1916. Both were buried in Fairview Cemetery, Denison. Also there are Cole's son and grandson, who both born his name.
In 1900, Robert and Amanda had four children at home, the youngest being seventeen years old:
Martha Foster - born Kansas 1873
Edna Foster - born Kansas 1877; kindergarten teacher
Robert Cole Foster III - born Texas 1880 - 1953; salesman; married Dora L. Beggs, a social worker; lived in Dallas.
Myra Foster - born Texas 1883 - 1979. At the age of 25, she married Andrew Kennedy Rodgers, a cotton goods salesman.
There was some mention of two possible older children - Joseph Harrelson Foster and Mabel Helen Foster - but records were not available concerning them.