KS History – Group D

blogs about KS history

Meet the Robinson’s September 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — janae25 @ 10:07 pm
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           Charles Robinson, Kansas’s first official governor, was born on July 21st, 1818. Robinson was born and raised in Hardwick, Massachusetts. He spent his young educational years studying medicine. In 1846, his passion for medicine led him to an open physician position in California. While out west, he opened a restaurant and edited The Settler’s and Miner’s Tribune, a free-soil newspaper. Robinson lived in California between 1846 and 1851. While there, he was indicted for murder after a land argument occurred, leaving himself wounded and another man killed. Robinson was eventually acquitted, and afterwards, he was elected to the California legislature.


            Charles Robinson moved back home to Massachusetts in 1851 and married Sara Tappan Doolittle Lawrence. The two caught word of the fascination and interest of Kansas, and decided to move there in June of 1854. Robinson helped Free-State settlers find homes in Lawrence while they filled the new territory as an agent of the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company. Robinson was elected ‘governor’ under the Topeka Constitution of 1855. This constitution was not admitted, and in May 1856, Robinson was arrested for treason. He spent several months in the Lecompton prison before he was acquitted. Finally, under the Wyandotte Constitution, Kansas was admitted to the Union on January 29th, 1861. Robinson was once again elected as governor. He was the first Kansas governor.


             Although he only served one term, retiring in January of 1863, Robinson kept contributing to Kansas. He served as a regent to the University of Kansas during 1864 to 1874. He was a major contributor to the university’s commencement by donating a considerable amount of property. He also continued to serve and represent Kansas, first by serving for the state House of Representatives and then the Senate during the early 1870s. He did run for governor again, but was beat out by the first Democrat governor of Kansas, George W. Glick. Robinson ended his life by serving as the superintendent of Haskell Institute in Lawrence, KS. He wrote a book describing the territory struggle  in Kansas during the Civil War, called The Kansas Conflict. His last memorable mark while alive was once again serving as a regent to the University of Kansas, which he held until his death on August 17th, 1894.


            Sara T.D. Robinson shared her husband’s interest in Kansas as a free state. She published a book in 1856, Kansas, Its Interior and Exterior Life, about the struggle of making Kansas free. During and following the war, Mrs. Robinson tried her best to correct untrue published accounts of the incidents that occurred in Kansas. One of her main goals was to bring John Brown to ‘hero status,’ thus removing any negative connotations that were previously linked with him. Mrs. Robinson passed away after her husband on November 15th, 1911. Based on her husband’s will, the Robinson’s donated their property and money to the University of Kansas.

 -Janae Beahan

All information from the following sources:  

 “The Private Papers of Charles and Sara T. D. Robinson, 1834-1911.” Kansas Historical Society. 2009.



3 Responses to “Meet the Robinson’s”

  1. tfern24 Says:

    I never knew much about Charles Robinson before this, but i find it interesting that he contributed so much to the University of Kansas, and the help he aided to Kansas settlers. I am curious tho, why was he arrested exactly? What act of treason did he commit?
    -Tracy Fernandez

  2. janae25 Says:

    From what I can tell, Charles Robinson became very involved in a land dispuit controversy between settlers and land spectators in California. Somehow among all this, he sort of became the leader and adviser of the controversy. There were a lot of arguments between the two groups, and one resulted with Robinson wounded and another man killed. Since he was involved, Robinson was arrested for murder and spent some time in jail.

    His second time in jail was when he was arrested and charged with treason. This happened in May of 1856. At the time, he was elected governor under the ‘Free-Staters’, which was not formally acknowledged by the US Government. (The Bogus Legislature was the formal government of the KS Territory at the time.) While I am not sure, I believe he was arrested for treason because he was ‘threatening’ or acting against the US Government’s decision of which legislature was official. As we talked about the definition of treason in class the other day, we brought up this notion of whether the Free-Staters appearred treacherous towards the US Government. I’m sure they did in 1856. He only spent a couple of months in the Lecomptom jail – which at the time- Lecompton was the capital for the proslavery government. And obviously people liked him enough to bring him back to be the 1st governor!

  3. Zach White Says:

    Very informative post. I thought it was particulary interesting that he was indicted for murder. Can you imagine anyone running for Governor of a state after something like that happening in this political age? Robinson must have been an excellent leader to be a state Senator, Representative, Governor, and a leader for Haskell and KU too.

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