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.
All information from the following sources:
“The Private Papers of Charles and Sara T. D. Robinson, 1834-1911.” Kansas Historical Society. 2009.