Transcribed from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar.

Robinson, Charles, physician, and first governor of the State of Kansas after its admission into the Union, was born at Hardwick, Mass., July 21, 1818. His elementary education was obtained in the local schools, and at the age of eighteen years he entered Amherst College, where he spent two years, when an affection of the eyes compelled him to leave school. He walked 40 miles to Keene, N. H., to consult a physician, and while under treatment decided to study medicine. He began his studies at Woodstock, Vt., and in 1843 graduated with honors at the medical school at Pittsfield, Mass. Shortly after receiving his degree he commenced practice at Belchertown, Mass., but in 1845 removed to Springfield, where he became a partner of Dr. Holland (Timothy Titcomb), who had been a classmate at Pittsfield. Here Dr. Robinson won a widespread reputation as a specialist in the treatment of chronic diseases. In 1847 he removed to Fitchburg, Mass., and practiced there for two years. When gold was discovered in California in 1849 he set out for the Pacific coast as a surgeon to one of the pioneer parties of goldseekers. While on the overland trip the party encamped near the site of the present city of Lawrence, and Dr. Robinson climbed to the summit of Mount Oread, where the University of Kansas is now located. Upon arriving in California he spent some time in prospecting and mining, after which he opened an eating house in Sacramento. While he was thus employed a controversy arose between the squatters, who held lands under the United States preëmption laws, and some land speculators who claimed title by purchase of Capt. Sutter, who held some 99,000 acres under a Mexican-Spanish grant. A love of fair play seems to have been an inherent trait of Dr. Robinson's nature, and with characteristic promptitude he espoused the cause of the squatters, with whom he soon became one of their most trusted advisers and leaders. Several conflicts between the two factions ensued, in one of which the mayor of Sacramento was killed and Dr. Robinson was seriously wounded. Before he recovered he was indicted for conspiracy, assault with intent to kill, and murder, and for ten weeks was confined on board a prison ship, at the end of which time he was tried and acquitted. While a prisoner awaiting trial, he was elected to the California legislature, and as a member of that body he supported Gen. John C. Fremont, who was elected United States senator. For a time Dr. Robinson published a Free-soil paper at Sacramento, but about the first of July, 1851, he started via the isthmus for Massachusetts. The vessel on which he embarked was wrecked off the Mexican coast, and he shipped as surgeon on a vessel from Panama to Cuba, carrying a number of sick men who had been employed in the construction of the Panama railroad. On Sept. 9, 1851, he arrived at Fitchburg, much improved in health, and immediately resumed the practice of his profession. On Oct. 30, 1851, he married Sara T. D. Lawrence, daughter of Myron A. Lawrence. Miss Lawrence had been under his professional care before he went to California, and their wedding had been postponed on account of his western trip. In addition to his practice of medicine Dr. Robinson assumed the editorship of the Fitchburg News. About this time the attention of the country was attracted to Kansas, and he wrote and published several letters concerning the region through which he had passed on his journey to the coast. These letters aroused widespread interest in the subject, and, as they were written by one who had seen the country, were rightfully regarded as authentic. Immediately following the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill societies were organized in the East for the purpose of assisting those who might desire to seek their fortunes in the "Far West." At a meeting in Chapman's Hall, Boston, Eli Thayer delivered an address, and at the close inquired if anyone present was willing to go to Kansas. Dr. Robinson promptly walked up and signed the roll, and on June 28, 1854, left Fitchburg for Kansas. On Sept. 6, following, he and his young wife reached the foot of Mount Oread, which he climbed five years before, and here they established their home. He soon became an active factor in locating emigrants sent out by the Aid society, and was recognized as a leader by the free-state men. His home was destroyed in the sack of 1856; he suffered calumny and imprisonment; and was otherwise persecuted on account of his opinions. Douglass Brewerton, correspondent of the New York Herald, wrote of Dr. Robinson in 1856 as follows:

"He may be regarded as the real head—the thinking one we mean—and the mainspring of the free-state party; or, to speak more correctly, of all that party who are worth anything. We believe him to be a keen, shrewd, far-seeing man, who would permit nothing to stand in the way of the end he desired to gain. He is, moreover, cool and determined, and appears to he endowed with immense firmness; we should call him a conservative man now; but conservative rather from policy than principle. He seems to have strong common sense, but no briliancy of talent. In fact, to sum Gov. Robinson up in a single sentence, we consider him the most dangerous enemy which the pro-slavery party has to encounter in Kansas."

Dr. Robinson was elected the first governor under the Topeka constitution, and he was the first commander of the free-state militia. The Wyandotte constitution was ratified by vote of the people on Oct. 4, 1859, and on the 6th of December following he was elected governor, though he did not assume the duties of the office until after the admission of the state in 1861. He had his enemies and critics—men of positive natures always do—but after a lapse of fifty years the impartial student of Kansas history will recognize the fact that his virtues far outweighed his faults. His patriotism was unrivaled and he did the best he knew—or at least the best that circumstances would permit—for the people of the state for which he was elected the first chief executive. Upon retiring from the office of governor Dr. Robinson also retired from public life, though he never failed to take an interest in matters pertaining to the welfare of his adopted state, and especially was he a friend to education. Robinson Hall," one of the buildings of the State University, was donated by his estate and named in his honor. At 3:15 a. m. Aug. 17, 1894, Gov. Robinson laid down the burden of life and joined the silent majority. He had often faced death in the course of his career, and when the end finally came he met his fate like a hero. His loss was keenly felt by the people of the state, and four ex-governors came to pay tribute of respect to the man whose course in earlier years has left a lasting impression upon Kansas and her institutions. The funeral sermon was preached by Dr. C. G. Howland, who closed his address as follows: "Much of Gov. Robinson's life was tempestuous, but the close was as gentle as the fading light of day. With a tender yet speechless touch of a dear hand, and without the slightest concern, he went to meet 'what the future hath of marvel or surprise.'"

Robinson Hall, State University


Pages 589-591 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.