Col. Charles W. Adams

Commanding Officer

12th Kansas Volunteer Infantry

       Educator, Soldier and Pioneer

            Charles W. Adams was part of the great migration to the west, which took place in nineteenth century America as he moved from New England to the West Coast during his lifetime.  Born in Massachusetts in 1834, he arrived in the Territory of Kansas in the late 1850s. By 1860, he was a teacher at Quincy High School in Lawrence, Kansas. One of his students was Ella Lane whom he married in 1861. Ella was the daughter of James H. Lane who was active in the pre-civil war conflicts of eastern Kansas. Lane, a great orator, rallied the North to the anti-slavery cause in Kansas and became one of the first US Senators from Kansas when it was granted statehood in 1861.

             In 1862, at the age of 28, Adams was commissioned a Colonel in the 12th Kansas Volunteer Infantry and charged to raise a regiment. During the recruitment, there was an encounter with Quantrell's guerrilla raiders with a loss of five lives. The 12th Kansas Infantry spent the early part of the war guarding Kansas from incursions from Missouri. By 1864, part of the group was fighting Confederate forces in Arkansas. The 12th Kansas was part of a federal expedition commanded by Major General Frederick Steele, which moved from Little Rock to Camden in south Arkansas. Lack of supplies forced Steele’s army to retreat back to Little Rock and enroute they were engaged by confederate forces at the Saline River. There, Col. Adams was wounded in action at the Battle of Jenkin's Ferry. He received a gunshot wound to the arm, which was to handicap him for the rest of his life. 

             Adams was mustered out of the army in 1865 as a Brevet Brig. General and returned to Lawrence. Two children were born to the Adams during the war but both died before the age of two. Records show that while Adams considered himself a resident of Kansas during the years immediately after the war, he also resided temporarily in Ft. Union, Territory of New Mexico, and later in La Plata Colorado.  Ella Lane Adams died in 1874.

             Adams married Emma Gill Chetlain the same year his wife died. Emma Gill spent her early years in Elizabeth, Illinois Her brothers Richard and William came to Kansas in 1856 to help deal with the “ruffian problem”. Emma later joined them and resided in Baldwin City, Kansas prior to the Civil War where she was one of the first students at Baker University. Emma returned to Illinois, and in 1863, married Charles Chetlain, a native of Galena. Charles and his brother Augustus Chetlain were acquaintances of Ulysses S. Grant, also of Galena. Augustus Chetlain served under General Grant during the war and attained the rank of Major General. Charles Chetlain moved his family to Lawrence Kansas after the war as most of Emma Gill’s family had now moved there from Illinois.  Chetlain died of consumption in 1870.

              Charles Adams left Kansas after his second marriage and moved west. His first stop was Del Norte, Colorado and from there the family moved on to Lake City Colorado where a mining boom was underway. In November 1876, the local newspaper, Silver World, reported that the School Board had elected Charles Adams to a teaching post.  In 1877, he became principal of the school. The paper also reported that Adams held the post of District Clerk while in Lake City.

             In the early 1880s, the Adams family left Colorado for California and in 1884 they were residing in Alameda, near San Francisco and operating a boarding house. His step daughter Adele, completed her education at Nahl's Academy of Art in San Francisco and was married to Ralph P. Waddell in 1889 while the Adams were temporarily living in Los Angeles. Charles and Emma returned to live in Oakland by 1892 to be near Adele and her growing family.

             During his later life, Charles Adams had various occupations none of which appeared to last. Business directories listed him as a Deputy Commissioner of Business and Labor, in the insurance business, a teacher and he is known to have had a position at the US Mint. Education appears to have been an occupation he enjoyed to the end of his life. In 1899, at the age of 65, he advertised himself as a home based tutor offering services for " Teachers and Civil Service Examinations, Mathematics, Physics, Bookkeeping, English Branches, Public School Pupils, and People of Neglected Education Assisted".

             During his three quarter century life span, Charles Adams was part of in the great American westward migration which first put plow to the eastern plains, then moved on to mine the mountains and finally followed lure of the California land promoters. Along the way, he experienced the turmoil fomented by pro slavery factions in territorial Kansas, married into a politically prominent Kansas family, participated in the Civil War where he received a lifetime physical handicap, experienced severe mountain winters and the threat of Indian uprisings in Colorado and was present as the California land boom climaxed. The records reveal that he engaged in many occupations during his lifetime but often was not too successful. However, education appears to have been his first love. He began as an educator, worked in this capacity at various times during his lifetime and returned to this vocation during his final days.

             Charles Adams died in 1908 in Oakland California.   


                                        Ralph Anderson

                                        Boulder, Colorado

                                        April 19, 1999