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Governor Records - Robinson, 1861-1863




First governor of the State of Kansas, 1861 – 1863; of Lawrence, Kan.  Correspondence of the administration of Dr. Charles Robinson, one term governor of the State of Kansas from 1861 to 1863, includes the appointments of the first justices of the peace and probate judges. The administration was involved in the sale of initial State bonds; capital relocation; freighting to Colorado Territory; criminal matters; protested elections; relations with the federal government; impeachment proceedings; Indian affairs; the sale of the territorial capitol at Lecompton, Kan.; legislative matters; military affairs; relations with Missouri; public documents; public lands; and resignations. Additional records of Governor Robinson are in separate series common to several governors including Executive proclamations, Feb., June 1861, to the people of Kansas; an Executive record, 1861 – 1863; and an Executive register (Secretary’s minutes), 1861 – 1863.


1861 – 1863


0.4 ft. (18 folders)

1.2 Creator
Kansas. Governor (1861 – 1863 : Robinson)


Correspondence files
Other Titles: Records of the Governor’s Office: administration of Governor Charles Robinson (1861 – 1863)
Records of the Office of the Governor of Kansas: Charles Robinson’s administration (1861–1863)


Record group 252, series 03410
Shelf location: 027-03-06-03
Consult the “Detailed Description of the Collection,” section 8 below, for locations and numbers of individual folders.


This finding aid describes materials held by the Kansas State Historical Society. Materials may be used in the Research Room in the society’s Center for Historical Research during regular research hours. Support for telephone, mail, and online reference and research is limited.

In a continuing effort to improve the completeness and accuracy of finding aids, revisions are made as more or new information becomes available. Consequently, this finding aid may differ slightly from what appears on the microfilm or on the Kansas State Historical Society’s web site.


Kansas State Historical Society (Topeka)



The office of the governor of the State of Kansas was established by the Wyandotte Constitution of 1859. Some of the more important duties, functions, and responsibilities of the governor are to see that the laws are faithfully executed, to require written explanations from other executive officers — at that time the lieutenant governor, secretary of State, auditor, treasurer, attorney general, and superintendent of public instruction — upon any subject relating to their respective duties, convene the Legislature by proclamation on extraordinary occasions, communicate in writing such information as he may possess in reference to the condition of the State at the commencement of every legislative session, recommend such measures as he may deem expedient, and commission officers of the State.


Charles Robinson was born on 21 July 1818, at Hardwick (Worcester County) Massachusetts. He was educated at Hadley Academy and Amherst Academy but became ill and had to leave in his second year. Later he studied medicine at the Berkshire Medical School at Woodstock, Vermont, and at Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he graduated in 1843. He briefly practiced medicine at Belchertown, Springfield, and Fitchburg, Massachusetts, until 1849. He was first married with two children both dying in infancy; his first wife, Sarah Adams, died in 1846. Charles Robinson married Sara Tappan Doolittle Lawrence of Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1851.

In 1849, after teaching school and practicing medicine in Massachusetts, Robinson decided to embark on a caravan trip to the California gold mines. His cross-country route portentously passed through Kansas, including the future town site of Lawrence. Soon after his arrival in California, Robinson settled in Sacramento where he would edit the Settler’s and Miner’s Tribune of Sacramento. He also took part in the riots of 1850, and became leader of a squatter association; he was later wounded in a massive squatter battle. While under indictment for conspiracy and murder, he was elected to the State Legislature, and was subsequently discharged by the court without trial. Robinson then decided to enter politics and won election to the California House of Representatives for the 1850 – 51 term of office. However, he decided to return to Massachusetts to edit the Fitchburg News, which he did from 1851 to 1854.

In late 1853, Northern abolitionists became alarmed by rumors of an eventual passage of the Kansas – Nebraska Act. Inspired by the Massachusetts industrialist Eli Thayer’s crusade for a free (antislavery) state of Kansas, Robinson decided to journey back to the Kansas Territory at the head of the first colony sent by the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company in July 1854. By September of 1854, he had located the company headquarters in the new township of Lawrence; and this would be his home for the rest of his life. Robinson became known as “Doctor,” but he was, in reality, a nonpracticing physician. He first made his livelihood as an agent for the emigrant company, later as a farmer north of Lawrence, and finally as a real estate promoter. Politically, his cool and detached leadership projected a stabilizing influence for the Free-State Party. In 1855, Robinson was a delegate to the Free-State Topeka constitutional convention and was elected governor for its active but illegal government. One day while Robinson was traveling through Missouri, he was arrested for professing to be governor of Kansas Territory; he was subsequently jailed but later freed by antislavery partisans.

He later helped organize the new Republican Party, and as the Party’s first candidate for governor he opposed the Democratic candidate, Samuel Medary, the last territorial governor, in 1861. Supporters of Medary sought to convince voters that the Republicans were abolitionists of the John Brown variety, while Republicans identified the Democrats as successors of the border ruffian mobs. In December of 1860, Robinson won the gubernatorial election by 7,848 votes to 5,401.

Following the admission of Kansas as a sovereign State on 29 January 1861, Dr. Charles Robinson was sworn in as its first governor on 9 February. Robinson’s message to the first State Legislature asserted his own philosophy of the territorial history of Kansas, which he had been an active and decisive participant.

When Governor Robinson first spoke to the State Legislature in 1861, he acknowledged the unprecedented upheaval of the past year that effected many trans-Mississippi areas. But his primary concern at that point was the threat of secession that would ultimately paralyze the Union to a state of war. Civil War erupted in the third month of his term.

The issue of the Kansas State capital location was addressed in 1862. Free State advocates wanted a capital further west, fearing that Lecompton would become a slave stronghold. Therefore Lecompton, the last territorial capital, was rejected, and Topeka was approved as the new permanent capital on 15 November 1861. Governor Robinson’s Topeka residence was located at the Tefft House, at Seventh and Kansas Avenue.

The State of Kansas carried a sizable debt with no money in its treasury and a host of new problems because of new statehood and the outbreak of the Civil War. As a new Union war Governor, Robinson was responsible for recruiting the State’s quota of troops for federal service; but throughout the war the number of Kansas volunteers far surpassed its assigned quota. Robinson’s executive decisions as governor were usually sound. His administration set important legislative precedents that later created new State agencies and a state agricultural society, established guidelines for State institutions, and organized the entire State judicial system.

The primary obstacle to Governor Robinson was his ongoing feud with Senator James H. Lane for control of the Republican Party. In late 1861, Senator Lane wanted a new gubernatorial election held the same time as the fall Congressional elections, despite the fact that Robinson had assumed the office of governor earlier that year. Lane argued that Robinson’s term was about to expire because he had been elected two years earlier. Robinson in turn appointed a replacement for Lane in the United States Senate, assuming the Senator had resigned when he accepted a commission as a general in the Union Army. Lane then retaliated by instigating impeachment proceedings against Robinson and two other State executives for allegedly selling State bonds far below the rates set by the Legislature. In the absence of any credible evidence, Robinson was acquitted of all charges. The other two State officials were convicted on one of the charges and removed from office. However, Robinson believed the convicted officials were used as scapegoats for an attack directed solely at him. For compensation, Robinson appointed the two men as officers in Kansas military regiments; unfortunately neither survived the war.

Although Robinson was vindicated of all charges, the impeachment trial came so close to the meeting of the Republican State Convention on 17 September 1862; Robinson failed to gain renomination to the governor’s office. He had many supporters but was unable to secure enough voters. Supporters of Jim Lane drove Robinson from the Republican Party.

Following his term as governor, Robinson lived out his remaining life in Lawrence. Robinson’s political loyalty in 1862 was for the Union Party ticket that was backed by anti-Lane Republicans and Democrats.

In the early 1870s, Robinson served on the Board of Directors of the Colored Normal School, Quindaro, an institution for African Americans near Kansas City. In 1873 he began an eight-year stint in the State Senate as an independent. He was also president of the Kansas State Historical Society. He later became a regent for the University of Kansas and served in that capacity for twelve years; in recognition for his devoted service he received the honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Kansas in 1887.

In 1879 at the quarter-centennial celebration of the creation of Kansas Territory, Charles Robinson echoed on that fine day his moderate and reasonable demeanor when he recalled the “Bleeding Kansas” era: “The old contentions, bitterness, and the irrepressible and needless conflict between the North and South have given place to mutual respect, love and good-will. The United States now constitutes the reality as well as in name, the institutions, aspirations, and a common destiny for all man kind.”

Robinson ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for the State Senate in 1884, for Congress in 1886, and again for governor in 1890. President Grover Cleveland appointed him superintendent of Haskell Institute (now Haskell Indian Nations University) in Lawrence in January of 1887 at the age of 69. During his term as superintendent, the number of students at Haskell more than doubled. The town of Robinson, in Brown County, was named after him.

In later years Robinson became a political maverick; he was a strong believer in temperance but didn’t favor prohibition. He did back most other reforms that stirred Kansas voters in that era; such as women’s rights, equal rights for African American citizens, anti-monopoly action, and financial reform. Perhaps he might have had more influence had he remained in the Republican Party.

Charles Robinson died on 17 August 1894 of chronic bladder and stomach trouble at his home, Oakridge, near Lawrence, Kansas; he was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Lawrence. Under the terms of his will, following Sara Robinson’s death their Kansas property and a large sum of money were donated to the University of Kansas on Mount Oread in Lawrence, the hill preempted by Charles Robinson in 1854.

Scope And Content

Governor Robinson’s records consist of one Correspondence series in eighteen folders.

The Appointments file (folders 1 – 2) contains documents and signed petitions for State justices of the peace and probate judges. The file “Bonds, State, 1861” (folder 3), is the State’s query to a New York banking firm on the profitability of Kansas State bonds at seven per cent in the State of New York. Folder 4 on capital location, 1862, is a letter in favor of relocating the State capital from Lecompton to Topeka. The folder “Colorado Territory,” 1862 (no. 5), contains a letter to the Governor requesting a military pass for Michael Levalle, from Colorado, to procure 4,000 pounds of merchandise and transport the goods from Atchison, Kansas, to Colorado. The file on “Criminal Matters,” 1863 (folder 6), pertains to a wide range of criminal litigation: requests for court leniency, sentence reductions, and commutations of the death sentence. A letter-petition protesting the election of D. H. Locke, to the office of clerk of the District court of Jackson County constitutes the file “Election Protest,” 1861 (folder 7). The folder “Federal Government,” 1861, (no. 8) contains a copy of a joint resolution of Congress to amend the Constitution of the United States to prohibit Congress from interfering with the “domestic institutions,” including slavery, of a State, signed by President James Buchanan on 5 March 1861, authenticated and sent to Governor Charles Robinson by President Abraham Lincoln on 16 March 1861. Other items in this folder are from the State and Treasury departments and deal with a direct tax levied upon each State and authentication of State officers and signatures, as well as a message from Governor Robinson transmitting the above proposed Constitutional amendment to the Legislature. Folder 9, “Impeachment,” 1862, is a note on the Governor’s impeachment process dated 30 March 1862. The file “Indian Affairs,” 1861, (folder 10) pertains to field reports from Major General Fremont to the Governor that the Kansa, Osage, and Cherokee Indians were in a struggle with groups of lawless whites over cattle theft on White-water Creek (now the Whitewater River) in Butler County in “western” Kansas. In 1861, the Governor placed the Lecompton capitol building for sale and advertised it with Steam Printing Presses of Lawrence. The Lecompton property was subsequently auctioned to R. S. Stevens for $300. This action is documented in the “Lecompton Capitol, Sale of,” 1862, file (folder 11). The file “Legislature,” 1861 – 1862 (folder 12), contains petitions to the Governor requesting he advance the date decreed for the convening of the first State Legislature. The file also contains a copy of the Governor’s first message to the Legislature on 30 March 1861. The “Military Affairs,” 1861 – 1862, file (folder 13) documents how the Governor dealt with complex matters of State security at the onset of the Civil War. He ensured the federal quota for Kansas for the conscription of Union troops was achieved. He addressed the urgent need for a company of troops to be stationed near Brown County to fend off rebel Missourians and “Jayhawkers” (antislavery guerrillas) on the eastern border, and he appointed State officials as officers to command State regiments in support of the war effort. The “Missouri,” 1861, folder (no. 14) deals with a State convention in Missouri in March of 1861. A communication was addressed to Governor Robinson on the issue of Missouri seceding from the Union based on a State’s right to slavery. Folders 15 and 16 pertain to public documents and include receipts for copies of Kansas laws for 1861 and 1862 and transmittals of documents for the same years. The “Public Land,” 1861 – 1862 folder (no. 17) pertains to revaluation and use of State property,. the appointment of S. E. Hoffman as the agent to select lands for official State use, letters of recommendation on behalf of applicants for positions dealing with public lands, and gubernatorial appointments of land commissioners. The final file (folder 18) deals with resignations in 1861: B. F. Swain, of Coffey County, a justice of the peace, and B. F. Rilley of Brown County, from the office of probate judge.

These records show evidence of the concerns brought before the executive of a fledgling State. Surprisingly, there are few documents in each file and not many individual files. Considering the fact that the new State was trying to establish itself and in the middle of a conflict that had been raging for over six years in parts of Kansas, relatively little documentation exists about these major events.

Additional files that record the actions of the Robinson administration may be found in the series Executive Record (no. 03458), Executive Record (Secretary’s Minutes) (no. 05968) and Executive Proclamations (series 3450). These series contain records of a number of governors. Folders 1 – 3 of box 1 of the Executive Record (Secretary’s Minutes) and pages 1 – 70 of volume 1 of the Executive Record contain documents dated 8 February 1861 through 12 January 1863. Folder 1 of box 1 of Executive Proclamations are addressed to the people of Kansas from Governor Robinson. The first, 9 February 1861, was cited in the Lawrence Republican, extra edition, of that date, available on Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS) newspaper microfilm roll L 698. There is also a 17 June 1861 message.

Most of the personal papers of Charles and Sara Robinson are in the KSHS manuscripts collection. The papers, on microfilm rolls MS 640 - MS 652, contain primarily personal and business correspondence for the period when Charles Robinson was governor. However the construction of the University of Kansas, local and national politics, and other events of the period are well documented. A printed guide to the collection is available and a description of the collection is on the KSHS web site, /p/private-papers-of-charles-and-sara-t-d-robinson-1834-1911/14108

Other personal papers of Charles Robinson are at the Kansas Collection, University of Kansas libraries (Lawrence); an on-line guide is at http://etext.ku.edu/view?docId=ksrlead/ksrl.kc.robinsoncharles.xml;route=ksrlead;brand=ksrlead;query=

Records of other offices of Kansas government, particularly the secretary of State and attorney general, will give additional information about State activities during this period. Papers of other prominent political figures of the time, most of which are held by the KSHS, may also offer insights about Kansas politics and government during the Robinson administration. Additional information on the Kansas military effort may be found in the records of the Adjutant General’s Office, record group 34 in the society’s State archives holdings; the Military history manuscript collection, no. 617; and personal papers of individual officers and soldiers in the manuscripts collection.

Contents List

Organization of Papers

Arranged alphabetically by subject.

Folder List

Archival records are typically organized by series, a group of records that has a common element or function and a distinct organizational structure of its own, for example Correspondence Files, arranged chronologically, or Registers of Military Enlistments, arranged by regiment. Groups of series from the same office or other organizational element may form a subgroup, a portion of a larger record group, such as the sub - group 1979 – 87 (John Carlin) as a part of State Archives record group 252, Records of the Office of the Governor.

Correspondence Files, 1861-1863 (series 03410). 1 box (027-03-06-03)

folder 1: Appointments: Justices of the peace, 1861-1862
folder 2: Appointments: Probate judges, 1861
folder 3: Bonds, State, 1861
folder 4: Capital location, 1862
folder5: Colorado Territory, 1862
folder 6: Criminal matters, 1862-1863
folder 7: Federal government, 1861-1862
folder 9: Impeachment, 1862
folder 10: Indian affairs, 1861
folder 11: Lecompton capitol, Sale of, 1861
folder 12: Legislature, 1861-1862
folder 13: Military affairs, 1861-1862
folder 14: Missouri, 1861
folder 15: Public documents, Receipts for, 1862
folder 16: Public documents, Transmittal of, 1861-1862
folder 17: Public land, 1861-1862
folder 18: Resignations, 1861

Executive Record (Secretary's Minutes), 1861-1879 (series 05968). partial box + 1 v. (028-03-05-05)

folder 1: Feb.-Nov. 1861
folder 2: Jan.-Dec. 1862
folder 3: Nov. 1862-Jan. 1863

Executive Records, 1861-1879 (series 03458). 1 v. (024-13-10-01)
vol.1, pp. 1-70, 1861-1863

Executive Proclamations, 1861-1980 (series 03450). 2 boxes + 13 v. + 1 oversize box (028-03-01-05 thru 028-03-02-04, 072-01-05-02 thru 071-01-08-02 [oversize box 8])
Feb., June 1861

Related Records and Collections

Related Materials

Records of the Kansas Adjutant General’s Office record group 34
Records of the Kansas Attorney General’s Office record group 82
Records of the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office record group 622

Other Finding Aid

Copies of this finding aid are available in the Research Room of the Center for Historical Research and on its web site, http://www.kshs.org.


Snell, Joseph W. A Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Private Papers of Charles and Sara T. D. Robinson. Topeka, Kans.: Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS), 1969. Available in the KSHS Research Room.
Socolofsky, Homer E. Kansas Governors. Lawrence, Kans.: University Press of Kansas, © 1990. Call no. K BB So13; available in the KSHS, Center for Historical Research.

Index Terms

Access Points

The terms listed below may include names, places, subjects, occupations, titles, and other words describing this collection. These terms are used in the ATLAS catalog used by the Kansas State Historical Society and affiliated libraries in Topeka, http://lib.wuacc.edu/search, as well as libraries and archives subscribing to OCLC, a national library/archives database. Searches on these words should produce a description of this collection as well as other books and collections that may be of interest. Names in SMALL CAPS are cataloging added entries (co-creators); names in regular type are subjects. Topical terms are Library of Congress subject headings unless indicated otherwise.

Personal Names

Robinson, Charles, 1818-1894.

Corporate Names

Kansas. Governor (1861-1863 : Robinson)–Archives.
Kansas. Legislature.

Geographic Names

Kansas–Capital and capitol.
Kansas–History–Civil War, 1861-1865.
Kansas–Military policy.
Kansas–Officials and employees.
Kansas–Politics and government–1861-1865.
Lecompton (Kan.)


Contested elections–Kansas.
Criminal law–Kansas.
Federal government–Kansas.
Federal-state controversies–Kansas.
Finance, Public–Kansas.
Freight and freightage–Kansas.
Freight and freightage–Colorado.
Indians of North America–Government relations–1789-1869.
Indians of North America–Kansas.
Interstate relations–Kansas.
Interstate relations–Missouri.
Judges–Selection and appointment–Kansas.
Justices of the peace–Kansas.
Patronage, Political–Kansas.
Probate courts—Kansas.
Public lands—Kansas.
Public officials–Resignation–Kansas.
State bonds–Kansas.


Corporate minutes–Kansas.
Correspondence. AAT
Public records–Kansas.




Political administrative bodies by governing person. AAT

Additional Information for Researchers

Restrictions on Access


Restrictions on Use

Notice: This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). The user is cautioned that the publication of the contents of this microfilm may be construed as constituting a violation of literary property rights. These rights derive from the principle of common law, affirmed in the copyright law of 1976 as amended, that the writer of an unpublished letter or other manuscript has the sole right to publish the contents thereof unless he or she affirmatively parts with that right; the right descends to his or her legal heirs regardless of the ownership of the physical manuscript itself. It is the responsibility of a user or his or her publisher to secure the permission of the owner of literary property rights in unpublished writing.

Most documents created by governmental entities, including the State of Kansas, are considered in the public domain, although copyright to documents found in public records that were written by individuals or organizations and sent to government agencies may be owned by the writers or their heirs.

Preferred Citation

Note: [document description], Correspondence files, 1861 – 1863, series 03410, Robinson administration (1861 –1863), records of the Kansas Governor’s Office, State archives record group 252, Library and Archives Division, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka.
Bibliography: Kansas, Governor’s Office, Robinson administration (1861 – 1863), State archives record group 252, Correspondence files, 1861 – 1863, series 03410, Library and Archives Division, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka.

Acquisition Information

Transfer: Office of the Governor, date unknown.

Processing Information

Inventory written by David Manning, volunteer, 2004.