Homer Wilson Charles, superintendent of the Boys' Industrial School at Topeka, Kan., is a native of Henry county, Indiana, where he was born on a farm Oct. 17, 1855. He comes of Welsh and English ancestry and is the descendant on the maternal side of one of New England's oldest and distinguished families, while the first authentic record of his paternal descent in this country dates back to 1755, though it is probable that the family had been established in this country early in the Colonial period. As far back as is known the Charles family were Quakers, and many of the descendants left North Carolina, where several generations of the family had lived, and removed to Northern states because of their disbelief in and repugnance to the institution of slavery. Samuel Charles, the great-great-grandfather of Homer Wilson Charles, married Abigail Anderson in Perquimans county, North Carolina, in February, 1755. Benjamin, the fifth of their six children, was married in Perquimans county to Sarah Jones; to their union were born four children, of whom William, the youngest, was the grandfather of our subject. William Charles was born in North Carolina on May 21, 1800, and died in Henry county, Indiana, Aug. 4, 1849. On Aug. 28, 1828, he was married in Henry county, Indiana, to Phariba Pike. They were pioneers in Indiana, and there they experienced the labor and deprivation consequent upon opening up a new country, but they lived to see the wilderness reclaimed. William and Phariba (Pike) Charles continued to reside in Henry county, Indiana, until their respective deaths, that of the former occurring on Aug. 4, 1849, and of the latter on Aug. 15, 1850. They became the parents of three children, of whom the second, Jesse Pike Charles, was the father of our subject. Jesse Pike Charles was born in Dudley township, Henry county, Indiana, Nov. 6, 1831, and died at his home in Huntington county, Indiana, Nov. 17, 1908, in his seventy-eighth year. He lived in an age replete with momentous eventsan age of great development and discovery. In active life he was a tiller of the soil; in public life he was a man of spirit and identified with many of the movements of his community and county at large. He was a stanch Republican and always took an active part in politics though he never sought political honor. He cast his first presidential vote for John C. Fremont, in 1856, and his last one for William Howard Taft. A man of strict honor and integrity his life was such as to command the respect and esteem of all whom knew him. On Oct. 8, 1854, he married Lorinda Miner, who was born in Henry county, Indiana, Dec. 14, 1836, to her parents, James and Elizabeth (Cartwright) Miner. The lineage of the Miner family extends back seventeen generations to the first of the name in the year 1339, at Mendippi Hills, Somersetshire, England. There one Henry, whose surname was Bullman, a miner by occupation, was given a coat-of-arms by King Edward III in recognition of his services in raising and equipping a "full hundred" for service in King Edward's war against the French, and it was in signification of his gratitude as well as the fact that Henry Bullman was a miner that King Edward knighted him, gave him a coat-of-arms and changed his name to Sir Henry Miner. A copy of the Miner coat-of-arms is in the possession of the State Historical Society at Hartford, Conn. Thomas Miner, the first of the family in America and of the tenth generation descended from the common English ancestor, Sir Henry Miner, immigrated to New England with John Winthrop in 1630. He landed at Salem, Mass., but finally settled near Stonington, Conn., where he is buried. He became a very prominent figure in the affairs of the Connecticut colony and dealt with the Indians very successfully. His son, John Miner, became a leader among the colonists and for thirty years was a surveyor at Woodbury, Conn. His daughter, Grace, married Samuel Grant, Jr., the ancestor of Gen. U. S. Grant. Descendants of this branch of the Miner family settled in Indiana early in the Nineteenth century, and the great-grandfather of Prof. Charles, Peter Miner, died there in 1822. Prof. Charles has in his possession complete records covering the essential facts of the history of the Miner family for each generation back to the common English ancestor, Henry, the miner.
Homer Wilson Charles was reared in Indiana and obtained his earlier education in the district schools near his country home. His education was completed at Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Ind., where he was graduated in 1879. The year just preceding his graduation he spent in travel in Europe, visiting England, Germany, France and Switzerland. He had taught several terms in district schools prior to his graduation, and upon completing his course at Valparaiso, he became principal of the Amboy Academy, Amboy, Ind., where he remained two years. After filling a similar position in the public schools at Somerset, Ind., for two years, he spent one year in traveling in the West to see the country and to invest in government land if a good opportunity offered. He filed a claim and took up a homestead in South Dakota, where he lived in a shack one year, proved up his claim and finally sold out. He then returned to Indiana, where he resumed the profession of teaching as principal of the South Wabash schools in 1884-85. In the latter year he came to Kansas and became superintendent of the schools at Sedgwick, Kan., remaining there until 1893. For the next eight years he served as superintendent of the schools at Washington, Kan. Under his able management the Sedgwick schools were advanced until a chartered high school was obtained. At Washington he added a year to the course of study, doubled the enrollment of the high school, and at the time he relinquished his duties there the Washington High School was one of the best in the state. In 1901 Mr. Charles was chosen superintendent of the Boys' Industrial School at Topeka, Kan., and is now serving his tenth year in that capacity. He found the school in bad shape and has done wonderful work in placing it among the model schools of its kind in the United States. In the various departments of the school he has forty-three assistants, over whom he has supreme control, and it is due as much to that fact as to any other that he has met with such marked success in his management of the institution. He introduced the department of manual training and also that of systematic physical training under a trained athlete, and had a gymnasium built for that purpose. He had the central school building erected and has placed the whole work of the school on an exceptionally high plane. He introduced the parole system in government, which proved a great success from its inception. He has served as an instructor and conductor of seventeen normal institutes in this state and holds the unique record of having taught and received pay for thirteen months of school in one year's time.
On Aug. 20, 1885, at Somerset, Ind., Prof. Charles married Miss Maude Harvey, a native of Indiana, a graduate of the Somerset High School and very proficient in music. She is the daughter of Elmer G. and Alice (Jones) Harvey, the former a native of Ohio and the latter of Indiana and old and respected residents of Wabash county. The father, Elmer G. Harvey, is a veteran of the Civil war, in which he served as a member of Gen. Rube Williams' regiment, which was the Twelfth Indiana infantry, from Warsaw, Ind., and was discharged from service through disability received while discharging his duties as a valiant defender of the Union. He now resides at Somerset, Ind.; his wife, the mother of Mrs. Charles, passed away soon after the close of the Civil war. They were the parents of two children: Maude, the wife of Prof. Charles, and Mazie, now Mrs. George E. Barley of Washington, Kan.
To Prof. and Mrs. Charles have been born two daughters, Beatrice Alice and Margaret Harvey, the former of whom died at the age of seventeen while a student in the Topeka High School. The latter, after completing the work in the graded schools, took a course at Bethany College, where she was graduated in music in 1907. She then spent one year at the Knox Conservatory of Music at Galesburg, Ill., is a talented and accomplished vocalist and a fine violinist. She is now at home with her parents. Prof. Charles and his family are members of the Methodist Episcopal church.
Prof. Charles is a stockholder in the Central National Bank of Topeka and has property interests in Oklahoma and Indiana. He is a member of the executive committee of the National Conference on the education of backward, truant and delinquent children; also a member of the executive committee of the National Conference of charities and corrections; and is a member of the conference of child research and welfare of Clark University of Massachusetts. He delivered an address on "The Problems of the Reform School" before the National Conference at its annual meeting at Worcester, Mass., in June, 1910. In politics Prof. Charles is a Republican and fraternally he is a Mason, having attained the Thirty-second degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.Pages 1511-1514 from volume III, part 2 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 December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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