Charles B. Lines

CHARLES B. LINES was born in New Haven, Connecticut, March 12, 1807, was a self-educated and self-made man, having never attended school and was thrown on his own responsibility when a boy. He started out to be a sailor but gave it up and entered the cabinet business when thirteen years of age. He has told his grandsons how his boss would come around and tell him to push his planes faster. Although he was quite successful in business he took time for public affairs. While in the cabinet and undertaking business he placed Noah Webster in his coffin, also Jonathan Trumbull, secretary of General Washington.

He was one of nineteen young men to join the first temperance society in Connecticut, was a forceful speaker on temperance, religion and politics, having filled the pulpit and traveled over the country, until some writers added Reverend to his name. While a member of the whig party he was elected to the Connecticut Legislature in 1853, was chairman of the committee on finance and also a member of the committee on banks and committee on sale of spirituous liquors, was a presidential elector and took the electoral vote to Washington. He made the acquaintance of President Pierce, J. Q. Adams, Clay, Webster and Jackson.

He married Maria Wooding July 18, 1829. To-day the houses are built so the women will have no steps to climb. Grandma Lines kept house for years in three rooms, one above the other, connected only by ladders. A number of their children were born in these rooms. Their Wabaunsee home was really a 4-story building and they cooked and ate in the basement, lived on the first floor, had rooms for hired help and company on the second floor, while a fourth, the attic, was used for a store room. She died in March, 1897, at the ripe age of eighty-nine. She was a great cook, as her grandchildren can testify, but Grandpa Lines turned down her fine dishes for graham gems and a dish of fruit. He never drank tea or coffee and took his lemonade without sugar.

Grandpa Lines came to Kansas in 1854 to spy out the land, and after meetings addressed by Beecher, Professor Stillman, president of Yale, and others, he announced his intention of organizing a colony to emigrate to Kansas to help plant the institution of freedom and Christianity upon her virgin soil. At their first meeting, March 7, 1856, ninety persons organized as the Beecher Bible and Rifle Colony. They left New Haven seventy strong on March 31st and reached Wabaunsee April 28, 1856, and were escorted to a steamboat by the militia and fire department. At a previous meeting Beecher pledged $625 and the audience an equal amount, which paid for a Sharps rifle, Bible and Hymn Book for each member. At St. Louis they took a steamboat for Kansas City, where they purchased thirty ox teams and started on their overland trip, stopping at Lawrence, the Mecca of Free State men, for a few days, then on to Topeka, where they lost one member, who was smitten with the location of the future capital, then to their destination, the Town of Wabaunsee, the most beautiful building spot on the Kansas River, where they arrived at dawn. They found about a half dozen settlers along the creek, but only two of these men were fixed for visitors. However, they were provided with tents. One of the first rules of the new colony was that the young men should shoot their firepieces toward the bluffs and not around the tents or settlement. They had the usual exodus back East but enough stayed, and were joined by the Platt colony from Illinois, to organize a church, start a college, set a saw mill to work and start a settlement that has made history. Being urged by old political friends Grandpa Lines returned to Connecticut in the fall of 1856 to take part in the campaign, but returned in the spring of 1857 and arrived at Wabaunsee on April 23d with wife and daughters, Hattie and Louisa. Other families, including the Baldwins, Griswolds, E. J. Lines and family, had arrived shortly before. During the campaign in Connecticut Grandpa Lines was taken sick and Isaac Bird said in a letter to him that "I cannot but think that God has oppressed you and brought you here and closed the door of Kansas against your return in order that you may do a work which could not be done by the eloquence of a Seward or Summer."

From drilling a company of men who did not join the army he received the distinction of being called Colonel Lines ever afterward. He was a member of the Kansas Legislature at Lecompton in 1861 and speaker pro tem of the House. He was regent of the State University from March, 1864, to 1874; was receiver of the land office at Lecompton and Topeka from March, 1861, to April, 1865, and was pension agent at Topeka from 1865 to 1874.

He was a leader at Wabaunsee and in state affairs for thirty-four years, when he died March 31, 1889, leaving many relatives besides Grandma Lines, who survived him nine years.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, 1918, transcribed by Cassie Richards, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, May 2, 2000.

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