Charles W. Adams
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
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.
April 19, 1999