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Photo of Charles Curtis courtesy of The Kansas State Historical Society 
Charles Curtis  at age 24

       On Jan. 25, 1860; "Charles Curtis was born on a farm in a log cabin, later called Eugene (now  North Topeka) in U.S. Kansas Territory.  Kansas would not be a state until January 29, 1861.  The log cabin stood not far from the banks of the Kansas River, but also near what is now Curtis and North Harrison streets.  The log cabin was sufficient for the needs of the family.  At one end was a big, stone fireplace which heated the building comfortably on the coldest days.  Surrounding the cabin was a heavy growth of walnut, elm, and hackberry trees.  While to reach the log cabin, one had to follow a narrow trail through a dense brush of hazelnut and elderberry bushes and wild grape vines".  This is from an newspaper account of Charles Curtis' birth at the time he was running for Vice-President.
    He was the son of Orren Arms (Captain Jack) Curtis, a (Protestant- Methodist) Kansas pioneer who married (Catholic) Ellen Pappan whose mother was Kansa(1/2)-Osage(1/2), and and her father Louis Pappan of (1/2) French and (1/2) Potawatomie Indian descent, which made Charles Curtis, an 1/8th Kansa Indian, 1/8th Osage Indian, 1/8th Potawatomie Indians with 1/8th French and 50 percent American-English.  Charles Curtis was baptized Catholic four months after his birth in St. Mary, Kansas.
        Since Charles Curtis was born one year and four days before Kansas was made a State in 1861, this is important, because he would be and still is the only native born Kansan to reach the White House as Vice President (to explain Dwight David Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas, and Alfred Landon had lost his bid for the Presidency in 1936).
        On September 2, 1862; Charles Curtis' sister Elizabeth was born with blond hair and. blue eyes.  Now how could Charles Curtis be swarthy and have a dark complexion?  Both of their parents had dark hair, but their mother's father (their grandfather) Louis Pappan was a blond haired and blue-eyed Frenchman.
        Here Charles (known to locals as "Charley") Curtis lived the normal life of an Indian child whose people have felt the influence of white civilization, and here the foundation was laid for his future vigorous health.
        When Charles Curtis was a year old, he could sit on a pony (which his mother had given to him and the pony was called {Kate}).  His mother holding him with one hand while she guided the animal with the other.  Before Charles Curtis was three, he could ride without assistance, his baby hands clutching the horse's mane, and his little heels digging in its sides while he urged the horse to "gad up" in baby talk.
        Ellen Pappan Curtis taught her son to swim, by tossing him into the Kansas River near their home and allowing him to paddle to shore like a small puppy.  Charles Curtis had no fear of the water.
        In 1863, Charles Curtis' mother, Ellen Pappan Curtis died of "black fever" (perhaps cholera), she was buried in an unmarked grave Northwest of (Eugene) North Topeka, Kansas. Though still, there is a marker for her in the private Curtis family cemetery, in Eugene (North Topeka today) Kansas.
        Feeling the loss were Charles and his sister Elizabeth.  After the death of their mother, "Charley" and his 18 month old sister, Elizabeth, were taken to the home of their father's parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Curtis at their home at Eugene (called North Topeka from 1867 after annexation by Topeka) by their father.
    Their father, Orren Arms (Captain Jack) Curtis abandoned his own motherless children and joined the Civil War in progress. He became a Captain in the 15th Kansas Cavalry, F. Company, Kansas Volunteers.
    Grandparents, William and Permelia Curtis were new and different to the children.  "Charley" as the "big brother" to Elizabeth, stayed several weeks at the Curtis home until his little sister became accustomed to her relatives. Then he returned to the home of his Indian grandparents, the Pappans, Julia (Gonneville) Pappan and Louis Pappan, on the reservation.
        Charles Curtis went to the Quaker school for the Indians on the Reservation near Council Grove, Morris county, Kansas.  His dark hair was long and he learned the ways of his Indian mother's family.  When the Indian Reservation was closed down and the Kaw (Kansa) Indians were to be moved to Oklahoma, Charley wanted to go with his grandparents.  But his Indian grandmother, Julia Gonneville, told him that she wanted him to go to his other grandparents in town, who could help him more now.  Julia Gonneville did not want him to become a "blanket Indian" who would do nothing but wait for the handouts from the Government.  She told him this.  He went but not too willingly.
        His American-English grandparents William and Permelia Hubbard Curtis owned most of Eugene (North Topeka) Kansas so they were considered quite wealthy for the times.  Charles Curtis has been compared to Abraham Lincoln, in the supposed factor that both came from log cabins to the White House.  This was simply not true of Charles Curtis.  His grandfather William Curtis owned the grocery stores (saloons, bars, hotels), so to stay busy helping out his grandfather, Charley would sell fruits and vegetables to the people who were just waiting for the train to move on.  Charley weighed less than 100 pounds so his grandfather let him start horse racing as a jockey.
        Within several years Charley Curtis was well known as the best jockey in Kansas.  In one race in Kansas City, Kansas, three riders stole the purse money that had been for the best rider, only Charley was more concerned about the horses and got them into the nearest barn.  It was said that the riders were Jesse James and his brother Frank, but the riders were never fully identified.  At the time of the incident, "Charley" was more concerned about getting the horses to safety than what could have happened to him.
     Charley rode often on the horse track located in Topeka (in what is now called the "Potwin" area) Kansas.  He was always the hometown favorite horse and jockey to win.  Later on, Charley was riding in a race in Kansas City, Kansas when the horse fell and Charley had his leg broken in three places.  That was it, said his grandmother Permelia Hubbard Curtis, no more horse racing for Charley, he had to go to school.

        The first person he met at school, Annie Elizabeth Baird (from her daughter's birth certificates) from Altoona, Pennsylvania, was to play a big factor in the rest of his life.  At school, his hair was still long so he was made fun of, and had lots of trouble with the other students (as well as the teachers).  Annie and Charley were of the same age but because of Charley having had less actual education, he was behind her at school. While Charles Curtis was in school, he did have a part in a school play, as what? an Indian!
       At the age of eighteen, he had the legal rights of majority conferred on him, for the reasons that his grandfather William Curtis had left his estate to Charles Curtis, he was not of age to take over the estate so he had to have the the legal rights of majority so that he would not lose it, the estate involved owning most of North Topeka (which included a pickle factory), and some rental homes across the Kansas River in South Topeka, Kansas.
        So Charley dropped out of school (having attended Topeka High School for several years) while Annie went on to graduate from Topeka High School in Topeka, Kansas.
        In 1877, Charles Curtis was a reporter and associate editor of the North Topeka Times, and was one of the owners of the Free Discussion, his brother-in-law, Joseph E. Layton, was the other member of the company that issued the two numbers of that paper.
        Also in 1878, Charles Curtis wrote an article about the Protestant Baptist church that he and his grandmother, Permelia Hubbard Curtis attended, the Kansas Avenue Methodist Church (originally known as the North Topeka Methodist Church) in Eugene (now North Topeka) Kansas.  His grandmother was one of the original 17 charter members who helped to found the (AME now) church in 1869, with her husband donating land for three churches in the area.  Charles Curtis also sang in the choir for the church, along with teaching Sunday school and writing for the church's paper.  In 1880, Charles Curtis was a notary republic.  He was also a writer for The North Topeka Times.
        Charles Curtis was admitted to the bar June 9, 1881; certificate dated August 2, 1881 (per Cutler's History of the State of Kansas) and was in partnership with A.H. (Hib) Case since August 9, 1881.
        Next, in 1884, Charles Curtis tried to become elected for  District Attorney's office for Shawnee county and he was elected.  He shut the bars and saloons down, which of course made the owners mad. Because they thought as their friend he would allow them to stay open.  Charley's word were to them " You people elected me and I am just enforcing the laws".   He won re-election as well; so his tenure for office ran until 1888.

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Overview of Charles Curtis life         

Web Site History/the designer

Timeline A:  The Indians in Kansas

Timeline B :  The timelines of Kansas and the USA

Timeline C -  Major events and Famous Firsts

Biography ACharles Curtis and his extended family genealogy.

Politics  and Beliefs of Charles Curtis

Legacy   left by Charles Curtis

Memorials  and donations

Charles Curtis home in Topeka, Kansas

Signature Bldg.  New Kansas State Office Building named for Charles Curtis

Resources  and recommended books for reading.


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Updated January 03, 2014
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