Biography of Charles F. Osborn

Charles F. Osborn. While the continued residence of Mr. Osborn at Howard for thirty-five years is a noteworthy fact, still more important is the service he had rendered during this long period of citizenship. Everywhere in that section of Kansas he is esteemed as one of the foremost men, and if he had done nothing else, his connection with permanent improvements and good roads in Elk County would entitle him to mention among the representative men of Kansas.

He came to Howard in March, 1881. He was associated with his brother Frank Osborn in the loan business, and they also owned a large ranch devoted to the cattle industry until 1887. From 1888 to 1895 Mr. Charles Osborn was secretary and treasurer of the Howard Investment Company. After that he was interested in a loan and real estate business under the firm name of Reid and Osborn until 1900.

During all these years, when he was piling up a success that would have been sufficient to gratify the ambitious of most men, his keenest desires were for work as a civil engineer, a profession that had always fascinated him. He had never let slip an opportunity to gain practical experience and knowledge of all the details of the profession, and he was well qualified for its practice long before he was given his first official opportunity to demonstrate his skill therein. In 1900 he was appointed county surveyor of Elk County, and in 1902 was elected to the office. Since then every two years he had been reelected, and in 1916 he was given the largest vote he had ever received. Since 1910 Mr. Osborn had also been county engineer, having been one of the first appointees under the new state law.

It was due to Mr. Osborn’s influence that the first permanent stone bridge was built in Elk County. At the present time the county had about 900 permanent bridges and culverts, all of which were built either directly or indirectly from plans originating on Mr. Osborn’s draughting board. He had been officially or personally identified with every such permanent improvement in the county and that is a record such as no other engineer in the state can claim.

The years of his life before he came to Kansas Mr. Osborn spent in Northern Ohio. He was born at North Fairfield in Huron County of that state, August 28, 1861. His father W. M. Osborn was of an old Connecticut family, a state which sent so many emigrants in the early days to Northern Ohio, particularly the Western Reserve. W. M. Osborn was born between Norwalk and South Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1812. During his boyhood the most talked of public improvement in the United States if not in the world was the construction of the great Erie Canal from the Great Lakes at Buffalo to the Hudson River at Albany. This great waterway was open to traffic in 1825, and in the preceding year W. M. Osborn, then a boy of twelve, was employed in work fitting his age and strength on the canal. In 1884 he was married at Trumansburg, New York, to Harriet Pease, who was born in that town in 1824. She represented a family of French Huguenots that after being expelled from France came to New York. Her father Simeon Pease was born in New York State in 1779 and died at Trumansburg in 1867. He was a farmer, and at one time owned 400 acres near Ithaca, New York.

Soon after his marriage W. M. Osborn started for Ohio, traveling by the canal and the Great Lakes, and settling in the midst of the woods where the Village of North Fairfield was afterwards built. He literally hewed a farm out of those woods, and became quite a prominent man in his section. He was a drover and stock buyer, and drove a great many horses and cattle to market at Buffalo, New York, and places between. His death occurred at the county seat of Huron County, Norwalk, in 1887. As a young man he became an ardent supporter of the old whig party and thus became a lineal convert to the doctrines of the republican party when it was organized in the ’50s. He was given the honor of various township offices. For a number of years in Northern Ohio he kept a tavern and had a set of scales for weighing stock. One of the frequent guests at the Osborn Tavern was Gen. John C. Fremont, who in 1856 was given the distinction of the first nomination of the republican party for president. The name of that pioneer republican standard bearer is now the middle name of Charles F. Osborn of Howard. His father was a member of the Baptist Church and was a Mason. In the early days he belonged to the military organization known as the Squirrel Hunters. This organization was called into active service by Governor David Tod of Ohio to repel Morgan’s raid through the southern counties of Ohio in the Civil war. W. M. Osborn was given his honorable discharge in September, 1862. His wife died at Norwalk, Ohio, in 1897. Mr. Charles F. Osborn was the youngest of three children. His older brother Frank, who now resided retired at Howard, Kansas, was for many years associated with his brother Charles in the loan and insurance business, and for eight years served as assistant state bank examiner under John Breidenthal. In later years he became interested in Colorado mining affairs, and still had interests there. The only daughter, Sarah, married H. H. Hanford, and in 1881 they took up their residence at Duluth, Minnesota, where Mr. Hanford was in the lumber business until his death in 1914, Mrs. Hanford still making her home in that city.

Charles F. Osborn gained his early training in the public schools of Norwalk, Ohio. When fifteen years of age he began earning his own way as clerk in a shoe store at Norwalk. He was not yet twenty years of age when he came to Howard, Kansas, and entered upon the active career which had already been briefly sketched.

No reference as yet had been made to Mr. Osborn’s important service during the past eight years as a member of the State Good Roads Association. He was assistant secretary and treasurer for two terms, was on the executive committee four years, and in 1916 became one of the three members of the legislative committee. There is perhaps no man in Kansas better informed on all the details and the technique of good roads, and he had been in a position to render a splendid service in behalf of the state road movement which had taken so firm a hold in Kansas.

Mr. Osborn is a republican, is an elder in the Presbyterian Church, and is affiliated with Hope Lodge No. 155, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons at Howard, Howard Chapter No. 49 Royal Arch Masons, and Ab-Del-Kader Commandery of the Knights Templar at Fredonia. Mr. Osborn had been very successful in business affairs and is the owner of four different farms, aggregating 960 acres in Elk County. He also owned his modern residence on Washington Street at the corner of Penn Avenue. His offices are in the courthouse.

In 1886 at Howard, Mr. Osborn married Miss Mattie E. Cook, daughter of J. H. and Sophia (Shellenberger) Cook. Her parents, who are now deceased, were Kansas pioneers, having come overland with wagon and ox team from Michigan in 1857 and locating near Lawrence. In 1883 they came to Howard, and Mr. Cook was proprietor of the Windsor Hotel.

Fred P. Osborn, only son and child of Mr. Osborn, was born April 30, 1883. He was educated in the public schools at Howard, graduating from high school, and for two years pursued the engineering course in the University of Kansas. He still makes his home at Howard, but is employed by an oil company working with the geologists in Eastern Kansas. Fred P. Osborn married Miss Hazel Keifer.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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