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Charles A. Foster, 1827-1900

Materials relating to Charles A. Foster

Charles Amos Foster was born on August 25, 1827, in Boston, Massachusetts. He attended public school, and in 1841 he joined the U.S. Navy. In 1845 he left the navy and joined the Mercantile Marine, where he served until 1847. He then worked as the head of the mail and distribution department of the Boston weekly journal known as the Carpet-bag. In 1851 Foster attended the “Dane Law School” at Harvard University, graduating in 1853, and two years later he was admitted to the bar. In March 1855 he married and shortly thereafter moved to Kansas Territory.

While in Kansas he made his home at Osawatomie. It was there that he helped to organize the Free State Party, his political goal being to create a prosperous state free of the institution of slavery. As an influential free-state supporter, he was appointed in October 1855 as the assistant secretary to the Topeka Constitutional Convention. In early 1856, a proslavery grand jury indicted him and other free-state men on the charge of conspiring against the peace and dignity of the territory of Kansas. He and the others managed to evade capture, however, and Foster continued to serve as a member of the Topeka-based legislature until July 4, 1856, when U.S. military forces under the command of Colonel Edwin V. Sumner forcefully dispersed the assembly. Foster remained committed to the free-state cause throughout his remaining time in Kansas.

By the autumn of 1860 the free-state forces had a secure hold over political affairs in Kansas. This prompted Foster to move back to Massachusetts. Upon his return to Boston, he served for many years as inspector of customs at the port. He remained actively involved in political affairs, particularly those of the city of Boston. After a severe illness he died at his daughter’s home at East Walpole, Massachusetts, on March 19, 1900.


Charles A. Foster Collection, Miscellaneous Collections, Library and Archives Division, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

O’Neill, Gertrude F. Charles Amos Foster Biography. South Swansea, MA: Author, 1946.

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