In politics there is always a large amount of hard and prosaic work, which entails loss of time, the expenditure of much money, and distraction from business pursuits; and such work is, as a rule, energetically avoided by prominent business men. Those who, however, from genuine public spirit, accept the responsibilities of such work, perform a service which merits recognition. Although a busy man Mr. Kirtland has not shirked his duty as a citizen and to the Republican Party, having very ably served as a member of the state legislature from 1903 until 1909, and having been twice honored by election as mayor of Salina. He was born at Upper Sandusky, Ohio, June 22, 1858, a son of Rev. Ambrose Barnes and Cornelia (Barnes) Kirtland, and enjoyed not only the efficacy of good brains and blood to make him a man, but also the environment of a cultured home. The Rev. Ambrose Kirtland was a Lutheran clergyman, who came to Kansas in 1878, and located at New Cambria, Saline county, where for many years he was engaged in building up his denomination within the county, building the Lutheran church edifice at New Cambria, and the Shier church in Walnut township. He also was a very successful farmer, but is now retired from active business cares and resides in Salina.
Charles Byron Kirtland was educated in the public schools of Upper Sandusky, Shelby, and Crestline, Ohio. At the early age of thirteen he became a printer's apprentice and thoroughly mastered all the work of the various department of newspaper and job work. He was a compositor on the "New Orleans Times" during the Hayes-Tilden controversy, and set most of the matter on that topic for his paper. In 1878, with his father, he purchased a tract of farm land in Saline county, and in 1879 came to Kansas to reside. He was first employed as foreman on the "Saline County Journal," then owned by M. D. Sampson. On the appointment of Mr. Sampson as consul general to St. John, New Brunswick, Mr. Kirtland bought the paper and plant and, while he continued the weekly paper, he devoted the most of his efforts toward building up a job printing and bookmaking business. He succeeded along that line, and in time manufactured all of the official blanks and record books for twelve counties. In 1893 he sold the subscription list of the "Saline County Journal" to J. L. Bristow, now United States senator, which publication was consolidated with the "Salina Daily Republican," and later was changed to the "Salina Daily Journal." In 1893 Mr. Kirtland also sold his printing plant and business to Prof. Gaines, ex-county superintendent of schools, who soon afterwards published the "Salina Daily Union." Mr. Kirtland then removed to New Cambria, and for some years was engaged in farming and in the management of the Cambria Roller Mills, a water power plant, with a capacity of 100 barrels per day, owned by himself and S. P. Donmyer. In 1903 he again took up his residence in Salina, however, in order to secure proper school advantages for his children. In that year his political career began by his election, as the Republican candidate, to the lower house of the state legislature. Possessing an alertness and force of character which made him a natural leader, from the first he came into a position of prominence in that body, where his name was connected with policies of far reaching importance and with responsible committee duties. He was the author of the bill providing for the fire escape law of Kansas, which was successfully passed during the session of 1903-4, and during the extra session of 1904 he was the chief projector of the measure which became the drainage law of Kansas. In the session of 1905-6 he was a member of the committee on printing, which succeeded in securing the passage of the bill establishing a state printing plant, which has resulted in a great saving to the state. His principal work in the session of 1907-8 was as chairman of the committee on assessment and taxation, which compiled and secured the passage of the new tax law. Mr. Kirtland was chairman of the committee of the whole during the consideration of the primary election bill and did effective work in securing its passage. He was offered the speakership, pro tem, in 1907, but refused the honor. His high personal character, sterling honesty, judicial temperament, and remarkably cool, clear, and sound judgment gave to his opinions great weight and influence, so that he had the unique distinction of being in the confidence of both Speaker Simmons and Governor Stubbs, leaders of opposing factions, and of having his opinion and advice sought by both factions--a delicate situation which only one of Mr. Kirtland's exceptional tact, clear and courageous mind, and honest heart could possibly carry to a successful conclusion.
His fitness for public service has been further demonstrated during his service as mayor of Salina, to which office he was first elected in 1908 and reelected in 1910. As mayor he has given both of time and money to secure for the city of Salina a clean and progressive administration, whereby the city has enjoyed great municipal development and commercial prosperity. After a bitter fight he secured the appointment of a board of appraisers to value the privately owned water plant, with a view to its purchase by the city, but a majority of the citizens voted against the proposition. He secured a new franchise for the light company, however, which saves the city an expenditure of from $5,000 to $6,000 per annum, and he is now laboring to secure a satisfactory adjustment of the water question along similar lines. Some four or five miles of street paving has been done during his incumbency, besides large sewerage improvements. The fixed debt of the city has been reduced some $30,000, and Salina now has the lowest tax rate of any city of its population in Kansas. Mr. Kirtland is chairman of the legislative committee of the Kansas Municipal League. In 1910, with others, he purchased an interest in the Traders' State Bank, secured a new banking office, and reorganized the business. He has given considerable attention to this institution since its organization and is vice-president of the organization. Fraternally Mr. Kirtland is a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and of the Ancient Order of United Workmen. He is a devoted member and a deacon of St. John's English Lutheran Church, at Salina, and is superintendent of its Sunday school.
On Dec. 14, 1886, Mr. Kirtland married Miss Elizabeth Donmyer, a (daughter of the late Simon P. Donmyer (see sketch). Mr. and Mrs. Kirtland have eight children: Frederick Durell, born Nov. 6, 1892, is a student at the United States Naval Academy, at Annapolis, Md.; John Owen, born Dec. 27, 1894, is a student in the Salina High School and is president of his class; Florence Margery, born Sept. 21, 1896, is a student in the high school; and Mary Christina, born Aug. 15, 1898, Chester Eugene, born Nov. 21, 1902, and Gertrude, born Sept. 21, 1904, are all students in the Salina graded schools. Jason, born Nov. 21, 1906, is the youngest child. Mr. Kirtland stands high in the estimation of his fellow men, and during his long and active career has so lived that the impress of his life will remain as an ideal for emulation long after he has passed from the scene of his activities.
Kansas Biography, Part 2, Vol. III