Major Charles W. Hawes is probably the oldest male “native” of Rock Island, Illinois, born within the Village of Stephenson, now embraced in the city limits of Rock Island, prior to 1842. His father was David Hawes, a native of Belchertown, Massachusetts, and his mother was Julia M. Babcock, a native of Ware, Massachusetts, both of Revolutionary stock. (See biography David Hawes)
Major Hawes’s father arrived in Rock Island from Massachusetts via St. Louis and the Mississippi River in October, 1835, where Mrs. Hawes joined him later, and Major Hawes was born March 7, 1841. He had the advantage of a better education than most frontier boys of his day, attending the Harsha Academy at Dixon, Illinois, after graduating from the local schools.
At the outbreak of the War in 1861, he was serving as deputy sheriff under his father, who was then Sheriff of Rock Island County. On July 20, 1861, Major Hawes enlisted in Company A, of the Thirty-seventh Illinois Infantry, Volunteers, being made first sergeant of the Company. The Companies of the Regiment assembled at Camp Webb, Chicago, Illinois, and it was there, while the Regiment of raw recruits was being whipped into fighting condition, that Major Hawes received his first promotion. He was commissioned second Lieutenant on August 10, 1861. On December 31, 1861, he was commissioned as first Lieutenant, and on July 20, 1862, one year from the date of his enlistment, he was raised to the rank of Captain. As Captain of his Company, Major Hawes served with credit in the Army of the Frontier, later known as the Thirteenth Army Corps, of which his Regiment was a part. With his Regiment he participated in the Battle of Pea Ridge, the engagements at Prairie Grove and Cape Girardeau and in the memorable siege of Vicksburg.
In September, 1863, Major Hawes was again promoted for meritorious service, this time to the rank of Major. He was then transferred to the Ninety-second United States Contraband Troops, then being organized at New Orleans, Louisiana, which Regiment he drilled until orders for active service came. With his Regiment he participated in the Red River campaign, including the battles of Morganzie Bend, Yellow Bayou and Bayou Teche.
In 1865 Major Hawes was assigned to duty as superintendent of the bureau of refugees, contrabands and abandoned lands, with headquarters at New Orleans, Louisiana, and was not mustered out of service until December 31, 1865, having rendered a continuous service of four years and six months.
Major Hawes achieved an enviable reputation as a regimental drill master while in active service, and it was this and his love of the soldier’s life that led to his acceptance in 1878 of the captaincy of the Rodman Rifles of Rock Island, which he made the crack Company of the then strong national guard of Illinois, composed, as it was, largely of veterans of the Civil War. In 1879 Major Hawes was commissioned Major of the Fourteenth Batallion, Illinois National Guard, and this was the last military command held by him. An official posit on related to his war time days, however, was his appointment by Governor Richard Yates as a member of the board of trustees of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home, Quincy, Illinois. He served in this position during the years 1901-1906, inclusive.
In civil life, as well as during war times, Major Hawes was a leader. During the years 1872-1890, inclusive, he served as chief of police of Rock Island, assistant post-master, later postmaster, then deputy county clerk.
In November, 1890, at the Springfield, Illinois, Head Camp meeting of the Modern Woodmen Society, Major Hawes entered upon what has proved to be, in civil life, his really distinguished career. At that meeting he participated as a delegate in the reorganization of the society, being elected head clerk or general secretary. Then the society had 42,642 members; now it has over 1,000,000. At each succeeding head camp, or national convention, Major Hawes has been reelected without opposition, a fact bearing convincing testimony to the ability and integrity of his official course, and to his personal popularity.
Major Hawes enjoys the reputation of having practically created the methods now almost universally employed in the administration and accounting of the fraternal beneficiary system, numbering at present over 7,000,000 members, and 93,000 local lodges. He is a recognized authority in this great field and his official reports are regarded as models. He at this date, is serving his tenth official term as head clerk of the Woodmen Society. He is, besides, prominent in Masonry.
Major Hawes has been twice married. His first wife was Josephine B. Saulpaugh, daughter of L. E. Saulpaugh, of Rock Island, to whom he was married on December 10, 1866. Three children came of this union-Katherine L. (Mrs. James McNamara), Charles W., Jr., and Josephine, deceased. His second wife was Mary C. Fay, daughter of J. M. Fay, of Fulton, Illinois. One son, John Marcus, is the fruit of this union. (See biography of Mrs. Mary Fay-Hawes.)
Major Hawes is a man of the people and his successful and active life is largely due to the fact that he has kept closely in touch at all times with his environment. He is a type of the sturdy pioneer, whose best education and most valuable asset is a life replete with experience and accomplishments. He has, like so many other pioneer westerners, won an honorable place in history for himself and family by serving the people generally, and the society of which he has for years been an honored official, with an honesty and fidelity that is more to be prized than great riches.