Charles's father was a prominent businessman and partner of John Allan, foster father of Edgar Allan Poe. Charles became a close childhood friend of Poe. (He wrote later that his father and John Allan opposed Frances Allan taking young Edgar into the Allan home.) His uncle was Powhatan Ellis, a diplomat and U.S. Senator.
Charles attended the University of Virginia in 1834 and 1835, during which time he maintained a lively diary of his life on campus and in Charlottesville. He afterward worked in his father's business. He was elected President of the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad in 1861, which he guided through the Civil War years. He applied for and received a federal pardon after the War, and was voted out as President in 1870. He continued working in the railroad industry thereafter.
Charles never married. He died at 307 W. Franklin Street of "Softening of the Brain," per Cemetery records. Cemetery records show him buried in one of two plots owned by Louis Bossieux (Range 1, Sec. 1, H.S. 1), but his marker appears in his father's plot in Range 10.
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