Charles Carlton, minister and school administrator, the son of Charles and Mary (Coveney) Carlton, was born at Eythorne, Kent County, England, on August 25, 1821. At the age of sixteen he left home to see the world. In 1841 he began a three-year tenure as a yard worker in Nova Scotia, Canada. He then traveled to the United States, first to Boston, then to Fredonia, New York, where he was a farmer. There Baptist ministers encouraged him to attend college and enter the ministry. In 1847 he enrolled in Bethany College in West Virginia, where he quickly won the admiration of the school's president, Alexander Campbell, who financed Carlton's education. Carlton completed a three-year course in two years. By the time of his graduation in 1849, he had been converted to the Disciples of Christ, largely through the efforts of Campbell. Carlton left West Virginia for Georgetown, Kentucky, where he taught public school and preached. He then traveled to Kingston, Missouri, and soon thereafter to Van Buren, Arkansas. At Van Buren he met the wife of the governor, whom he convinced to finance a school at Springfield.
In 1861 Carlton's wife, Harriet Ann (Taylor), died. He moved his four children to Dallas, where he taught and organized the local First Christian Church. He taught school at Kentucky town in Grayson County from 1865 to 1867 and in 1867 moved to Bonham. There he established his own school, Carlton College, and organized the town's First Christian Church. He and his new wife, Sallie (Abernathy), and their daughters devoted their entire efforts to the college. The school's president, administrative staff, and teachers were the Carlton family. Their home even served as the dormitory; ten students lived there in 1870. The college, an all-girl's school, quickly established a reputation among county residents. Carlton's emphasis on character and Christianity appealed to families who lived on the frontier and were looking for an appropriate place to send their daughters. Carlton remained at Bonham as president of the college until his death on February 13, 1902. His school was unable to sustain itself without him, however, and closed shortly after his death.