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Charles City was founded in 1846. It is named for Prince Charles, who would later become King of England and Emperor of India. The city was incorporated on March 12, 1855. The first school in the area began as a subscription school around 1840; it became known as the "Old Brick School" because it used an old brick building that had been built by early settlers to house their horses and wagons during winter months when they were unable to travel due to snow or mud conditions on nearby roads. A larger two-story frame structure replaced this building around 1860; this second school burned down in 1895 after being struck by lightning during a severe thunderstorm (the fire department's hose burst while fighting the blaze). A third brick structure served from 1896 until 1910 when it too burned down after being struck by lightning (this time, however, no lives were lost).