Zarnke was born in Germany on July 19, 1868. He immigrated to America at age fourteen and farmed in the town of Flieth (later Rib Mountain) for 28 years. He served as Town Chairman from 1904–1909 and as town treasurer from 1914-1917.
Zarnke was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1918 to represent the first district of Marathon County for the 1919–1920 session, defeating incumbent Republican Herman Hedrich by 1763 (56.2%) votes to 1374 (43.8%). He served on the Committees on Fish and Game and Enrolled Bills.
- Hunter, Paul F., ed. The Wisconsin blue book, 1919 Madison: Democrat Printing Co., State Printer, 1919; p. 490
- Hunter, Paul F., ed. The Wisconsin blue book, 1919 Madison: Democrat Printing Co., State Printer, 1919; p. 161
- Hunter, Paul F., ed. The Wisconsin blue book, 1919 Madison: Democrat Printing Co., State Printer, 1919; p. 447
- The Wisconsin blue book, 1921 p. 231
- Cannon, A. Peter, ed. Members of the Wisconsin Legislature: 1848 – 1999. State of Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau Informational Bulletin 99-1, September 1999; pp. 61, 120, 127 Archived December 9, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
- "Hart, Bill. "Charles F. Zarnke." Marathon County History Society website". Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
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