Friday, April 17, 2009

The Adams Family in Fairfield


HH Adams, Charles Adams, Aunt Minnie holding Dan, Doll, Annie L. Adams (Fairfield, WA)

Annie Lucretia Moore Adams, my maternal great great grandmother



Main Street, Fairfield, Washington, Summer 1908, from the cover of Early History of Fairfield: Glimpses of Life in a Pioneer Farming Town, published by Ye Galleon Press, 1960

I have written here before about my efforts to unearth family pictures and stories. Why I couldn't have been more interested when my mother and grandmother, who loved family history, were alive I cannot say. Perhaps it's just that now that I am retired I have time available, and the internet makes sharing information easier. At any rate, coming up in three weeks I'm taking a two week trip with my sister-in-law to Washington state, where my grandmother was born and lived as a child. Besides a chance to gawk at the Cascades and the Columbia river, the trip is an opportunity to visit places she lived, and meet a couple distant cousins.

Grandma Tess often spoke of her Adams family, though I didn't pay enough attention at the time. She was born Bernice Ann Adams, and her paternal grandparents were Herman Heinrich Adams and Annie L. Adams. Her father, Len Adams, was a handsome railroad engineer who eventually was shot by a coworker. Bernice's mother, Nellie, remarried the son of a wealthy businessman in Spokane, but that's another story. Until her death Bernice corresponded with her cousins in Fairfield, though she never saw them again. I think she'd be pleased that I'll see Fairfield, visit family graves, and meet at least one of the surviving Adams clan there.

Among Grandma's papers was a book published by her cousin, Glen Adams. Adams founded Ye Galleon Press that specialized in local history. The paperbound book Early History of Fairfield has several stories about the Adams family. Here are a few excerpts that show a little what these folks were like, and what it was like to live as a pioneer:

With the coming of the first permanent white settlers from the Willamette Valley of the Oregon Territory and various parts of the Midwest, early social life settles around Fairfield was limited to the companionship of the members of the family among themselves and an occasional visit with some other pioneer passing through the area for the first time. As years went by and several families took homesteads in the Rock Creek area or the Rattlers Run area, for instance, each family sought companionship with neighbor families and found Sundays the best day for visiting each other. A neighbor family might be invited to dinner and to spend the rest of the day. The elders visited together, or perhaps men might go out in the wood shed or kitchen to play cards while the children played games and in winter turned to coasting down the snowy hills or skating on creek ponds.

Mrs. Hermine (Adams) Holt and her brother "Bert" Adams, remember that even the Indians liked to call upon the white families and often wanted to spend the night at their home three-fourths of a mile southeast of what is now Fairfield. These Indian guests never knocked at the door, but were always offered the shelter and warmth of the hay loft in the barn. In one instance the old medicine man named Peter Sam spent all night with his bed near the stove in the house after aiding Hermine's and "Bert's" ailing mother with a tea he had made from chokecherry and rosebush roots.

from reminiscences of J.W. (Bert) Adams, written in November, 1960

I was born February 24, 1875, on a farm near Eugene, Oregon, so I will be 86 years old on my next birthday. My sister, Minnie Holt, will be 91 on her next birthday; and my younger brother, Otto, who lives in Spokane, will be 82. My father, Herman Heinrich Adams, was born in Prussia in 1839; and my mother, Annie L. Moore, was born in Indiana in 1846. They were married in 1886 after my father had recovered from bullet wounds he received in the Civil War. Father bought an 80 acre farm in Eldora, Iowa, and farmed there for six seasons. My older brother Will was born there, and Lem, Minnie, and a little girl Annie Mary, who died in infancy.

It used to get very cold in the wintertime in Iowa and Father thought that it would benefit Mother's health to move to a milder climate, so they sold the house in 1873 and went to California on the train, then up to Portland, Oregon, on a boat, finally settling in the Willamette Valley near Eugene. My father rented the land at Eugene and worked hard to make a go of things. Mother was busy looking after the children. Besides, the three children they brought with them from Iowa, I was born in 1875, then Roy in '77 and Otto who was the baby of the family, in '79. The older children went to school a little in Oregon but I never did, for we moved from western Oregon when I was five... Father found it hard to harvest wheat in a rainy climate. Machinery was crude in those days and rust got in the wheat.

I was just a little chap when we went over the Cascade Mountains, but I remember it alright. We went east, winding up along the McKenzie River, the wagons going through the deep timber so that it was kind of dark, and then finally we went through the McKenzie Pass and got into eastern Oregon where it was drier. Once we drove for several miles across lava rock and I heard my father talking about it being hard on there horses' feet. It jolted the wagon pretty good and the wagon tires got all shiny from rolling over the sharp rock...

There weren't many houses along the way so we did not often get to sleep indoors, but just camped along the trail, and we children liked it fine if it wasn't raining. We left Eugene late in the year, after the crop was harvested, and got clear across the mountains to Baker City before winter closed in. Father thought about going into the cattle business in eastern Oregon, be really didn't have enough capital for that. There were large herds of wild range cattle in all colors. Once we met a huge bunch that might have been two or three thousand head and Father thought they might stampede right over us, but they shied off and went around...

We lived in a house over the winter of 1880-1881, but it was just an unpainted abandoned house that no one wanted. Father was anxious to find some land he could settle on, but it was pretty wet in the spring so the roads were very soft and it took us some time to get up into the Palouse country. Mother had a sister, Mrs. Joe Beattie, living on the farm where my sister Minnie lives today, so we all came up here, arriving in the Fairfield area on June 12, 1881, too late to get a crop in that year.

Joe Beattie had taken up a homestead and a timber culture claim, each of 160 acres. After reaching the Beattie place, Father could not find any desirable land to homestead, so he traded almost all his horses to Joe Beattie for his homestead right. When they got through trading Father had just a span of mares, one colt and a good black riding mare that my brother Will had ridden all the way from Eugene...

As soon as the trade was made with Mr. Beattie, Father took the team of mares and the wagon on a trip to Walla Walla, where he worked in the harvest to get a little money for the coming winter. That left Mother and six children all alone and at first Mother was afraid of the Indians who kept traveling back and forth between Coeur d' Alene Lake and the little camas meadows along Rock Creek and Hangman Creek. The Indians paid little attention to the time and would drop in at all hours of the day or night, always hoping to be fed. The Indians were always friendly, even the older ones who had fought in the battles with the whites in 1858, twenty-three years earlier. Mother got to be friends with many of them and never had any trouble...

The first school got started in 1884 when I was nine year old. A family by the name of Bibbee that lived on what is now the Reifenberger place got a school district organized and called it Curlew. At the time thousands of birds lived in the prairie grass that covered the hills in Rock Creek valley. There were prairie chickens in generous numbers and they were about our only meat supply in the early days. The curlews were ground nesting birds with long bills and a distinctive call. Thousands of them lived in the tall thick grass, but when the railroad came, so we had a good way to sell wheat, the land go plowed up and the birds disappeared.

Father used to haul wheat to Spokane Falls, just a small place then, but when the Northern Pacific built up through Spangle in 1886, teams and wagons took sacked wheat to Spangle. It took two years after this before there was a railroad in Spangle...

Roy, Otto and I went to college at Pullman, and I taught school in 1887 at Harp School northwest of Mt. Hope. I also taught at Curlew, at Alpine, both east of Fairfield, and then at Albion. About 1902 my mother bought out Pierce Greene's grocery and dry goods store in Fairfield, the store that Fred Zehm started in 1888. Ott ran the store for a year or two then I had the store business. We burned out in 1906 with the old wooden building and that same year put up the concrete block Adams and Co. building... We also built the house where I live in 1906. At first there was no basement, but later Herb Dopke worked with a little team of mules and we dug out a full basement. House and store used to have kerosene lights, but in 1909, some time after the railroad was built through Waverly we got electric lights. I was in the grocery business about 45 years...

Gerald Holt also wrote about the family:

Arn Holt and Hermine Adams were married in April, 1898. After their marriage he followed the carpenter profession, first going to Yakima, where their daughter Carrie was born in 1900, then to Seattle where he worked for contractors. Daniel was born in Settle in 1901. Then the family came back to Fairfield for a short time. Evans was born in 1903.

The family lived at the foot of Mica Peak in a one room cabin and 40-foot tent while Grandpa Holt built a large sawmill for Jim and Emanuel Hansen. After completing the sawmill he brought his family back to Fairfield where they stayed with Herman and Annie Adams. In December 1909 fire destroyed the ranch house. All the neighbors came as they saw the smoke clouds rising. Uncle Bert Adams had his rising horse in a pasture behind the house in town and
never did catch it to get to the fire. Everything burned except the picture of the old buildings which Hermine Adams Holt tossed out the door. The picture with its broken glass still hangs in the house...

In 1922 the family moved to the Herman Adams Sr, farm one mile south of Fairfield, turning over the responsibility of the farm to the oldest son Dan. Grandpa Holt then had time to indulge his favorite pastimes of smoking and cribbage. He owned a car but refused to drive it. He preferred his trusty bicycle and pedaled all over the country on it...

His mother-in-law, Annie Adams, also had a car experience. When she was about 70 she decided she wanted a car. She went to the Farmers' Alliance and told Louise Lindstrom she wanted to buy a big Studebaker. Louie, not wanting to get into trouble with her husband, tried to convince her that she didn't want a car. She walked out in a huff, hopped on the next train to Spokane, and bought the car there. It was delivered to Fairfield and Charlie Adams started to drive it home for her. When they got to the mailbox she decided she had all the gadgets figured out so she insisted Charlie move over and let her drive. She put it in low gear and stepped on the gas. Up the hill they roared, on over the top into the barnyard. That was the end of Great Grandma Adams' driving career...



13 comments:

Kim said...

Sherry, I share your interest in family history--the stories part of it. Stories I enjoyed in your post:

>>Her father, Len Adams, was a handsome railroad engineer who eventually was shot by a coworker.>>

Annie Adams driving into the barnyard.

Sundays of families visiting and staying for the day.

>>Indians calling upon the white families>>

simoart said...

Hi
What a lovely family history. It was very interesting reading it. Thanks for sharing.

Shiley said...

I too developed an interest in my family heritage too late to gather much first hand information. You are so lucky to have some writings to add "color" to your family data. I learned that my 5th great grandmother was kidnapped as a baby by the Delaware Indians during the French Indian War and was part of a large prisoner exchange between the British and Ohio Indian tribes 7 years later. These details would have made history so much more interesting for me - and now I hope I can pass on the excitement to my grandchildren.

Margaret Ann said...

You are so fortunate to have this rich history so well documented... I enjoyed reading every word...OOOOOH MY! What a trip you will have!!! :)

Margaret Ann said...

Ooops...forgot to add... I LOVE the photo of your great grandma...what a gal!

hummingbird said...

Thank you so much for posting this with the pictures and information. My daughter is a descendant of Glen and I have been looking for pictures and more family history to pass on to her. I think I have heard of your great grandma too! We have some of Ye Galleon's books but not the family history. Thanks again for making this information known.

Sherry Pierce Thurner said...

Hummingbird, if you send me email at sthurner@charter.net, and let me know your name and who your mother or father is so I can find you on the family tree, I will send you an invitation to view the entire tree.

Sherry

Colleen Lahey said...

Sherry, thank you so much for the photos and history. I do believe my great, great grandmother, Sarah Moore Heath, is sister to your Annie Moore Adams. Always nice to find another distant cousin. Thanks again!

Sherry Pierce Thurner said...

Colleen, if you send me an email at sthurner@charter.net, I'll send you an invitation to join my online family tree. I would love to know more about Sarah Moore Heath.

Charles Adams said...

Sherry,

Charles Adams was my grandfather and is who I was named after. Your wonderful story was an amazing recount and corroborated by my conversations with my late uncle Garry Adams.

Thanks for sharing.

Charles Adams son of Warren Adams

Sherry Pierce Thurner said...

Charles, if you send me an email at sthurner@charter.net, I will send you an invitation to join my TribalPages online family tree. I'd love to have you visit, make additions and corrections. That trip to Washington was just amazing, and I enjoyed meeting lots of folks from my grandmother's family, including Garry.

Sherry

Mercy said...

Hi Sherry-
My grandmother's family is of the Fairfield Adams' and I am trying to piece together our tree through John Wilbur. Thank you for posting what has been hard information to find (though it would be wonderful to see more!) Ellen

Sherry Pierce Thurner said...

Send me an email (see previous comments) and I will send you an invitation to view my family tree on TribalPages.