© Gary Carner. Copyright Protected. All rights reserved.
Happy Father's Day to everybody in the U.S. I wasn't anticipating starting Chapter Two of the Pepper Adams biography this past week. I started organizing some of my materials for it after I finished Chapter One. But then I found myself finding, much to my delight, all sorts of previously written text. When I starting piecing things together I began to write and refine. Now I have six pages written and probably another twenty pages worth of notes that I need to rework. It includes a great deal of transcribed interview material from several people who knew him well as a child, specifically Raymond Murphy and Jack Huggler.
Essentially, Chapter Two is in place. It discusses the period 1930-1947, from the time Adams was born through the time he returned from Rochester, New York to Detroit. One section, already done is his father's genealogy. It wasn't until two days ago through today that I fit it all together. I was helped immeasurably by Pepper's cousin, Joie Gifford, who lived in the Seattle area (Whidbey Island) and who I presume passed away a few years ago. All my emails to her have bounced back and phone numbers are no longer of any use. Gifford did the pioneering research with another family member on the Adams line and handed it to me years ago on a silver platter. I only had to figure out what I had, then follow her lead to fit in a few extra pieces. I'll share it with you here.
What follows is one section of Chapter Two, with some footnotes beneath it. One discusses the presidential Adams family and its relationship to Pepper's line. How appropriate for Father's Day that I would post this about Pepper's dad and his family! Enjoy!
The paternal Adams line in the United States stretches back eight generations to James Adams, Pepper’s sixth great-grandfather.2 James Adams, of Scottish origin, was captured on September 3, 1650 by Oliver Cromwell’s forces at the Battle of Dunbar. Only fifteen years old at the time, Adams was fighting for the monarchy on behalf of Scotland during the final years of the English Civil War. A few months after his capture he was ordered as a prisoner of war to board the Unity for passage across the Atlantic Ocean to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, arriving in Charlestown in December, 1650. Adams was sentenced to seven years of labor at the Saugus Ironworks in Lynn, Massachusetts.3 An indentured servant at Saugus, Adams lived in a four-man-to-a-house dwelling, was allowed to work the land four days a week, and was mandated to spend the other three days toiling at the Iron Works. Once obtaining his release in 1657, Adams founded with a few others in Boston the Scots’ Charitable Society, the Western Hemisphere’s oldest charitable organization.4 Five years later he married a Puritan, Priscilla Ramsdell, in Concord, Massachusetts who bore him seven children.
One of his sons, James Jr, moved his family to nearby Rhode Island, where his son Nathaniel was born in 1708. Nathaniel, Pepper’s fourth great-grandfather, likely died in Groton, Connecticut, where his son James III, one of ten children, was born in 1732. James in turn moved his family inland to Upstate New York, where it would be based for the next four generations.
By the mid-nineteenth century, Pepper Adams’ ancestors had settled near Rome, New York. Pepper’s grandfather, Nathaniel Quincy Adams, married Alice Frances Cleveland there in 1879 and they had five children: Mina, Harry, Rita, Marguerite, and Pepper’s father Park. The youngest of five children, Park was born in Rome on January 19, 1896. Nathaniel Quincy Adams’ obituary goes into considerable detail about the clan:
Nathaniel Q. Adams, 71, former Rome hotel man, died suddenly at his home in Oriskany yesterday afternoon. He was in the garden when taken ill and died before medical aid could be given.
Nathaniel Quincy Adams was born in Westmoreland [on] April 15, 1858, son of the late Nathaniel Q. and Angeline Eames Adams. His father, who was a contractor and builder, invented and patented in 1828 certain new features of the threshing machine which later were used with success. The elder Adams at one time owned the old Verona Spring House. When Mr. Adams was four years old the family moved to Verona Mills where he learned the wagonmaker’s trade, which he followed at that place until he was 28 years of age. He then located in Rome where he was a resident for more than a quarter of a century. In the latter city he at first pursued his trade and subsequently bought a hotel on South James Street, then known as the Temperance Hotel, which he conducted for ten years as the Adams House.
Ill health compelled him to sell out and retire in 1913. He then moved to Utica and for several months lived on State Street, near Court Street. In 1914 he bought a home in Oriskany.
Starting as a lad in modest circumstances, Mr. Adams gained a reputable place in business. He was a member of Waterbury Memorial Church, of which he was a trustee for several years. For more than 25 years he had been a member of Fort Stanwix Lodge 63, IOOF. Mr. Adams was also a member of Oriskany Lodge 799 F & AM.
He was married at Verona Mills in 1879 to Miss Frances Cleveland, who survives with two sons and three daughters: Harry A. of Chicago; Park of Detroit, Michigan; Mrs. Frederick Weaver of Hollywood, California; Mrs. Allen B. Head of Tallahassee, Florida; and Mrs. Leroy Johnston of Los Angeles.5
The 1880 census lists Nathaniel Adams as a boat builder. His trade at that time was no doubt influenced by his proximity to the nearby Oneida Lake and the Erie Canal that passed directly through Rome. Some 23 years later in an entirely different line of work, you still couldn’t get a shot of whiskey at the Adams House hotel but you could get a meal for a quarter. At that time electric streetcars traveled between Rome and Utica through Oriskany, the halfway point between both cities. Its train stop was directly across the street from Adams’ Oriskany home. Mercifully, Pepper’s grandfather died just a few months before the Stock Market Crash of 1929. He would be spared the misery that his wife and children would endure for the next decade.
2The authors acknowledge the pioneering genealogical research done by Pepper’s cousin Joie Gifford. According to the site http://en.geneanet.org, “the surname of Adam is of great antiquity in Scotland. Duncan Adam, son of Alexander Adam, lived in the reign of King Robert Bruce, and had four sons, from whom all the Adams, Adamsons, and Adies in Scotland are descended.” (In the twelfth century Robert the Bruce led Scotland during the First War of Scottish Independence against England. He regained Scotland’s independence and is still revered as a national hero.) Pepper’s sixth great-grandfather, James Adams, may have been born in Carlisle, Cumberland, England, just over the Scottish border, around 1635. He died in Concord, Massachusetts on December 2, 1707. Although Pepper Adams believed that he was 100% Irish, the evidence points to him being at least half Scottish and half Irish. Furthermore, it’s unclear if the Adams line that produced two American presidents (John and John Quincy) is in any way related to James Adams and his family. Whereas James Adams was Scottish, though possibly being born in Northern England, John Adams’ second great-grandfather’s family was English, born in Somersetshire, 300 miles away, west of London in the southern part of the country. A more detailed genealogy of both Adams families in England in the 1600s and earlier and would be needed to see if they were related.
3Saugus, a subsidiary of The Company of Undertakers of the Iron Works in New England, was founded by the Colonial Governor John Winthrop and several other entrepreneurs.
4The Society awards undergraduate scholarships to the Scottish-American community and provides relief to individuals and Scottish families in need. The Society also seeks to promote Scottish and Celtic heritage through education, participation in highland games, parades and other cultural events throughout the Greater Boston area.5June 22, 1929 edition of the Rome Sentinel.