Oscar Adams
Biography: Oscar Adams
from Scott's files...
(Adams: Oscar2, Willard1)

Oscar Adams

from: A History of Van Buren County Michigan
By Captain O.W. Rowland (1912)


Oscar Adams - This sterling citizen of Van Buren county has passed the psalmist's span of three score years and ten, and more than half a century of his life has been passed in the county which is now his home and in which he is known and honored of men. He may well be designated as one of the pioneer citizens of the county and he has done his part in furthering its industrial and civic development and upbuilding, the while his earnest and well directed efforts as one the world's productive workers have not been denied a gracious fruition. He has long been known as one of the representative exponents of agriculture in Keeler township and his fine homestead well shows the thrift and good management that have brought to bear by him, the while he here finds himself surrounded by all that should compass old age. He is passing the gracious evening of his life in peace and prosperity and surrounded by friends that are tried and true and to whom his loyalty is inviolable. Such are the citizens whose careers merit special consideration in publications of this nature, and it will be a source of gratification to many residents of Van Buren county to find within these pages a brief review of the worthy life record of him whose name introduces this paragraph.

Oscar Adams was born in Allegany county, New York, on the 22d of March, 1839, and is a scion of one of the staunch old families of the Empire commonwealth, which has given to Michigan so large and valuable a contribution, many of the early settlers of the southern part of the state, having come from New York, as the annals of Michigan well indicate, as so also names of towns, cities and villages which in their titles give honor to old homes in New York. Mr. Adams is the youngest in a family of three sons and two daughters born to Willard and Esther (Baker) Adams, and he is now the only surviving member of the immediate family. His father was born in Vermont and was a representative of one of the pioneer families of that state, as well as one established in New England in the colonial days, when that section was the matrix in which was cast so much of the early history of the nation. Willard Adams was reared to adult age in the old Green Mountain State, and after he had passed his legal majority he accompanied two of his brothers in migration to the state of New York. Owing to the exigencies of time and place he had received but limited educational advantages, but he had the intrinsic elements for the gaining of worthy success and made for himself a secure place in connection with economic industry. He acquired land in Allegany county, New York, where he reclaimed a productive farm and where he became a citizen of prominence and influence in his community. Upright in all the relations of life, industrious and God-fearing, his career was one marked by earnestness, sincerity and worthy accomplishment, as well as by temporal prosperity that was justly his due. In politics he was a Jeffersonian Democrat, he was affiliated with the Masonic fraternity. Esther (Baker) Adams was likewise a native of Vermont but was a child of seven years at the time the family removed to the state of New York, where she was reared to womanhood and where her marriage was solemnized. Her father, Thaddeus Baker, was graduated in a college in England and was a man of much ability, and he became one of the prominent pioneers of Allegany county, New York, He secured a tract of wild land in the southwestern part of that county and there developed a good farm. He found much requisition for his services as a skilled surveyor and was called upon to serve in various offices of public trust. He was for many years a justice of the peace and also served for a number of years as judge of the probate court of his county. Willard and Esther (Baker) Adams continued to reside in Allegany county until their death and both attained to venerable age.

Oscar Adams was reared to the sturdy discipline of the farm and his early educational advantages were limited to a somewhat irregular attendance in the common schools of his native county. When but fifteen years of age he manifested his youthful independence, self-reliance and ambition by severing the home ties and setting forth alone to seek his fortunes in Michigan. He made his voyage by lake steamer to Detroit and thence came on the Michigan Central Railroad to Decatur, Van Buren county, where he arrived in March, 1857, with his cash capital reduced to less than ten dollars. The venturesome lad was ready to turn his attention to any honest employment and he soon secured work on a neighboring farm, where he received fourteen dollars a month for his services, this being the first money he had ever earned in an independent way. For six years he continued to be thus employed as a farm hand,- in Hamilton and Keeler townships,- and for three years of this period he worked for Philotas Haydon, one of the well known pioneers of the county. He had carefully saved his earnings and at the expiration of six years he made his first purchase of land, securing one hundred and sixty acres, for which he paid one-fourth of the purchase price and assumed indebtedness for the remainder. The land was but slightly improved and he set himself vigorously to the task of metamorphosing the same into a productive farm. He has continued in possession of this during the long intervening years and the same constitutes his present homestead, which is recognized as one of the valuable farms of the county, with excellent improvements and with every evidence of thrift and prosperity.

The first dwelling owned by Mr. Adams represented an expenditure on his part of the sum of twenty-four dollars. This was a wing of an old house and was transported to his farm by means of an ox team. At that time deer, wild turkeys and other native game were still plentiful, and he was enabled to add much to his larder from this source. His experience also compasses the use of the old-time cradle, which he has swung from sunny morn till dewy eve in the garnering of grain and he utilized the old-fashioned scythe in cutting hay, both kinds of products being raked up my hand. He has witnessed the marvelous development in agricultural machinery and implements and finds satisfaction in the use of modern improvements and facilities, though he ever reverts with pleasure to the "dear, dead days beyond recall," and appreciates the generous friendships and mutual helpfulness that marked the associations of the pioneer epoch. He still has in his possession one of the grain cradles of the old times and the same is worthy of preservation as a family heirloom. By the use of this primitive implement he made a record of cutting two and one half acres of grain in a day, and his memory constitutes a link between the pioneer past and the present era of opulent prosperity and manifold advantages. The first schoolhouse in the vicinity of his home was erected in 1858, and he drew the stone for the foundation of the same. He has used the goose-quill pen, prior to the manufacturing of steel pens, and has fashioned many of these quills for such use. As a boy he absorbed wisdom from Daboll's arithmetic, Kenyon's grammar and Town's spelling-book, and few of the present day remain to recall these early text-books.

Within three years after the purchase of his farm Mr. Adams had labored industriously and had so carefully husbanded his resources that he could have met all indebtedness. He had borrowed money of his friend and former employer, Mr. Haydon, and he toiled and planned until he was able to pay back dollar for dollar, the while he was laying the secure foundation of future independence and prosperity. Hard work, integrity of purpose and fairness and honor in all things have characterized the career of this sterling pioneer, and he has not only won but also deserved success, as well as the high regard of his fellow men. In the stern school of experience and through self-discipline he has gained valuable lessons, and he is one of the well informed men of his county, taking a lively interest in its affairs and also in the questions and issues of the day. He has done his part in the furthering of enterprises and measures advanced for the general good of the community and is known as a broad-minded and public- spirited citizen. Mr. Adams cast his first presidential vote for Stephen A. Douglas, and his second was in support of the immortal Lincoln, but since that time he has been unwavering in his allegiance to the Democratic party. He served several years as justice of the peace of his township and for thirty-three years has been an official of his school district. He has shown deep interest in educational matters and has done much to forward the upbuilding of the public schools in the county that has so long been his home. He is a zealous and consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal church and has been earnest in its work. He assisted in the erection of the first church building in the vicinity of his home, and this was used by various religious faiths, without discrimination, tolerance and unity of spirit being in evidence and the cause of the Divine Master being held as the one essential. He has been an official member of the Methodist church at Keeler for many years, having served as one of its trustees and having been liberal in his contributions to the various departments of its work. He has thus shown a high sense of stewardship, as has he also in the daily walks of life, and this church is still open for the use of all denominations at funeral and other occasions. Mr. Adams' fine homestead is located nine mile distant from the city of Dowagiac Dan eight miles from Decatur. It comprises ninety acres and the attractive home is known for its generous hospitality, being a favorite rendezvous for a wide circle of friends whom he has "grappled to his soul with hoops of steel."

Mr. Adams has been twice wedded. On the 16th of February, 1862, was solemnized his marriage to Miss Sarah Geer, who was born in born in Van Buren county, on the 2d of April, 1839, and who here passed her entire life, her death having occurred on the 20th of February, 1894. She was a member of one of the well known and honored pioneer families of Hamilton township and her life was one of loving consecration to home and family. Concerning the nine children of this union the following brief record is given: Isabelle B. is the wife of Fred H. Baker, who is one of the representative business men of Dowagiac, where he is one of the principal stockholders in the Colby Milling Company, and his wife is the owner of large land interests in Van Buren county as well as the owner of a landed estate of one thousand acres in Manitoba, Canada. Mrs. Baker was afforded excellent educational advantages, including a course in an excellent academic institution at Goshen, Indiana. Prior to her marriage she was a successful teacher in the schools of her home township and she is now a prominent factor in the leading social activities of the city of Dowagiac, being a woman whose culture has been enhanced by the extended travels which she and her husband have indulged through the various sections of the county. Oliver, the eldest of the sons, is one of the prosperous and progressive farmers of Keeler township, where he secured his early education in the public schools. He married Miss Nora Someral and they have five children- Wesley, Isabelle, Dorothy, Allen, and Oscar. Welsey L., the second son, is engaged in mining enterprises in Alaska and is located thirty-four miles distant from Fairbanks, that territory. He was afforded the advantages of the Northern Indiana Normal School, now known as Valparaiso University, and has been in Alaska since 1898. Deyo, the youngest of the children, is in active charge of his father's old homestead farm and in this connection he has shown an energy and judgment that have made him justify the name which he bears. He is a Republican in politics, and he is affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He married Miss Valorie Earl and they have one son, Maurice.

On the 26th of March, 1869, Mr. Adams contracted his second marriage, having then been united to Mrs. Marcia (Buck) Beattie, who proves a most gracious chatelaine of their beautiful rural home. She was born and reared in Van Buren county, and is a daughter of the late Lucius E. and Celina (Wise) Buck, who came to this county from the vicinity of Geneseo, New York, and who here passed the residue of their lives, secure in the high regard of all who knew them. Mrs. Adams is a specially earnest and devoted member of the Methodist Episcopal church and is a woman of marked culture and social attractiveness. She has served as both president and vice president of the Thursday Literary Club, in the village of Keeler, and for twenty years prior to her marriage she was one of the valued and loved teachers in the public schools of her native county, where her circle of friends is coincident with that of her acquaintances. She is a pleasing public speaker and has been a popular factor in social and literary circles for many years. By her first marriage she became the mother of one child, Mrs. Nellie B. Sill, of Billings, Montana, and she has two daughters, Beatrice and Margarie. Since their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Adams have visited various sections of the Union, including the Pacific coast and the eastern states, and they have thus found both enjoyment and information, the while they have shown the proper recognition of the uses of such temporal prosperity as is theirs. Mr. Adams is a man of unassuming and thoroughly democratic bearing but his mind is a veritable storehouse of knowledge and mature judgment, with a specially large department from which may be drawn most interesting reminiscences touching the pioneer days in Van Buren county.

Notes: Oscar Adams was the grandfather of Isabelle Adams who married my great uncle Charles LeRoy Henderson. Isabelle's father was Oliver Adams.

08 May 2001