Joseph Adams

by Edmund Starling, 1886


JOSEPH ADAMS.-The gentleman of whom this brief sketch treats was born on the fifth day of January, 1817, in the town of West Cambridge, Mass., near Boston. After having received a liberal education for those early times, he was seized with the rheumatism, and, at the advice of his physician, went on a sea voyage, hoping to be benefitted thereby. In October, 1838, at the age of nineteen years, he landed at the City of Havana, Cuba, where he remained for several weeks. He left the Island of Cuba and sailed for New Orleans, where he resided until hearing of a gentleman who was indebted to him and who it was told to him was then living in Evansville, Indiana. In order to effect a settlement with the party, Mr. Adams embarked on board of a steamer and started for that place. Several days afterwards he arrived at Evansville to find that the object of his search was not to be found. he then shipped as clerk on board of the steam boat William Glasgow, and made on or two trips between New Orleans and St. Louis, and then New Orleans and Pittsburgh. On his last trip from New Orleans to St. Louis, the steamer caught fire and burned to the water line. Our subject was the last person to leave the burning vessel, and it was by dint of the keenest strategy that he succeeded in gaining the shore unharmed. He then returned to Evansville, where, unexpectedly, he met Mr. Asa Bement, who had for many years lived a near neighbor to his home in Massachusetts. The two soon became fast friends, and, in after years, transacted a large amount of business mutually agreeable.

On the twenty-eighty day of November, 1839, he contracted to come to Henderson and enter the store house of Dr. Paul Sears, who was then merchandising in the old frame house known as the " Old Rouse," and yet standing near the corner of Second and Water Streets. He agrees to remain here only two or three weeks, but, at the expiration of the time, he had become favorably impressed with the location and effected a purchase of the entire stock of Dr. Sears. he then engaged in business in his own name, and was soon drawing a large and profitable trade. He first reduced the price of several leading articles fully fifty per cent below what they were then being sold by other merchants, and this liberality brought down upon him the maledictions of his neighbor merchants. Nevertheless, he had a head of his own, and conducted his business affairs according to his idea of trade, and, of course, succeeded in drawing to himself in a short time a very large paying patronage. On the twenty-eighth day of November, 1844, in the frame residence now owned and occupied by A. B. Sights, on Center, between Elm and Green Streets, Mr. Adams married Miss Eleanor Smallwood Grayson, a lady of marked personal beauty, and great popularity in social circles. Unto them were born eight children, five sons and three daughters; only four of this number are now living, the others dying when young. Those living are Joseph, William, John and Robert; Robert, the youngest, married Miss Mattie Elam, and has one child, Baxter Harrison, handsome and intelligent. The other sons are unmarried. Mr. Adams was devotedly attached to his family, and the writer knows what a terrible blow the death of his last and only daughter was to him. He spoke frequently of her, even though she had been dead for years, and it really seemed that the memory of her was continually upon his mind. I have frequently thought that the tenor of his life was completely changed in her death. In 1844 Mr. Adams purchased the old lot on the northeast corner of Main and Second Streets, and built the two-story brick yet standing, and used it for years as a grocery store. At the time of its completion it was the largest store room in the town, and the only one having an open front. In this building he opened the first and only exclusive grocery ever kept in Henderson up to that time. He continued in the grocery trade until the year 1854, at which time he sold out and purchased the tobacco stemmery, situated on Green Street, and in partnership with Colonel John Rudy, engaged largely in the purchase and stemming of tobacco for the foreign markets. This partnership continued to the year 1860, when by mutual consent it was dissolved, Mr. Adams continuing the business. In 1862 Mr. Adams purchased of Colonel Rudy, his magnificent farm, lying one and one-half miles out on the Owensboro Road, and containing seven hundred and five acres. This splendid property constitutes not only one of the most valuable farms in Henderson County, but in the entire State of Kentucky. During this same year he completed and occupied his magnificent residence, on the corner of Washington and Adams Streets, certainly one of the handsomest and most complete buildings to be found in the West. Mr. Adams continue in the tobacco trade up to a few years prior to his death, when he retired, and devoted the remainder of his life to his farming interest, which was conducted on a large scale, including the large landed estate of which mention has been made, and Diamond Island.

Like all men of this sublunary sphere, Mr. Adams had his ups and downs, his trials and vexations, yet his entire life was characterized by a becoming modesty, honesty of purpose and a desire to live and let live. During his life he filled many offices of public trust, notably President and Director of the Farmer's Bank for many years, and member of the City Council for several terms. He was averse to office holding, yet he never swerved from a duty his constituents choose to impose upon him but on the contrary, accepted and executed the trust with fidelity and unflinching devotion, that made him a successful candidate for every office for which he was named. Mr. Adams died on the night of the nineteenth of July 1884, leaving to his wife and four sons who survive him a handsome estate.

The History of Henderson County, Kentucky by Starling 1887 page 650-52;

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