Henderson County, Kentucky Biography


           Joseph ADAMS was born on 05 Jan 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 benefited 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 steamboat William GLASGOW, and made one 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. Joseph ADAMS 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 28 Nov 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 agreed 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 28 Nov 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 Upper Green Street, and built a short time before by David NUNN. To this, a short time after he built the large addition fronting 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, 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 continued in the tobacco trade up to a few years prior to his death. When he retired he 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 Farmers' 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 19 Jul 1884, leaving to his wife and four sons who survive him a handsome estate. 


Starling's History of Henderson County, Kentucky, 1887.



Joseph Adams age 33, Page 3, House No. 24; Ellen age 22; Sophoresba (f) age 2; Joseph age 1.


Joseph Adams age 43, Page 19, House No. 176; Elenor age 31; Joseph G. age 11; William S. age 8; John C. age 6; R. G. (m) age 5.


Joseph Adams age 53, Page 222, House No. 134; Elinor age 43; Joseph age 21; William age 19; Johnie age 16; Robert age 14; Sam Field (B) age 30; Peter Priest (B) age 12.


James Adams age 63, Page 105, House No. 430; Ellen age 52; James G. age 29; William S. age 27; John C. age 25; R. G. (m) age 23.


Mary E. Adams, 01 Jan 1846, Fernwood, Age unknown, 322, 1
Sophonisba G. Adams, 09 Aug 1850, Fernwood, Age unknown, 322, 2
Ella S. Adams, 26 Jun 1854, Fernwood, Age unknown, 322, 2
Chas. G. Adams, 20 Jan 1862, Fernwood, Age unknown, 322, 3
Hoseph Adams, 19 Jul 1884, Fernwood, Age unknown, 322, 5
Eleanor S. Adams, 21 May 1893, Fernwood, Age unknown, 322, 4
Will S. Adams, 31 May 1908, Fernwood, Age unknown, R-322, 6
Joseph G. Adams, 16 May 1919, Fernwood, Age unknown, 322, 8

Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS

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