Biography of Joseph Adams
Rutland County, Vt. Biographies





ADAMS, JOSEPH, the youngest of the seven children of John Adams, esq., was born in Londonderry, N. H., February 1,1802. His mother was Mary Ann Morrison, a daughter of Joseph Morrison, esq., of Londonderry, and the second wife of John Adams.

The settlers of the old town of Londonderry were Scotch people, Protestant Presbyterians, who fled from Argyleshire, Scotland, early in the seventeenth century and made their abode in the north of Ireland, taking part there, not a few of them, in the memorable siege of Londonderry in t688, which had a marked effect on the subsequent history of Protestantism. Thence they came to America early in the eighteenth century and were known in this country as the "Scotch-Irish." Dr. Belknap, in his history of New Hampshire, describes them as "a peculiarly industrious, frugal, hardy, intelligent and well principled people, who constituted a valuable acquisition to the province." They brought with them from their ancestral home, and retained for many years, their peculiar Scotch customs, habits and speech. The strongly marked physical characteristics of the Adamses and Morrisons attested the purity of their national origin.

Mr. Adams removed with his parents, in the autumn of 1806, to Whitehall, N. Y., where he learned to work with his father on the farm and at the trade of boot and shoe making, with such advantages for an education as he could command, until he was of age. On the 6th of November, 1823, he married Stella Miller, daughter of William Miller, esq., of Hampton, N.Y., and a sister of Rev. William Miller, widely known subsequently as "Prophet Miller."

In January, 1825, he took up his residence in Fairhaven, Vt., building a house on West street and carrying on his trade as shoemaker, but removed in a few years to a central part of the village, where he erected a house and shop and carried on an extensive wholesale and retail business, employing many journeymen and apprentices and supplying most of the merchants from Massachusetts to Canada with ladies' fine shoes. He sold out in Fairhaven in 1843 and removed with his family to Racine, Wisconsin, where he spent about a year: Returning to Fairhaven, he engaged in the spring of 1845, in company with Alonson Allen and William C. Kittredge, in building a mill and sawing Rutland marble, a business then in its infancy. There being no railroad, the marble had to be hauled from the quarries at West Rutland in blocks, and when sawed into slabs, as most of it was at first, hauled again to the canal at Whitehall, and thence shipped to various points for use. This was a large undertaking for those days, and required a relatively large amount of capital. Mr. Kittredge soon withdrew from the firm. Mr. Allen being extensively engaged in the production and manufacture of slate, then just begun, the laboring oar of the marble business fell to Mr. Adams. For two years the current set strongly against him. Much of the marble was unsound and worthless, and the immense outlay was unremunerative. To overcome this embarrassment required the closest application, untiring energy and perseverance, qualities inherent in the Scotch blood and physique of Mr. Adams. In 1851 the business had so far improved that they rebuilt and enlarged the mill, and, in company with William F. Barnes, of West Rutland, opened a new quarry, which proved in the end of great value. Mr. Ira C. Allen joined the company in 1852; Mr. Alonson Allen withdrew in 1854, and the firm then became "Adams & Allen," which continued until 1869, when, having sold the quarry at West Rutland, Mr. Adams purchased Mr. Allen's interest in the mill and continued to run it in connection with his son, Andrew N., and his son in law, David B. Colton, until his death, February 26, 1878.

Mr. Adams was president of the Washingtonian Temperance Society, organized in Fairhaven in 1841 with over five hundred members. He was a leading member of the Odd Fellows in 1851-55; was chairman of the directors of the Park Association in 1855-56 and contributed largely to the erection of the park. He took an active part in building the schoolhouse and town hall in 1860 and frequently proposed and advocated the introduction of public water works. He was the original mover in the establishment of the First National Bank of Fairhaven; was one of the first and largest stockholders; was chosen a director in 1864 and became its president in 1873, holding the office until his death. He represented the town in the Legislatures of 1854 and 1855, being an active and prominent member.

While his opportunities for an education were only ordinary, yet he was not an uneducated man, but like many others of his time, was self educated. He knew what was in many good books, being naturally of an active mind, with a genius for philosophy and mechanics, which led him always to inquire thoroughly for the causes and grounds of every opinion or statement. He was little inclined to accept anything upon authority, and from a somewhat extensive acquaintance with men, as well as from his own personal study, was well informed in history, in constitutional and international law, in trade, mechanics and science. He was an independent and fearless thinker in politics and religion. He early espoused the cause of the slave and was among the first subscribers and readers of the National Era, an anti slavery journal edited by John G. Whittier at Washington in 1846-48, when slaves were bought and sold at public auction in the capital of the nation. He freely questioned and publicly combated current traditions, and alone, by his own study and reason, arrived at and defended rational opinions of the Bible, which were pronounced heretical by his friends, but which are now widely held and sustained by the critical scholarship of cyclopedias and reviews. He always had "the courage of his convictions," and so great was his confidence in what he deemed to be true and right that, while admitting the equal privilege and freedom of others, he yet made personal enemies bye saying openly what he disdained to say covertly. But he possessed a most forgiving and tender heart, and would as soon do a kind service for an enemy as for a friend. Aiming always to be just, with pride in honor and honesty, he delighted in generosity.

During the last two or three years of his life he endured much pain, but was composed and cheerful and met death without a fear, surrounded by all that devoted, loving children and grandchildren could bring to his comfort. Writing of his death at the time, a friend says: "For more than half a century he has been closely identified with the business interests of Fairhaven, and has been one of its most respected and public spirited citizens.

In all the relations of life he was regarded as a strictly honest man. He was very frank, fearless, and outspoken, without a particle of hypocrisy or deceit. In business he was remarkable for his energy and tenacity of purpose, working out success where most men would have given up in despair, and never once, during his whole business career, failed to meet his obligations in full. In religion he was liberal; in politics a Republican, and he was always a warm friend of temperance in all things. His social qualities were much above the average. He was extremely fond of music and no mean performer on the violin. Although economical in his style of living, he was ever a friend of the poor, generous and kind hearted. The people of Fairhaven will long have occasion to cherish the memory of Mr. Adams, as a citizen thoroughly identified with the interests of the town and village, warmly favoring all practical public improvements, an advocate of good schools and all moral reforms."

From:
History of Rutland County, Vermont
Edited by: H. P. Smith and W. S. Rann
D. Mason & Co., Publishers
Syracuse, N. Y. 1886


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