Finding Alpheus Adams’ Mother : Part VI

Note: As we approach the end of our journey, note the increased use of levels of confidence in our statements—perhaps, possibly, likely, probably. [1]

We have identified Henry Proctor Adams as the probable father of Alpheus Adams, and Samuel Strain as a probable great-grandfather on Alpheus’ maternal side.

Let’s jump to 1844, maybe a year or two earlier, or later. The family of Henry’s father, Reverend Ezra Adams, lives in Ontario, Canada. The family of Samuel Strain lives in Montgomery County, Indiana—569 miles away. These families are living on the frontier of two different countries. Travel is difficult, expensive, and dangerous.

Despite learning much on this journey, we are lost. Where do we go now?

Let’s follow their children. But before we depart, let’s practice safe genealogy.

We need to beware of confirmation bias, the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. In this case, we don’t know what to believe.

On the other hand, we need to listen to our gut, and our long-time friend Leroy Jethro Gibbs (see Gibbs’ Rule #39). Gibbs apparently knew William of Ockham and Occam’s razor.

Ok, climb on or climb aboard—you pick—horse, boat, or train?

In a prior post, we detailed the circuits assigned Rev. Ezra Adams over his long service, a roadmap needed to follow his family.

In 1828, the Methodist Episcopal work in Canada split from the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) in the United States, and in 1833 joined with the British Wesleyans. We only mention this because prior to 1833, Ezra traveled on occasion east from Ontario to New York for the Annual Conferences. After 1833, he attended Annual Conferences in Ontario.

In 1844, Ezra has five living children that are old enough to be Alpheus’ parent, or old enough to be traveling any distance on their own. Let’s start with the oldest.

Elizabeth Alimira Adams is the oldest daughter, born in 1816. In 1832, she married Rev. Thomas Hurlburt.

Thomas Hurlburt, missionary in the MEC in Upper Canada (now Ontario), began teaching Indians at Munceytown Mission, Middlesex County, Ontario, in 1829, before he was ordained. He was assigned there from 1829-34. He was also a linguist and philologist, assisting in the development of the spelling system for the Ojibwa language.

At the 31 Aug 1831 Annual Conference of the MEC, Ezra Adams was assigned as:

  • London District, Presiding Elder
  • Missionary to Munceytown Mission
  • Superintendent of Missions within the bounds of his District

Thomas’ brother, Rev. Asahel Hurlburt, was assigned the Thames circuit, in London District at that conference. These two brothers were missionaries reporting to Ezra after Aug 1831. So we know how Elizabeth and Thomas met. After their marriage, she would have traveled with Thomas to each new circuit.

In 1838, Thomas was assigned to the outpost of the Lake Superior Mission (later called Pic River), on the north shore of Lake Superior. Winters there were certainly brutal; we know they subsisted on a diet of largely fish, and death by starvation was common at the mission. Their work at the mission, called the Pic, is mentioned in the paper This Remote Field of Missionary Toil : Christianity at the Pic, Lake Superior to 1900.

Thomas and Elizabeth remained there until 1844, when he requested an assignment in a warmer location for the sake of Elizabeth’s health.

Thomas’ request is granted, and he is assigned to the newly organized Indian Mission Conference of the MEC in the United States. Organized in 1844, the conference covers a wide area bounded by Montana, the Rocky Mountains, Arkansas and Missouri, and Texas. Remember that in 1828, the United States and Canada churches split, so this would seem to be a unique assignment requiring the approval of the two separate churches.

We then find Thomas and Elizabeth in Oklahoma by mid-Oct 1844. How do we know?

Bishop Thomas A. Morris, General Superintendent of the District, traveled from the Missouri Annual Conference, held at the Centenary Church in St. Louis, Missouri, on 25 Sep 1844, to the first Indian Mission Conference held at Riley’s Chapel, Cherokee Nation, on 23 Oct 1844. [2]

His travel by boat, horse, and carriage is documented including the weather—it snowed in Oklahoma. Along the way, missionaries joined the travelers from their circuits. Thomas Hurlburt joins the group by 14 Oct, apparently from nearby where he is missionary to the Chippewa tribe.

At the conference, Jerome C. Berryman is appointed as first Superintendent of Missions. Thomas is (re)appointed missionary to the Pottawatomie and Chippewa tribes.

We know that Thomas and Elizabeth remain in Missouri until some time after 10 Jul 1850 when he is listed as Preacher in the St. Louis Conference, Lexington District, Kickapoo Mission. They return to Ontario, Canada, before the end of 1851.

You are thinking, why so much detail? Patience. Our journey is about pick up speed.

Henry Proctor Adams is the 2nd child of Ezra Adams, born in 1822. Family histories and his obituary tell us that he accompanied his sister to Missouri. The details aren’t crisp, but he likely traveled with them in 1844, and likely remained there until 1851 as well.

William Case Adams is the 3rd child of Ezra Adams, born in 1823. Family histories tell us that he studied at Victoria College, in Coborg, Ontario, and from there (some time after 1841), he went to Highblue, Missouri, where he commenced the study of medicine with Dr. Berryman. William removed to Toronto in 1851 to study dentistry. 1851, there is that date again.

Dr. Berryman, Rev. Jerome C. Berryman—Gibbs’ Rule #39. We haven’t found a pin on the map yet for Highblue, Missouri, but High Blue still appears in the names of businesses in the same area.

Interesting note: Dr. William Case Adams was the first dentist to use nitrous oxide gas for anesthetic purposes in Canada.

While the family story says that William traveled to Missouri to study medicine, perhaps it is more correct to say he traveled with his sister Elizabeth and brother Henry to the Indian territory of Missouri (an adventure for a young college graduate), and there he studied medicine. It is clear they are in this place at this time as a direct result of the illness of Elizabeth and the assignment of Thomas. William certainly could have studied dentistry in a more hospitable place.

Maria Jane Adams is the 4th child of Ezra Adams, born in 1826. We have been unable to determine if she traveled to Missouri also. We have a possible record for her in the 1852 Census of Canada, she marries in 1853, and dies in 1855 from consumption. Born in 1826, we can not eliminate her as a sibling of interest.

Eliza Roxana Adams is the 5th child of Ezra Adams, born in 1828. She is 16 years old in 1844, and marries in 1847 in Ontario, Canada. She therefore likely did not travel with the group to Missouri.

We have been unable to find any of the Adams listed in United States Census records or other records during their time in Missouri, except for the records of the MEC for Thomas and Elizabeth. It appears they were not enumerated in the 1850 US Census. The MEC records provide an amazing amount of detail and color to their journey.

This is a good point to stop and remember that Alpheus’ marriage record lists his parents as William and Maria Adams, and his obituary says he was taken after birth to the home of an uncle at Owen Sound, Ontario.

If William and Maria Adams are William Case Adams and Maria Jane Adams, could they have both been his biological parents? The DNA matches to the Strains make this improbable. Perhaps Alpheus grew up in the homes of one or both of them, and then listed them as his parents on his marriage record.

So where are we now?

  • It is probable that three of Ezra’s five children of interest traveled from Ontario to Missouri sometime between 1844–1851. These three are Elizabeth, Henry, and William.
  • It is likely these three traveled to Missouri together, arriving before 14 Oct 1844 with Thomas.
  • It is likely these three returned to Ontario together, arriving after 10 Jul 1850 and before the end of 1851, based on Thomas’ return.
  • These three could have traveled back and forth one or more times, but this seems unlikely as the records are clear that Thomas was stationed with the MEC in the United States from 1844–1851, and they are a long, long way from home.
  • We do not know where Maria Jane Adams was during this time. It is possible she traveled with them also. It is possible she remained in Ontario.
  • It is likely Eliza Roxana Adams remained in Ontario; we have no record of her traveling to the Unites States separately.
  • In case you are wondering, Elizabeth, Eliza—it appears Elizabeth went by the name Betsey.

This journey is feeling like a ride through Wyoming. Will it ever end?

John Strain (1730–1766) is probably 7th great-grandparent of MKS in the Watne branch.

Samuel Strain (1762–1845) and Hannah Watts (1762–1798) are probably 6th great-grandparents of MKS in the Watne branch.

Ezra Adams (1788) and Isa Proctor (1797–1832) are 5th great-grandparents of MKS in the Watne branch.

Henry Proctor Adams (1822–1882) is probably 4th great-grandfather of MKS in the Watne branch.

Alpheus Adams (1845-1910) is 3rd great-grandfather of MKS in the Watne branch.

[1] Ken Spratlin, “Facts and Events—Levels of Confidence,” Random Thoughts in Thin Air, 11 Feb 2020.
[2] Sidney Henry Babcock and John Y. Bryce, History of Methodism in Oklahoma; Story of the Indian Mission Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, volume 1 (1935), p. 50-57.