Finding Alpheus Adams’ Mother : Part VII

In Part VI, we learned several of Reverend Ezra Adams’ children removed south from Ontario to Missouri, likely residing there between 1844–1851. But how could they have bumped into the Strains?

Let’s follow the Strain children now.

In Part IV, we concluded that Samuel Strain is probably the great-grandparent of, and Thomas McCartney Strain is likely the grandparent of Alpheus. But the DNA data does not provide certainty. One of Thomas’ siblings could possibly be the grandparent.

Samuel has 4 wives, and 22 children. 13 of these children were born before 1812, and could have children and grandchildren of their own we must consider as possible parents for Alpheus. We might never identify them all, making it pointless to even try to count them—easily over 100.

This is not looking promising; unfortunately, all we can do is dig in.

Hannah Strain is the oldest daughter of Samuel Strain, born in 1783, in Abbeville, South Carolina. We are told she served delicious red-eye gravy with her grits, and green eggs and ham breakfast (trust us).

She removes to Ohio with her family, and on 3 Mar 1801, she marries James Bradley Finley. James tells us in his own words of their marriage day, “my father-in-law, being unsatisfied with his daughter’s (Hannah) choice, did not even allow her to take her clothes, ….” Apparently this rift between father and daughter never heals; Samuel leaves Hannah out of his will, written in 1840.

Between 1843–1846, they live in Muskingum County, Ohio. They then live in Franklin County, Ohio, and Preble County, Ohio, through 1851.

Reverend James Bradley Finley, Methodist Episcopal Church.

James Bradley Finley is a circuit rider in the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC).

First child, no way! Excuse us, while we run out, and buy a lottery ticket.

Rev. James Bradley Finley, lion of the forest, is one of the most prominent of all circuit riders of this era [1][2]:

  • “A sympathetic defender of Indian rights, he was harshly critical of the federal government’s removal policy that ultimately forced the Wyandot nation to relocate in Kansas in 1843.”
  • At the 1844 General Conference of the MEC, he offered the resolution (“that Bishop Andrew desist from his episcopal duties until disentangling himself from slavery”)—approved 111 yeas, 69 nays—that led to the split of the Methodist Episcopal Church a year later, into North and South, 16 years prior to the American Civil War.
  • “He was instrumental in prison reform, including a library program and the separation of youthful offenders from older prisoners.”

From 1 May to 11 June 1844 (six weeks), the MEC General Conference assembled in New York City; its approximately 180 delegates included [1]:

  • James B. Finley, Ohio Conference
  • Jerome C. Berryman, Missouri Conference
  • Newton G. Berryman, Illinois Conference
  • William Case, Western Canada, Wesleyan Missionary Society (namesake of our William Case Adams)

We met Rev. Jerome C. Berryman in Part VI. We haven’t connected him with Rev. Newton G. Berryman, but they were both children in Kentucky between 1800–1810.

In the minutes of the General Conference, we also see references to other ministers in attendance, non-delegates that traveled to the conference with delegates. Six weeks in the big city; we can imagine the lobbying was intense to tag along.

Given what we have learned about these families through the MEC General and Annual conferences, each thoroughly documented in excruciating detail, it is clear the circuit riders were a single community spanning the United States and Canada. It is inconceivable Rev. Ezra Adams and son-in-law Rev. Thomas Hurlburt of the Adams line, and Rev. James Bradley Finley of the Strain line are total strangers. They at least know of each other through church records and correspondence. The record tells us there is certainly only two degrees-of-separation between them, via two chains:

  • Adams — Rev. William Case — Rev. James Bradley Finley & Hannah Strain
  • Adams — Rev. Jerome C. Berryman — Rev. James Bradley Finley & Hannah Strain

Rev. James Bradley Finley even details his journey north from Ohio to the border between the United States and Canada at Detroit, and into Upper Canada (later Ontario) in 1823. [3] Perhaps they met as early as then.

The DNA tests and their DNA matches available today do not allow us to point to a specific member of the Strain family, but do tell us that a Strain is probably the mother of Alpheus Adams. This is certainly not a satisfying end to our story.

There is no birth certificate or even a smoking gun in this story. After a long, four-year journey, we are left to theorize.

Our story now jumps from non-fiction to fiction, but grounded in all we have learned over the past four years. Again, there is no smoking gun.

Theory A

Rev. Thomas Hurlburt, upon learning of the approval of his request for relocation to the United States, contacts Rev. John Bradley Finley in early 1844. His correspondence provides news of the Canadian church, and the health of Rev. Ezra Adams and Rev. William Case. He also:

  • requests a copy of Finley’s book History of the Wyandott Mission at Upper Sandusky, Ohio, published in 1840, in order to learn of Finley’s experiences,
  • requests travel assistance for the Adams group,
  • and seeks a face-to-face meeting on the way south to learn more of the imminent split of the MEC in the United States, as Thomas would depart assigned to the MEC, but soon find himself in the MEC, South.

The side excursion to Zanesville, Ohio, is a short diversion on their journey from Ontario, to Missouri. It is clearly on the way.

The group is comprised of Rev. Thomas Hurlburt and his wife Elizabeth Adams, Henry Proctor Adams, and William Case Adams.

A child is born in early 1845, the Strain mother may or may not have died soon after, and Alpheus is sent to Canada to live with the Adams family. During his childhood, he is raised by his aunt Maria Jane Adams, and his uncle William Case Adams, living a distance away in Toronto, is perhaps viewed as a father figure. So Alpheus lists them as his parents when he marries.

Theory B

This is Theory A with a twist.

The divide within the MEC over slavery began decades before the 1844 General Conference. Four years earlier at the prior General Conference, the matter of then Rev. Andrew, later Bishop Andrew, had been considered, but he was not expelled. The split is expected, perhaps even planned, in the resolutions brought forward regarding slavery in 1844.

The Adams group travels from Ontario to New York, to observe the General Conference, on their way to Missouri. They are there for up to six weeks before traveling on to Missouri. Members of the extended family of Rev. James Bradley Finley also accompany him to New York.

Hopefully our journey to find Alpheus’ mother will inform future research into and appreciation for Alpheus’ family. We were not able to share the larger story of the times in which they lived. The who, when, and place, with a little DNA sprinkled in, has consumed seven posts.

There are a large number of records, histories, biographies and autobiographies concerning the circuit riders of the Methodist Episcopal Church. They enlighten us about life on the frontier of two vast countries as the wilderness closes in the mid-1800’s. And remind us of their struggles with major issues of the time—the interactions between settlers and Native Americans, and slavery in the United States. We did not anticipate this aspect of our four-year journey, but have been greatly enriched by it.

We reached our destination, but failed to meet Alpheus’ mother.

And yet, we did manage to meet her Strain family, and learn they fought side-by-side with our Knight branch to found a new nation. It has been a wonderful, surprising journey.

We have added several books to our Read More … page. Hopefully, you are inspired to read about our family’s circuit riders: Rev. Ezra Adams, Rev. Thomas Hurlburt, and Rev. James Bradley Finley.

Meanwhile, we will begin to plan another journey.


We have no evidence, record or otherwise, indicating Alpheus knew Henry Proctor Adams. It is interesting though that Henry removes from Grey County, Ontario, Canada, in 1880, to Bruce, Cavalier County, North Dakota, at about the same time that Alpheus and his wife Ellen Jane Hannah, along with many of the Hannah family, remove to Hannah, Cavalier County, North Dakota. Clearly, before Alpheus’ death, the family knows of his two half-brothers, siblings of Henry Proctor Adams.

Henry removing to Cavalier County, North Dakota, in 1880, first pointed us to the family of Rev. Ezra Adams, and began this journey.

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] “Rev. James B. Finley,”
[2] Journals of the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Volume II, 1840, 1844 (New York: Carlton & Phillips, 1856).
[3] Rev. James B. Finley, Life Among the Indians; Or, Personal Reminiscences and Historical Incidents Illustrative of Indian Life and Character (Cincinnati: Methodist Book Concern, 1860).