The other day I wrote about my grandfather, Vernon Tarbox Adams. Through him, I am a descendant of six patriots and six Loyalists from the American Revolution. Many families had divided loyalties at that time, but in my case, the families were quite united in their strong beliefs. So how did I end up with six and six? Loyalist John Adams’ great grandson, Calvin Segee Adams, married Nellie Tarbox, whose family lines were strictly patriot.
Vernon’s line from his father back: Charles E. Adams, Calvin Segee Adams, Daniel Adams, Thomas Adams and Loyalist John Adams.
Loyalist John has hundreds, if not thousands, of descendants. Many have worked on this family for at least 125 years. Much is known about his children, their lives in Canada and Maine, and families into which they married.
Since my interest in family history began with this family, I have researched this line off and on for 35 years. Very early on, I was in mail contact with descendants of several branches of the family and I eventually compiled a forty page history of the family.
In spite of all the information gleaned in the 19th century, no one had come up with the name of John’s wife or parents for him. I began looking at the earliest clues, particularly the U.S. census records. Records had been found for ten children attributed to John and his unknown wife.
John’s service to the Crown was noted in military records:
There is a muster roll of Lt. Col. Beverly Robinson’s Company, Loyal American Regiment, of Fort McGowan’s Pass dated 27 September 1781 (Sheet #22) that shows Place #8 – Private John Adams, Place #9 – Private Jacob Segge and Place #18 – Private Joseph Segge.8 John’s daughter Hannah married William Segee, so this John Adams is most likely Loyalist John of Deer and Adams Islands in New Brunswick, Canada.
A couple of miscellaneous pieces of information about John were found that include a statement that he settled in Gagetown after leaving St. John and that, at the outbreak of the war, he was in New York and enrolled a company of men. He supposedly received a warrant for a Captain’s commission, but the company was not assigned a place in the regiment under Lord Cornwallis’s command as had been promised, so he refused command and served as a clerk.
Given that John’s eldest child, Jonathan, was born in 1766, and that New England men of that era typically married around the age of 25, I assumed that John was probably born about 1740 and married about 1765. He was living as late as 1818, when he is mentioned as “occupying” land on Adams Island in a New Brunswick land deed filed concerning T. Farrell and D. Butler. Several vital records found for his grandchildren indicate Adams Island as their birthplace so the family lived there for at least a couple of generations.
There were no hints as to John’s wife’s name in any of the few records found nor where there clues as to his original home in the colonies, except for the fact that the military record was from Fort McGowan’s Pass, an area that today is incorporated into the northern section of Central Park in New York City.
I read unsubstantiated information that John and his son, Jonathan, served in the Commissary General’s Office in New Jersey.
It looked like the tri-state area of NJ-NY-CT might have been home to the Adams family before the Revolutionary War.
A cousin, Alice Adams Koch, was descended from John’s son, Sturges Adams. Sturges died in 1827 in Calais, ME, but his children reported in U.S. censuses that their father was born in Connecticut. Alice also told me a bit of family lore that I don’t think anyone ever tried to follow up. She said Sturges was named for his grandmother’s family! Now that was a good clue if information about some born in 1777 and passed along 203 years later was reliable.
Soon after that, I was at the Los Angeles Family History Center and headed to the New England section in the book stacks. There I found Donald Lines Jacobus’s massive work, History and Genealogy of the Families of Old Fairfield. Fairfield County, Connecticut borders New York state and, even in colonial days, New York City was not all that far away if one lived near the border.
I learned several things that day from reading the Jacobus book. First, there were many Tories and outright Loyalists living in Fairfield County. Then, as today, it is a well-to-do area and it is easy to imagine that those well off might be less inclined to oppose the British Crown. Second, there were divided opinions about independence among members of the same families. Third, among the many families chronicled in the volumes were the names Adams AND Sturges.
Needless to say, I delved into the book. The records of the Fairfield area are spotty, due to frequent attacks by the British during the Revolution, but there are also some very complete church and court records. One of the first things I found was a marriage record for:
John Adams and Sarah Coley, 31 Aug 1765 at Weston
So far, this looked like an excellent prospect since the date fit well with the birth of Jonathan sometime in 1766. I couldn’t find a birth record or parents for John Adams so I looked for Sarah Coley’s family. I found a birth record for Sarah on 8 June 1743. Her parents were Jonathan Coley and Lucy STURGES! I was doing the genealogy happy dance at that point. Assuming that these were the parents of Sturges Adams, born in Connecticut in 1777, this gave Sturges a grandmother who was a Sturges by birth. Family lore was right on in this case.
Over the next few months, I pieced together more of the Adams and Coley story. Preponderance of evidence points to David Adams and Susannah Lockwood being the parents of Loyalist John. Susannah died when John was probably under the age of six and his father remarried to Sarah Squire.
John and Sarah only had one daughter, Hannah. Neither Jonathan nor Hannah are found as family names in the Adams line. However, Sarah’s father being Jonathan indicates that their first born child was named for her father. Hannah was their second child; Sarah had four sisters, but the one closest in age to her was Hannah. The pieces continued to fit.
There are several mentions of Lockwood, Adams and Coley contemporaries of John in Jacobus’s book as being suspected of or being charged with Tory tendencies, adding to the very strong preponderance of evidence that Loyalist John was from Weston, Fairfield County, Connecticut.
Lastly, and perhaps most important, there are absolutely no records found in Fairfield County for John and Sarah Coley Adams after the close of the war.
John and Sarah passed away before the invention of photography, but I am the very lucky owner of two very old photos. The first is of their son, Thomas, my 4x great grandfather, and his wife, Sarah Brawn, taken about the 1840’s based on their clothing. Sarah was alive for the 1851 Canadian census; Thomas died in 1859 in Calais, Maine and is found in the 1860 mortality schedule.