Category Archives: John Adams Loyalist

John Adams, Loyalist of Fairfield, CT and New Brunswick, Canada

NOTE: Recommended Reads will be back next week.

While Recommended Reads is on hiatus, I will be sharing some digitized resources  that I have written through the years and will also share a couple of  books that have been invaluable to me along my genealogical journey.

The last article I would like to share with you is one I put together in the 1990’s, outlining some of the thousands of descendants of Loyalist John Adams who left his home, friends and family in Fairfield County, Connecticut during the American Revolution and sailed to Canada at the close of the war.

John Adams was born about 1740 and died after 1818, possibly on Adams Island, West Isles, New Brunswick, Canada. He married Sarah Coley, daughter of Jonathan Coley and Lucy Sturges, on 31 August 1765 at Weston, Fairfield, Connecticut.

John and Sarah were apparently the parents of about ten children:

1. Jonathan, born 1766, who married Grace Rideout.
2. Hannah, born c1768; died before 1851 census; married William Segee.
3. John, born c1771; married Elizabeth (MNU).
4. Daniel, born c1772; married Sarah Ives.
5. Edward, at Lincoln, Sunbury, NB in 1818; nothing else known.
6. Sturges, born 1777, CT; married Lydia Brawn.
7. William, listed in Martha Barto’s book, Passamaquoddy; nothing else known.
8. David, granted 100 acres in Sunbury County in August 1839, Lot 1, Susowasis Brook. In 1842, David and sister Hannah sold land in Lincoln (part of grant to Wilmot).
9. Thomas, born 1783, New Brunswick; married Sarah Brawn.
10. James, married Elizabeth Moffatt.

John’s descendants today live both in Canada, primarily New Brunswick, and in the United States.

When I compiled this family history, I actually brought it down to about the year 2000. However, for privacy’s sake, I created an abridged version of the family history, covering four generations. The youngest descendants in this version were born right around 1900.

As always, I love to hear from distant cousins, so if you find your Adams people in this article, please contact me.


Loyalist John Adams

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.

Vernon Tarbox Adams, 1899-1968

One of the reason I first became interested in my family history was because of my mother’s maiden name – Adams – and the fact that my grandparents lived in Massachusetts. Family lore was that we were not directly descended from Presidents John and John Quincy Adams, but that we were part of that Adams family. As I researched the Adams name, I found that the presidential lines were from Henry Adams of Braintree, MA, but who arrived in Boston about 1632 or 1633.

I realized that my grandparents were both born in Calais, Washington County, Maine, directly across from New Brunswick, Canada. However, that didn’t deter me at all since I knew that many early Maine settlers hailed from Massachusetts and Maine was a district of Massachusetts from 1647 until statehood in 1820.

What did deter me, though, was discovering all the New Brunswick family roots that my Adams family had and learning about the Loyalists of the American Revolution. It turns out that my Adams family was descended from Edward Adams of Milford, CT about 1640 and, more recently, from Loyalist John Adams and his wife, Sarah Coley, of Fairfield County, CT. In the fall of 1783, they joined other Loyalist families on ships sailing from New York to Canada.

I don’t think my grandfather was aware of any Loyalist ties – I didn’t start working on the family history until about a decade after he died – and my grandmother was unaware of family history beyond his grandparents.

Vernon Tarbox Adams, my grandfather, was born on 3 May 1899 in Calais, ME to Charles Adams and his wife, Annie Maude Stuart.

Vernon was an only child and seemed to have had a typical upbringing for a young boy living in Calais. Much of Calais life revolved around the sea.

His grandfather and great grandfather were boat builders and fishermen. His father walked a different path, working in the local shoe factory. Mother Annie was ahead of her time, as she had her own store where fine ladies’ goods were sold. I have a photo of her in her store, which I love, not only because Annie is in the photo, but because of the sign posted in the store: “Please do not ask for credit.” Annie is the lady behind the counter, dressed in the dark clothes. Vernon likely was put to work helping out stocking the shelves when he was old enough.

Vernon attended Calais Academy, later renamed Calais High School, and that is likely where he met my grandmother, Hazel Ethel Coleman, who would have been two years behind him, being born in 1901. She lived down the road a bit in the area known as Red Beach. Her father, Hartwell Coleman, was a master mariner so the families may also have known each other through their jobs on the ocean.

By September 1918, Vernon was working for the Boston Western Union in Massachusetts. However, his World War I draft registration card gives his permanent address as the family home at 29 Calais Avenue, Calais, ME.

My grandmother told me a tidbit about my grandfather that was very interesting and I decided to try to verify the information. She said that he went to Harvard University, but didn’t graduate. I promptly wrote off to Harvard, probably about 1979 or 1980 when I first started working on the family history. I received a very nice reply back from the Harvard registrar’s office, stating that no one by the name of Vernon Tarbox Adams had ever been enrolled there. Hmmm. My grandmother was a sharp lady and other family information that she shared with me had pretty much been proven. So where did this story come from about Harvard?

On October 7, 1918, Vernon enlisted in the U.S. Navy.  One month later, the war ended with Germany’s surrender.

I found a listing for Maine Military Men on Ancestry. Vernon served at the Naval Training Unit at. . . .  (yes) Harvard University in Cambridge, MA until 11 Nov 1918 and remained on inactive duty at Harvard until 7 Dec 1918. Hazel was right all along – Vernon did “go” to Harvard, but he didn’t graduate!

Vernon and Hazel married back in Calais on 19 July 1920. I never heard my grandmother call my grandfather by his given name. He was always “Ducky,” but I never asked her where the nickname came from.

My grandfather had a long career with Western Union and the family moved up and down the East Coast. My Aunt Barbara was born in Malden, MA, my mother Doris was born in Calais and my Aunt Carole was born in Portland, ME. Aunt Barbara and my mother both graduated from high school in New Jersey in the 1940’s. After that, Vernon was transferred back to Massachusetts, where he and Hazel lived out their lives.

Vernon retired from the Western Union as a district manager in 1964. I was too young to attend the retirement party, but my brother, my two cousins and I all received a souvenir – a shiny new Kennedy half dollar, which I was told was given to my grandfather by Ted Kennedy.

Vernon and Hazel enjoyed retirement times for several years, taking several cruises to get out of the New England winters. In October 1968, my mother received a phone call from her mother. She said Vernon had had a stroke in September and was now hospitalized because he was declining more and more. Doctors didn’t know why. Fifty years to the day from his naval discharge, on 7 Dec 1968, Vernon died at Faulkner Hospital in Boston.

My grandmother felt something was very wrong with the initial diagnosis of stroke and requested an autopsy. When the results came back, there was a new diagnosis – Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a degenerative neurological disorder that is incurable and fatal. It was so rare at the time (only three diagnosed cases in the 20th century)  that U.S. Navy doctors came to interview Hazel about Vernon’s symptoms and and decline from the onset until his death only three months later. Today, CJD is more commonly known as Mad Cow Disease.