Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Of Wagons, Indians and Gold

Years ago, when I first discovered genealogy message boards and RootsWeb, I was in touch with a wonderful McAdams family researcher. We shared information in the old fashioned way – snail mail. Through her I became aware of other McAdams researchers.
Recently one of those other McAdams researchers emailed me, Alan McAdams. I'd read articles he wrote in the now defunct McAdams Family Newsletter and knew what a wonderful researcher he was. We share a common ancestor – my 5th great-grandfather Thomas McAdams (d. abt. 1813, Washington County, TN). While my family remained in Tennessee, his boarded flatboats and headed west, settling in Missouri. We've been emailing, exchanging information – actually he's been sharing and I've been oohing and aahing.
With Alan's permission I am sharing one of his McAdams stories. We seem to share a soft spot for our reverse orphan kinfolk.

Of Wagons, Indians and Gold
Or……When Life leaves you With Just an Old Buffalo Robe………..
James W. McAdams,  1836-1891

When I was growing up and we made trips to Tarkio’s Home Cemetery, my father would give us little history lessons detailing those buried on the “Home 40”.  Our beloved were interred in two different plots, each with 10 grave spots.  One plot, Dad referred to as the Wood Lots; these were purchased by Dad’s maternal grandfather, Francis Marion Wood.   The other plot was called the McAdams Lots, and was purchased by his paternal grandfather, William Montgomery, “Gum” McAdams.   Dad would give us a bit of history about each of the occupants, and then told us that he was aware of one grave that was not marked.  He did not know who was in it.  He said his uncles may have told him at one time, but he could not remember what they told him.
Years later, my oldest brother, Charles Miles McAdams “Bud” entered the genealogy field.  I went with him to the funeral home once, and we asked to see their records.  The mystery person was identified!  He was listed as “Mr. McAdams”. 
A few years later, Bud found a newspaper article from a March, 1891 edition of the Tarkio Avalanche.  Paraphrased, it went like this.  W.M. McAdams sent his eldest son, Tom to St. Joseph yesterday with a team to pick up the body of Mr. McAdams’ brother.  The brother will be interred in Tarkio until his relatives can pick him up.  This was done before copy machines, etc., so Bud only has his own transcription.  I tried some time ago to access this newspaper, but the newspaper told me these papers had been sent to the state archives for microfilming.  I’ve still not been able to find it in either location.  
When I entered genealogy, I solved some more of the puzzle.  I found a biographical sketch for Gum’s brother, Robert T. McAdams, a banker in Peru, NE.  In a family listing, Robert mentioned brother James Madison McAdams.  James was born in Tennessee, went to Colorado in 1849, to Montana in 1866, engaged in gold mining and in failing health, returned to die at the Ensworth Hospital in St. Joseph, MO.  With this information, my brother Bud, bought a temporary marker to put where we now knew James to be.  Hope we can find a way to fund a permanent marker eventually.
James was born in Washington County, TN. On 8 June, 1836 to William S. McAdams & Eleanor McNeal McAdams.  He had Brothers, James McNeal, Robert Thompson, and William Montgomery “Gum”, my g-grandfather.  Also a sister, Anna Eliza. The father, as well as having endeavors in farming and cabinetmaking, was also engaged in the flatboat trade with his brother Thomas, brother-in-law John McNeal and others.  He died in 1842, leaving his wife with five young children to what must have been a hardscrabble existence.  In 1853, these flatboat men loaded up their families and left East Tennessee for Sonora Missouri. Eleanor and her children, now teenagers, went along.  The McNeal history book says that Eleanor had property on the Southwest corner of Watson, MO.  According to land records I’ve found, that acreage was in Robert’s name.  The boys and Anna Eliza all eventually married, except for the subject of this sketch, James.  As far as I’ve determined, he remained a bachelor all of his life.  Can’t figure out the reference to “his folks” in the article Bud cited. 
Later on, I found a court document in Nemaha County, NE, Probate Court wherein Gum McAdams filed a claim for losses suffered to the late James M. McAdams under the Indian Deprivations Act of 1891. He detailed how James was an owner or part owner of a train of mule teams that was attacked by Indians in Western Nebraska and suffered losses claimed to be nearly $ 8,000 dollars.  Can’t find that anything ever came from this petition. 
The story is continued here.


  1. To be continued, I hate that (as I stamp my feet). Enjoyed the dialog and was following along nicely until your last three words. Posting tomorrow, I hope.

  2. Ooh, I love reverse orphans - and this is a good mystery! Can't wait to read more.

  3. Pleeeease do not tell me James only had his buffalo robe to his name when he died...

    I want to read the rest of it.

  4. Wonder what he had in that wagon worth $8,000 back in those days. A very exciting story and I want photos of the back 40 graves with the next installment.

  5. I,too, wonder what the $8000 load was.

    I just love the way genealogists take fragments and make stories - and this is a great one! Thanks for sharing.


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