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Below is a family biography included in Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Pulaski County, Arkansas published by Goodspeed Publishing Company in 1889.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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Maj. John D. Adams, of Little Rock, stands out in striking characteristics as a son of the Southwest, distinguished for business talent and integrity of purpose. He was born in Dixon County, Tenn., June 23, 1827. His father, Hon. Samuel Adams, who was a native of Halifax County, Va., and born in 1805, afterward became a State senator, president of the senate, and, for a time, Governor of the State of Arkansas. In 1824 he married Miss Rebecca May, a native of Dixon County, Tenn., born in 1807, and a daughter of John W. May, who served as the captain of a company under Gen. Jackson, and was wounded in the battle of New Orleaus. In the spring of 1835 they emigrated to Johnson County, Ark., where the mother died in 1840. The father continued to reside in Johnson County until 1846, when he was elected treasurer of the State of Arkansas, and removed to Little Rock, where he made his home until the time of his death, the sad event occurring in February, 1850. To their union were born five sons and one daughter, of whom but two, the subject of this sketch (who is also the eldest of the family) and Martha Izabella (now the wife of Dr. D. S. Mills, of Pine Bluff, Ark.) are living. John D. Adams was reared a farmer boy in Johnson County, Ark. His father being a man of superior abilities gave his children the advantages of a practical education, considering this one of the best legacies to leave them, and trained his children in the school of virtue and industry. In 1846, when but a lad of eighteen years of age, John D. Adams volunteered for the Mexican War, joining Company C, commanded by Capt. George W. Patrick, in Yell’s mounted regiment, and at the expiration of his term of enlistment was honorably discharged at Comargo, on the Rio Grande. His captain, in speaking of him, says: “John D. Adams was a noble boy, a gallant soldier, and as true and noble a young man as I ever knew. He was my orderly sergeant, and was so faithful, so competent, and so clever to all that every man in the company loved him. In the battle of Buena Vista he was struck on the arm by a ball that did not penetrate his thick coat sleeve, but so bruised the flesh as to make a painful wound, the flesh sloughing and leaving a large permanent scar. In Memphis, twenty-two years later, on my return from California, I again met him and requested to see the wounded arm. He drew off his coat, rolled up his sleeve, and there I saw the scar as large and distinct as it was on his first recovery; and I found more, that prosperity and distinction had not changed the heart of my young friend. He is not only a noble, true and splendid business man, but a wise one—a useful man in every sense of the word.” Such a tribute from his old neighbor and commander, thirty-five years after their military service, coming, too, from one not unknown to fame, and of varied public service, is one of which any man may justly feel proud. Maj. Adams was private secretary to Gov. Thomas S. Drew from 1847 to the end of his term in 1850, and this worthy old Arkansan always spoke in terms of highest praise of Maj. Adams as a man of noble, generous heart, open-hearted and sympathizing, and as useful a man as ever did business in Arkansas. But in writing a biography of Maj. Adams we could not do better or state the case more accurately than by giving the eulogy paid him by his intimate friend, Gen. Albert Pike, who says: “I have known John D. Adams from his boyhood. He served a year in a regiment of Col. Archibald Yell on the march to and in Mexico, being at the battle of Buena Vista, and returning to Arkansas when his term of enlistment expired. There, as has always been the case, he was liked by every one for his unvarying good-humor, his readiness to do a favor, and his unstinted generosity. Afterward he was for many years a merchant in Little Rock, dealing in general merchandise. He married and built a house at Little Rock, where he resided for a period of several years before the war broke out between the States. Not successful as a merchant, he engaged in steam-boating, owner by himself, and in partnership with Thompson Dean, of Cincinnati, during many years, of boats running on the Arkansas River and from Memphis to Little Rock, and Fort Smith and New Orleans, in which he displayed large business capacity, promptness and decision in action, great enterprise, courage and perseverance in surmounting obstacles and overcoming difficulties. When the State of Arkansas seceded, an attempt was made in the convention to confiscate the interests of Mr. Dean in their boats running on the Arkansas River, but the influence and popularity of Mr. Adams defeated the attempt. The march of events put an end to his steamboat enterprises, but he had in the meantime become a planter of cotton, and continued to be so during the war. His personal attention to this being only occasionally needed, he entered the service of the Confederate States and was chief quarter master under Gens. Hindman and Holmes, with the rank of major, continuing in service until the close of the war, and proving himself to be an active, energetic, spirited and faithful officer. Such was his faith in the cause and his devotion to it, that almost at its close he invested the proceeds of his cotton in bonds in the Confederate States; but when the cause was lost and he ruined by it, he accepted the result with unflinching courage and indomitable good-humor. After the war he established the commission house of Dean, Adams & Goff, at New Orleans, making advances on and selling cotton, and again established a line of boats from Memphis to Little Rock and Fort Smith. Since then he has been fiscal agent of the State of Arkansas, proprietor of the Arkansas Gazette, and a large contractor for many years for carrying mails. Meeting with reverses at different periods, he has always recovered from them quietly. He now devotes himself chiefly to his business of mail contractor, managing his steam boat interests and cotton planting. He is prosperous, fortunate in his family, owning a beautiful residence in Little Rock and dispensing a lavish hospitality, always foremost in the support of all measures and enterprises for the benefit of his city or State, with ever open hand and ever generous heart. One sees at a glance, by his erect, portly figure, frank, open countenance and hearty laugh, that he is one who does not permit the cares and vexations of life to harass and annoy him. Few men have displayed such resources as he under difficulties and embarrassments. His perfect integrity, honesty, truth and honor, have always been his best friends and enabled him to arise to his feet when prostrated by misfortune, under the pressure of which others would have remained prostrate for life. His intellect is clear and alert, always enabling him to say and do that which is most to the purpose, and surest to lead to success.’’ During his residence here, Maj. Adams has done as much as any other citizen toward the advancement of Arkansas, but being of a modest, unassuming disposition, he has shunned rather than sought public office. A descendant of those sturdy northern races of England, Scotland and Ireland, he has inherited all the traits of character and sterling integrity, the attributes of those people. He is in every respect a self-made man, having begun at the bottom of the ladder and climbed steadily upward. At times, beset by adversity which threatened to hurl him to the bottom of the chasm, his indomitable will which refused to bow to adverse circumstances has carried him safely through. There is no greater pleasure in life than to look back over a past usefully employed, and be able to trace our progress in such tokens as awaken nought but admiration and esteem. Such enjoyment is afforded in its fullest measure to Maj. Adams, and his eminently successful career in life is a wholesome example to the youth of the rising generation, for it shows how certain he who, crying “Excelsior,” and pressing manfully forward, will surely reap the reward. Maj. Adams was united in marriage with Miss Catherine Yeiser, a daughter of Dr. Daniel Yeiser, of Danville, Ky., and born in March, 1828. They were married at Little Rock, the beautiful wedding service of the Episcopal Church being performed May 2, 1848. The results of this union have been four sons and one daughter, of whom but two still survive, as follows: Samuel B. Adams (member of the firm of Adams & Boyle, of Little Rock) and Dean Adams (secretary and manager of the Pulaski Gas Light Company, and the Little Rock Electric Light Company). Maj. Adams and his estimable wife, as is also their son, Samuel, are respected members of the Episcopal Church, in which Maj. Adams and his son officiate as vestrymen, and of which organization Samuel is treasurer. They now reside in Little Rock, where they have a pleasant home, surrounded by the comforts of life, and enjoy in the sunset of their age the fruits of their early labors. In closing, Gen. Pike says: “He is withal a true and generous friend, a most kind and genial man of right royal nature, large hearted and forgiving, in nothing bigoted or narrow or vain glorious. The State of Arkansas may well feel proud of him, and it will be a sad day for many when his kindly, generous heart shall cease to beat.”

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This family biography is one of 156 biographies included in Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Pulaski County, Arkansas published in 1889.  For the complete description, click here: Pulaski County, Arkansas History, Genealogy, and Maps

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