Crawford County Farmer Was Great-Grandson of President by Alan Borer
Being the son or grandson of a president of the United States can be a double-edged sword. In our time, we have seen the son of a president take the White House for his own. But being a presidential relative is no guarantee of success in politics, business, or anything else. It depends of course on how you define success. A modest descendant of a president may have a very satisfying life.
Our second President, John Adams (1735-1826), had an impressive resume: Lawyer, diplomat, signer of the Declaration of Independence, Vice President, President, and inveterate correspondent. He had five children. Among his descendants are presidents, legislators, diplomats, and in one case, a farmer in northwest Ohio. This is part of his story.
Eli Adams (1803-1888) was born in Massachusetts near Boston, but grew up in Cayuga County, New York. In 1814, his father Ephraim Adams relocated the family to Ohio, settling first on the Huron River near Sandusky, then in Seneca County. When his father died in 1820, Eli worked for wages on local farms. He revisited family in New York, the returned to Ohio and settled in Crawford County’s Texas Township, buying an 80 acre farm. Texas Township is just east of the Seneca County line.
Adams married a local girl, Mary Andrews, in 1827. They built a log cabin, and, like many pioneers, had to scrounge for their living, hunting squirrels and getting milk from the cow each brought to the marriage. One day, two Indians surprised Eli while he was hoeing his corn patch. The Indians got very close before Eli saw them and, startled, he ran for cover, which “seriously amused” the Indians.
Eli and Mary had eight children. Mrs. Adams died in 1875; by then the couple had retired to Bloomville in Seneca County. Eli died in 1888, living his last years in the hamlet of Sulphur Springs with his son, S. E. When his funeral procession wound its way back toward Bloomville and passed Bucyrus, the local newspapers covered the story.
A few lines of writing by Eli Adams survive in a letter he wrote regarding, of all things, sheep. In 1851, Adams wrote to a neighbor on whose sheep he was checking:
I have seen your sheep this morning & salted them your sheep is doing very well all but the lambs . . . I have had the second trip to see your Sheep to day … Mr Tucker some of your lambs look bad they must have good care or they won’t live …-- I have been looking Around to day for pasture and find non[e]
We are not sure of Eli Adams’s relationship with the owner of the sheep. There was only one man named Tucker in the Census of 1840 in Crawford County, an Ephraim Hubbard Tucker. He lived in the neighboring village of Sycamore, within shouting distance of Texas Township. If Ephraim Tucker was owner of a flock of sheep, he may have asked Eli Adams to check on them, or possibly hired him to do so.
That brief letter, and a few obituaries announcing his relationship with John Adams, are about all the paper trail Eli Adams left behind. He is buried in Bloomville’s Woodlawn Cemetery, far from the grave of his presidential ancestor. John Adams helped found the nation. Eli Adams knew how to look after sheep. Eli Adams was 23 years old when John died in 1826. I don’t know if they ever met. Would they have had much to talk about? Probably. John Adams had “the heart of a farmer,” made his own compost, and retired to a farm called “Peacefield,” where he carefully directed the crops and plantings. Irascible as he often was, John and Eli Adams had some things in common.
[Beside the letter, quotations also came from History of Crawford County and Ohio (Chicago, 1881, and Corliss Knapp Engle, “John Adams, Farmer and Gardener,” Arnoldia 61, pp. 9-14.)