Hiram A. McAdams

Jennie Robbins - Alice Rebecca Williamson

Newsletter - April 2000

First Reunion of the 21st Century - April 30, 2000
Hosted by the Ruth McAdams Cole (1906-1991) family

Ruth ColeThe annual Hiram A. McAdams family reunion will be held on Sunday, April 30, 2000 at the McAdams Reunion Grounds on FM 1696, west of Huntsville. The family of Ruth McAdams Cole will host this year’s festivities

Ruth McAdams was the 12th and youngest child of Hiram A. McAdams. She was born on July 12, 1906 in the community of McAdams, near the present reunion grounds. Her mother was Hiram’s second wife, Alice Rebecca Williamson. Ruth died in 1991.

The McAdams family has been enjoying reunions since 1935, and tradition dictates that the family of one of Hiram’s children will host the reunion each year. The host duties pass down from child to child, oldest to youngest, so each family gets a crack at the host duties once every 11 years. (One of Hiram’s children, John Robin, did not survive to adulthood.)

Please make plans to attend this most unique gathering. We are, indeed, blessed to be included in this great Texas family. Come to the reunion early and stay late. Enjoy the type of fellowship and family you will find nowhere else in the world.

Historical Setting of a Large Family
From the Madisonville Meteor, fall, 1936.

On April 21, 1836, while the guns of San Jacinto boomed their way to victory, groups of volunteers from "the states" picked their way through the wood and over unmarked trails to assist Texas in her battle for freedom. In one of these picturesque processions, eager to join forces with Sam Houston, a personal friend of his father back in Tennessee, rode John McAdams, Jr. He arrived at the San Jacinto battleground too late to participate in the battle, but he remained in Texas, made his home and reared a family. Almost 100 years later, on September 8, 1935, at his old homestead in Walker County, a family reunion was held to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of one of his sons, Hiram McAdams, and the first birthday of one of his great-great-granddaughters, Carol McAdams, both of Bedias, in Grimes County.

John McAdams, Jr.On April 21, 1836, while the guns of San Jacinto boomed their way to victory, groups of volunteers from "the states" picked their way through the wood and over unmarked trails to assist Texas in her battle for freedom. In one of these picturesque processions, eager to join forces with Sam Houston, a personal friend of his father back in Tennessee, rode John McAdams, Jr. He arrived at the San Jacinto battleground too late to participate in the battle, but he remained in Texas, made his home and reared a family. Almost 100 years later, on September 8, 1935, at his old homestead in Walker County, a family reunion was held to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of one of his sons, Hiram McAdams, and the first birthday of one of his great-great-granddaughters, Carol McAdams, both of Bedias, in Grimes County.

At this family gathering-the largest ever held in either Walker or Grimes County-more than 250 McAdams signed the register. A check-up showed there were 439 living and 94 dead, direct descendants of this eager young volunteer to the cause of Texas' liberty in 1836.
John Jr., was born in 1815, the son of a Methodist minister, Rev. John McAdams, Sr., in Tennessee, but he lived the greater part of his life in Texas.

In 1828-1829, the Tennessee newspapers bore glowing accounts of this "Spanish country-Texas" and letters told of there being no ministers in this vast territory, John, Sr., who "knew the Bible form memory" decided to move to Texas.

About the middle of February, 1830, after long months of travel by ox wagon, Rev. John McAdams, Sr. with his wife, daughters and sons, including John, Jr. located in Shelby municipality, Department of Nacogdoches.

Shelby municipality, at that time, contained all the land which now is Shelby, Harrison, Marion, Upshur and Panola counties. And across the Sabine, more desperately, destructive than the stealthily creeping Indians, dwelt the cut-throats from the "the neutral ground," between Mexico and the United States.

John, Jr. returned to Tennessee in 1833, where he remained until he heard the tidings of the Texas Revolution; then, riding hard, with other volunteers, he arrived again, anxious to do his bit. What the family of John, Sr., suffered during those years has come down to posterity only in sketchy tales.

Among the closest neighbors was a family named White. Isolated, huddled together for protection against the hostile Indians on the one hand and the unscrupulous inhabitants of "the neutral ground' on the other, the White and McAdams families carried on the duties of their everyday lives.

To Hester White , who had heard her friends, the McAdams girls, speak of "Brother John," this young man, returning from San Jacinto, was nothing short of a conquering hero, and in 1838 the two were married.

Late one night a group of cattle rustlers from "the neutral ground" across the Sabine raided the town. Barricading themselves in their cabins, the Whites and McAdamses sought to save their lives. When the battle cleared, Joe and Jim were found mortally wounded; also all the hogs, geese, mules, chickens, horses — practically all of their worldly possessions — had been stolen. Hastily burying their brave boys, the two families packed their remaining possessions, drove a yoke of oxen up from the woods, and made their way toward "the old San Antonio Road."

Seeking Sam Houston, they settled n 1838, in what now is Walker County. John, Sr., and his family settled at what is known today as the Rube Allphin place on Roark Prairie. Years later, when he and his wife died, they were buried in the little grove of trees in the old field nearby.

In 1844, so the deed records of Walker County show, John McAdams, Jr., and wife Hester White McAdams, purchased 1042 acres of land from Daniel Guerrant and Green Spillers and their wives. They built their home just to the east of the gate, near where the McAdams Cemetery is now located.

To John, Jr., and Hester were born five children: Jane, Bill, John, Jim, and Hiram. Their door was always open to all who might pass by. Hester's health was not at all good and one lovely Sunday afternoon, walking with her husband in the woods, she remarked: 'John, when I die, I want to be buried under this hickory tree." At her death, in 1849, John remembered her wishes, placed her body under the towering boughs of the large hickory tree. That lone grave was the beginning of the McAdams Cemetery, in which nearly 100 of Hester's descendants rest today. In early days, when the graveyard included only members of the immediate family, the McAdams' slaves were also placed in the quiet of the trees in a little corner set aside for them by their "Marster John."

The five small children needed a mother's care, so their grandparents, John, Sr., and his wife, came from their home on Roark Prairie and remained with them until November 14, 1849, when John, Jr. married Miss Frankie Bankhead. They built a large double log house from seasoned hand-sawed logs, where they spent the remainder of their lives. To them were born Frances, Hester, George, Carrie, Docia, Tom and Mattie. This house, later stripped with lumber, is in use today.

In this home prosperity reigned, visitors came and went. Sam Houston built his home at Huntsville, about 16 miles away. Many nights he spent under their roof.

To 29 orphan children, John Jr., gave a home, in addition to his own. Anxious that these children should receive an education, he donated the lumber to build a school. For the construction of another school, about a half mile from Liberty Springs, he gave materials. At one time he owned 10,000 acres of land and 2000 head of cattle.

He owned a number of slaves whose services he needed to work his cotton and corn, to hoe potatoes and drive his cattle, hogs and horses.

At the McAdams reunion, held at the old homestead, descendants of the McAdams' slaves took part in the program, singing spirituals.

Rev. Leonard Bankhead of Goose Creek paid tribute to Hiram McAdams in his address for the counsel and advice always obtained when needed.

First and Second McAdams Reunions (1935 - 1936)
The following is a summary of a newspaper account of the first McAdams reunion as reported in the Huntsville Item - 1935.

Reunion Held For McAdams Relatives

Several hundred people gathered at the old John R. McAdams home Sunday and under large oak trees near the home held a celebration of this ancestor and also observed the ninetieth birthday of Hiram McAdams, oldest living member of the family. The log house, which is still occupied, is built of logs 87 years old. More than two hundred and fifty of the family signed the guest book. Several descendants of slaves on the McAdams homestead were present and had a part in the festivities. The home stands thirteen miles west of Huntsville on the Bedias road.

About ten thirty in the morning, after the crowd had arrived, Ted and Marie Yates, great grandchildren of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Wood, gave a vocal solo with piano accompaniment and Edwin Anders, son of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Anders, sang "An Old Spanish Custom," playing his own accompaniment on the guitar. A reading, most appropriate for the setting, "Woodsman Spare That Tree," was given by Bob McAdams. Jack Langley, son of Era McAdams Langley, read a toast written by Jud Mortimer Lewis to Mr. McAdams for this occasion. It was entitled "Your Ninetieth Birthday." The bounteous repast was spread at noon on long tables and served buffet style. A large four-tier twenty-pound birthday cake with ninety candles and holders was in the center of the table.

The following is a summary of a newspaper account of the second McAdams reunion. as reported in the Huntsville Item.

McAdams Family in Mammoth Reunion

McAdams, Guerrants, Bankheads and their kin from all over Texas gathered at the Josey Scout Lodge in Huntsville Sunday for the second annual reunion of the McAdams. Guerrants and Bankheads are related to the McAdams family by marriage and were guests at the reunion. The high point of the ceremonies for the day was at noon when Mrs. Mattie McAdams Roberts, celebrating her sixty-fifth birthday, cut a huge birthday cake with a sword used by her great-great uncle, Hiram McAdams, in the American Revolution. Dedicating the meeting to the four remaining daughters of John McAdams: Mrs. Caroline McAdams Wilson, Mrs. Theodocia McAdams Wilson, Mrs. Margaret McAdams Barron and Mrs. Mattie McAdams Roberts, some five hundred joined the all day celebration.

At a short business session, the assembly decided to buy five acres near the old McAdams cemetery, 14 miles from Huntsville, where the reunion will be held from now on. The McAdams', Guerrants and Bankheads are among the oldest families in Texas. In 1834, these families settled in Walker County, and from the original families there have sprung some of the most noted and highly honored men and women of Texas. The older families have married and intermarried until they are kin in some way or other to almost everybody in the county.

Kelly Edgar McAdams (1903 - 1999)
Kelly Edgar McAdams died on December 15, 1999 in Austin, Texas. Kelly was the son of Hiram Edgar and Mary Jenkinson McAdams and the grandson of Hiram A. and Jennie Robbins McAdams. The following is a portion of the obituary that appeared in the Austin American-Statesman, December 17, 1999:

Kelly Edgar McAdams, 96, a resident of Austin since 1936, died Wednesday, December 15, 1999.

Born on September 23, 1903, in Walker County, Texas, Mr. McAdams was the son of Hiram Edgar McAdams and Mary D. Jenkinson McAdams. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Sam Houston State University in 1930 and a Master of Science degree from Texas A&M University in 1932; afterwards he undertook post graduate study at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He taught vocational agriculture in high schools in Texas for ten years before moving to Austin and entering the contracting and construction business in 1936.

In 1987, both Mr. and Mrs. McAdams became residents of Westminster Manor, in Austin. Joined by his wife, Mr. McAdams donated the Longwood Plantation mansion in Mississippi to the Pilgrimage Garden Club of Natchez. Because of their efforts, “Longwood” was named a National Historic Landmark in 1971. Other major charitable gifts include the McAdams Tennis Center, the McAdams Baseball Scholarship, and the McAdams Journalism Scholarship at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. In addition, Mr. McAdams built the McAdams Bicentennial Chapel and restored a 19th century log cabin, both of which he and his wife donated to the McAdams Cemetery Association at the family reunion grounds and cemetery near Huntsville.

In 1985, together with his wife, he wrote the book, The McAdams Family of Walker County, Texas, which they donated to the McAdams Cemetery Association.
Mr. McAdams’ family were early settlers of Walker County, Texas. His ancestor, John McAdams, Jr. settled in Walker County in 1836 at the community known as “McAdams,” near the present McAdams Cemetery complex northwest of Huntsville. In 1849, upon the death of John McAdams Jr.’s wife, Hester, the McAdams Cemetery was established with her grave being placed beneath the shade of the huge hickory tree. Mr. McAdams is preceded in death by his beloved wife of 64 years, his parents, and two brothers, G.B. McAdams and John Gayle McAdams.

He is survived by his three children and their spouses: Kelly R. and Nancy Reeves McAdams of Austin, Ralph W. and Martha McAdams Vertrees of Austin, Dr. Herbert O. and Billye McAdams Muecke of Huntsville; five grandchildren and their spouses; as well as four great-grandchildren. Mr. McAdams is also survived by two sisters, one brother and their spouses: Robbie Lee McAdams Hughes of Huntsville, Floyd and Margaret McAdams McDonald of Houston, Robert Franklin and Lois McAdams of Grants Pass, Oregon, and sister-in-law, Wanda McAdams of Winnie Texas; many nieces, nephews, cousins and a host of friends.

Dorothy McAdams Sparks (1929 - 2000)
Dorothy McAdams Sparks died on February 8, 2000. Dorothy was the daughter of Horace A. and Nevada Stuart McAdams and the granddaughter of Hiram A. and Alice Williamson McAdams. The following is the obituary that appeared in the Huntsville Item, February 10, 2000

Dorothy Sue Sparks, 70, of Markham, died February 8, 2000 at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Wharton. She was born August 19, 1929 in Huntsville, TX to the late Horace and Nevada Stuart McAdams. Mrs. Sparks was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Bay City, a resident of Markham since 1949, and a member of the D.A.R.

She was a graduate of Sam Houston State Teacher’s College. The day after her college graduation she married Ray Sparks and moved to Markham where she taught at Tidehaven High School. After seeing her three children through college she and her husband traveled throughout Europe. She also discovered a love for tennis and spent many hours with her friends on the courts. She was a loving wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, and friend.

Survivors include: husband of 50 years, Ray Sparks of Markham; daughters and sons-in-law: Cindy and Jerry Zemanek of Grapevine, Kim and Odie Milner of Bay City; son and daughter-in-law: Steve and Laura Sparks of LaGrange; grandchildren: Kelsey Zemanek of College Station, Haley Zemanek of Grapevine, Brian and Leslie Sparks of LaGrange, Kyle Milner of Austin, Korey and Kaitlyn Milner of Bay City; sisters: Ruth Ralston of Longview and Dr. Marilyn Sibley and her husband, Dale of Huntsville. Her memory will live in the hearts of many.

Funeral services will be 10:00 A.M. at the First United Methodist Church, Bay City, with Rev. Tom Crowe officiating. Graveside services will be 4:00 P.M. at McAdams Cemetery in Bedias, TX. Pallbearers will be her nephews: Senator David Sibley, Dr. Stuart Sibley, Dr. Mark Sibley, Bobby Ralston, Tim Ralston, and Bob Dorn. Honorary Pallbearers will be Tom Albee, Billy Mack Williams, Cliff Gaspard, Jesse Baker, and the Friendship Class of First United Methodist Church of Bay City. Visitation was Wednesday, from 7:00 to 8:00 P.M. at Taylor Bros. Funeral Home, Bay City, TX.

Methodist Bull
This “True Story of Methodist Bull” was written by Opal McAdams Samuel in 1940 and given to her father, James Washington McAdams who was a nephew of our Hiram McAdams. The story is presented exactly as written.

Two cover pages were included with the original hand-printed story. The first page says, “To Papa, with love, Opal, December 25, 1940.” The second cover page dedicates the story to the grandchildren of J. W. McAdams (Doyle Frederick McAdams, Jr., Peggy Ann McKay, Bob Samuel, Jr., D’Ann McAdams, and Kay McAdams.)

The story of Methodist Bull is a favorite one in the McAdams family. It has been told and retold and is a story will live on. I will give the episode as it was passed on to me by my great aunts and uncles and my father, J. W. McAdams who became familiar with the story in childhood.

We will go back to the year 1850 and find John McAdams, Jr. a very progressive citizen in the McAdams community. He felt the need of better horses for his family and friends, so he rode horseback to Louisiana to purchase a fine breeding horse. Nothing would do but the best, so after much thought and study, a year old colt was selected. John led the colt home on horseback, taking plenty of time not to exert his prize. John McAdams, like his father, was a minister and very proud of his religious denomination, so he called the colt, “Methodist Bull.” This fiery colt was descended from a fine racing breed. He was kept near the home where John himself could see that he had the very best of care. The colt became very fond of his kind master and would neigh with joy when he saw him coming. He would trot up to John to be patted and stroked

After a few months had passed, it was time for Methodist Bull to start training, for his master realized that he had great possibilities as a race horse. Daniel Boone Guerrant, John’s friend and brother-in-law, was a great lover of horses and quite an experienced trainer of race horses, so he was given complete charge of training Methodist Bull for racing. The horse liked his new master at once. Dan Guerrant spent most of his time working with Methodist Bull. It was not long before he did everything by schedule. By-and-by, Methodist Bull was allowed to run races with other horses, and he always won. When the race was over, the horse would run to Daniel to receive his usual reward, a handful of sugar. Many times Dan used his small son, Dick, who was five years of age, as a jockey. The child was strapped to the horse and rode in many of Methodist Bull’s earlier races.

After winning many races, John McAdams and Dan Guerrant built a race track and called it “Stable Prairie”, a name it bears today. A very comfortable stable was built here for Methodist Bull. Other stables were built so that racehorses brought in for matches might be boarded. The final race was run at “Race Track Prairie”, now owned by J. W. McAdams, grandson of John McAdams, Jr. This was a natural level prairie a little over one quarter mile long and approximately two hundred yards wide, with large oak trees on both sides of the prairie. After each race, a man would ride a horse dragging a large wash pot turned upside down to smooth the path of the racing horses. Race track Prairie is one half mile west of Highway 75 with the south side bordering on the north bank of South Bedias Creek. A night watchman was kept with Methodist Bull and Dan worked him during the day.

After a time, Methodist Bull made a name for himself and good race horses from far and near were brought to race with him. He was a determined animal and won his races. People began to have great confidence in Methodist Bull’s ability to run and put their money up. John McAdams did not believe in betting, but Dan did and made a lot of money in that way. It was agreeable for Daniel to have all the money he made on Methodist Bull if he cared to bet. He was quite proud of the horse and the record he had made. On several different occasions, John McAdams was offered two thousand dollars for Methodist Bull, but he told his friends that he would not sell him for five thousand dollars, and he meant just that.

When Methodist bull had raced several years, Dan Guerrant started carrying him back to Tennessee and Kentucky, where he had lived as a boy and had many friends and relatives. Here Methodist Bull was entered in large races, always coming out victorious. After these trips, Daniel returned home with his saddlebags filled with money. Soon Methodist Bull’s record became known throughout the South. He had always won his race and was a famous horse, so it became a difficult matter to match his races. Dan Guerrant realized this fact with sadness in his heart. At last it seemed impossible to go on making money with Methodist Bull.

A race horse manager in Kentucky became aware of the situation and took advantage of Dan Guerrant’s adversity. He proposed to bring one of his best horses to “Stable Prairie” where a race would be arranged with Methodist Bull. This horse should be allowed to win so the public would think that Methodist Bull was not the racer he once was. In this way it would be possible to race Methodist bull and money could be made again as before. At first it seemed a cruel thing to Daniel Guerrant, but funds were getting low so he finally yielded to the plan. The jockey was tipped to hold Methodist Bull back, allowing the other horse to win. John McAdams was kept ignorant of the sham race.

The tragic day arrived with people from far and near to see the race. A gun fired – the race had started! Methodist Bull was being held back! The audience was tense. It was only too evident to the crowd. “Methodist Bull is being held back,” became a shout from the excited spectators. Guns fired. Some of the men grabbed their guns in agitation and shot at the jockey, missing their aim. Such an unsportly thing to be done – the crowd was wild with rage.

Methodist Bull tried and fought with all his might to overcome the jockey’s strength, but to no avail. The race was over. For the first time in his life, Methodist Bull was beaten by only a margin. The crowd was stunned – more than a race had been lost. In a sense, Methodist Bull’s life ended with that race. His spirit was broken. He ran to Dan Guerrant, but instead of wanting his reward, he tried viciously to paw him. He was like a mad thing. Finally, they managed to get him in his stable where he was left pawing, snorting, and blowing. Mr. Baldwin, the jockey who held Methodist Bull back, causing him to loose the race, was slipped out of the country, never to return.

The experience of the afternoon was almost more than John McAdams could bear. He knew in an instant what had happened, and his heart was heavy. He would not have had thin thing happen to Methodist Bull for all the money he had. It has been told that for three days and nights John did not eat or sleep. He spent most of his time pacing the floor and would talk to no one. It was impossible for friends to realize the storm and tumult that took place in the mind and heart of John McAdams.

John sent for Methodist Bull and kept him at home in a stable he had especially built for him. He continued to be a good friend to Daniel Guerrant, but he never allowed him to run Methodist Bull again. The horse was given the best attention and was kept locked in his stable except when taken out for exercise. He was used for breeding purposes only.

One night John McAdams was aroused from sleep to see the stable that Methodist Bull occupied on fire. The leaping flames soon covered the stable. Several of the men got there in time to prize some logs loose. Methodist Bull came out through a hole that was said to be almost an impossibility. He ran like a crazed animal so that the barking dogs following him were soon lost. For four days men searched for Methodist bull and finally found him sick and exhausted. He was taken home where he seemed to be completely broken in spirit as will as in body. He grieved more and more and in a few days death came to him.

Methodist Bull played an important part in making pioneer life in the early days more interesting. He lives in the memory of many pioneer descendants as the story of his life is still a fire-side favorite.

Opal McAdams Samuel
December 25, 1940