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William Emery Adams
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Birth: May 13, 1854
Berrien County
Michigan, USA
Death: Jun. 16, 1934
Lawrence County
South Dakota, USA

~William E Adams was just 22 years old when he and his brother, James, arrived in Deadwood in 1877. Over the next six decades W E Adams served his city as businessman, banker, politician and civic leader. He became one of Deadwood's most important benefactors whose name remains visible in Deadwood even today.
~Perhaps his most important legacy is the Sherman Street museum that bears his name. He established the Adams Memorial Hall Museum in 1930, and then donated it to the city of Deadwood. He wanted a place to preserve the fast-disappearing history of the city's gold rush heritage and serve as a memorial to his wife and daughters.
~In addition, he built the Adams Block, a building at 629 Main Street, which opened in 1880. He later built the four-story Adams Block on Sherman Street, beginning in 1894. He also established several city parks, erected watering troughs for horses, provided American flags for schools and churches and backed the construction of the Mount Roosevelt Memorial. He was also responsible for laying the first brick streets in Deadwood.
~"During his residence of more than one half-century in Deadwood, deceased (Adams) had unshakable faith in the future of the city and was a leader in all movements having for their purpose the growth and betterment of the community," Adams' 1934 obituary noted.
~He was born in Bertrand, Michigan, on May 13, 1854, the fifth of nine children born to James and Sarah Ann Adams. His family moved to Fairbault, Minnesota, where he and his siblings were raised.
~In 1877, W E Adams left his job with American Express in Minneapolis and headed West. He and his brother joined the Major Whitehead Expedition to the Black Hills. W E staked a mining claim. James bought a restaurant and built the Banner Grocery Store on Lower Main Street. Before long, W E joined his brother in the grocery business.
~They lost their store in the 1879 Deadwood fire, and rebuilt the business at 629 Main Street. They continued as prosperous partners until 1889, when James sold his interest to W E and moved to California. W E continued to expand the business.
~Through several additions, his new Sherman Street Adams Block became a four-story warehouse building stretching from 51 Sherman to 61 Sherman. It has its own water-powered elevator and access to the nearby Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. In 1901, he became a wholesaler, establishing Adams Brothers Wholesale Grocery and the Pioneer Fruit Company.
~Adams married Alice May Burnham on December 22, 1880. They had two daughters. Lucile was born in 1884, and Helen was born in 1892. Both daughters married and moved away, and W E and Alice divided their time between Deadwood and Pasadena, California. Lucile died from typhoid fever in Michigan in 1912.
~Adams served again as Deadwood mayor from 1920 to 1924, and during that time he and his wife purchased the elegant mansion at 22 Van Buren Street. Today, the restored Adams House is open to the public and remains a popular stop for visitors to the city.
~However, in June 1925 W E Adams' life took a tragic turn. Alice, who was in California for the birth of their first grandchild, succumbed to cancer on June 6. Daughter Helen, distraught over her mother's death, went into early labor and died the following day. The baby, named Helen, lived only a few hours.
~A despondent widower, Adams went about his life for the next year. However, on a train trip between South Dakota and California, he met a young widow named Mary Mastrovich Vicich. She had grown up in Lead, moved to California at age 16, married young, and at 19 lost her husband to influenza.
~After a lengthy courtship, the two were married in 1927 at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Los Angeles. W E was 73; Mary was 29. During their seven years together, the couple divided their time between homes in Pasadena, Palm Springs, California, and Deadwood. Mary Adams encouraged her husband to build the Adams Memorial Hall Museum as a memorial to his first wife and daughters.
~On June 7, 1934, W E Adams suffered a stroke during a board meeting of the First National Bank. He died nine days later at age 80.
~After his death, Mary Adams continued to give generously to a number of causes in the Lead-Deadwood area. Before she died in 1993, she created the Adams-Mastrovich Foundation, which continues to donate to arts, education and religious causes in South Dakota and California.

William Emery (W E) Adams was born in Bertrand, Michigan, on May 13, 1854. His parents, who were farmers, moved to Faribault, Minnesota, where Adams and his siblings were raised. By 1877, W E was working in Minneapolis for the American Express Company. Following the death of his mother, Sarah, in March of that year, W E and his older brother, James, departed with Major Whitehead's Expedition to the Black Hills. Arriving in Deadwood in late April 1877, James Adams purchased the Palace Restaurant, while W E went prospecting, locating a claim in Saw-Pit Gulch. In the summer of 1877, James acquired a lot on the lower west side of Main Street and established the Banner Grocery Store. Later that year, his brother W E became a partner. The Banner Grocery did a booming business until September 1879 when fire destroyed the business district. The Black Hills Daily Times noted that the Adams brothers lost a total of $2,000.

 Undaunted by their losses, the Adams brothers rebounded from the fire by constructing a new store at 629 Main Street, on the corner of Wall and Main Streets in 1880. In addition to building a new business, W E Adams was also in the process of erecting his own home on Forest Hill, a residential area on the hill above Main Street. Adams proposed to a young woman from nearby Fountain City, and on December 22, 1880, he and Alice May Burnham were married. 

James and W E Adams continued to expand their business together until 1889. That year, James decided to move to California and sold his interest in the store to W E. By 1894, W E Adams moved the business to Sherman Street. He initially built a two-story building and then expanded the structure over the following fifteen years to the four-story Adams Block that survives today. Located at 51-55 Sherman Street, the brick structure included a modern elevator run by waterpower. By 1901, W E Adams discontinued his retail business in order to fully embrace the wholesale grocery trade, founding the Adams Brothers Wholesale Grocery Company and the Pioneer Fruit Company. The business benefited greatly from the close proximity of the Adams Block to the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. 

In addition to being a successful businessman, W E Adams was a devoted family man. He and his wife, Alice, had two daughters: Lucile, born on November 24, 1884 and Helen, born on May 13, 1892. Lucile married banker Frank Stratton in 1909. They moved to Detroit where she died from typhoid fever three years later and was interred at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood. Helen married developer Irving Benton in 1915 and lived in Pasadena, California. 

With strong family ties in California, W E and Alice built a beautiful mansion in Pasadena in 1917. At the time, Adams invested in citrus groves while also continuing to grow his wholesale business in Deadwood. 

W E Adams was also civic-minded.  He served as mayor of Deadwood from 1906 until 1914 after taking a two-year hiatus.  He ran against Nathan Franklin in 1916 only to lose the race.  Adams stayed out of Deadwood politics for a time. However, while visiting his home in California in 1920, Adams learned he was nominated for mayor. Upon hearing the news, Adams wrote that "If the people of Deadwood want me again as mayor, I am willing to serve them to the best of my ability under the following conditions..." He went on to outline the things he wanted to accomplish for the city: sane enforcement of the laws, paving of all the streets, a more efficient way of disposing of garbage and ashes. He ended his letter by saying, "If I serve, I must have the support of the citizens of Deadwood. A square deal for them and a square deal for me." The April city election was every bit as contentious as the race in 1916. Incumbent Mayor H S Vincent ran a tough race and both parties worked hard to get voters to the polls. As the vote was tallied, it was revealed that W E Adams won the election by 81 votes. Adams ended up serving two consecutive terms as Deadwood's mayor from 1920 until 1924.

 In addition to agreeing to run for mayor in 1920, the 66 year-old businessman decided to buy Deadwood's elegant mansion at 22 Van Buren Street from his former political rival Nathan Franklin. There is no written documentation to suggest why Adams wanted to buy the home. Perhaps he felt that his position as mayor and as a wealthy entrepreneur dictated that he live in Deadwood's finest home. Regardless of his motives, he and his wife Alice moved down the mountain from the couples' second home at 65 Taylor Avenue to the grander one at 22 Van Buren Street. 

Five years later W E and Alice learned that they were to be grandparents for the first time. Unfortunately, this welcome news was soon followed by Alice's distressing diagnosis of cancer. In the month of June 1925, W E Adams faced multiple tragedies. Alice, who was in California for the birth of the grandchild, died on June 6. A distraught Helen went into early labor and died the following day. Her baby, also named Helen, lived only a few hours. Within a period of 48 hours, W E Adams had lost his entire family. He laid them to rest at Mountain View Cemetery in Pasadena. His daughter, Lucile, was moved from Mount Moriah Cemetery to the family's mausoleum in Pasadena. 

With all of his hopes, dreams, and loves laid to rest in California, Adams returned to a silent and empty home in Deadwood where he wrote the following passage in his late wife's Bible: 
"I, W E Adams, who married Alice May Burnham, December 22, 1880, had hoped we would both live to celebrate our 50th anniversary, and now, after 45 years of married life, find myself deprived of my loving wife and both of my dear daughters. I feel like one forsaken and do not see ahead of me in this world much, if any, happiness. I do hope I shall have the physical and moral strength to follow the teachings of my dear mother, who passed from this earth in 1877 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and when I join my wife and daughters in the great unknown, I hope none may say with truth I did not keep the faith, for their memory is very dear to me."

 Grief-stricken, Adams wondered if he would ever find happiness again. One year later he did when he met Mary Mastrovich Vicich while riding on a train traveling from California to South Dakota. Mary was a young widow originally from Lead. She was making her annual trip to South Dakota to see her mother when she found herself assigned to the same seat as Mr Adams' valet. Greatly perturbed by the error, Mary ended up taking another seat. In a 1974 interview published in the Lead Daily Call, Mary remembered how she soon found herself "looking up at this very distinguished, saged [sic] gentleman, dressed in the best fashion of the day." Adams and she spent the remainder of the trip visiting. When the train reached the station in Pluma, between Deadwood and Lead, he invited her to dinner and she declined. Mary remarked, "Well, I had no intention of doing such a thing, in fact, I thought him to be a syruper [sic]." 

Adams, however, was not easily deterred. When he discovered that Mary did not have a telephone, he began sending her notes encouraging her to stop by his store. In late September, Mary finally relented and agreed to have dinner with him. The dinner led to a whirlwind romance. Adams began a love letter writing campaign and sent bouquet after bouquet of long-stemmed red roses to her home in California. 

The Adams-Vicich courtship was a bit like a game of cat and mouse, with Mary eventually allowing herself to be caught. The Adams name, his wealth and status in the community were surely attractive to Mary. However, there were equally difficult matters, such as the fact that Adams was Protestant (Episcopalian) and she was Roman Catholic; he was 73 and she was only 29; he helped build the town of Deadwood while she was raised in the rival town of Lead; and he was rich and she was not. In an early letter to Mary in which Adams addressed the gossip circulating between the two communities, he wrote: "Well, I hope the people are getting some pleasure out of all this excitement. At least Lead and Deadwood should now bury their differences don't you think?" After many letters and much pleading on Adams' part, Mary agreed to the marriage. She and W E Adams were married in the rectory of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Los Angeles, California on June 30, 1927. 

While the May-December courtship did cause tongues to wag and eyebrows to raise in some circles, the couple ignored the gossip. They seemed content to entertain guests at their elegant homes in Deadwood, Pasadena and Palm Springs while working together on charitable causes, including the building of a museum in Deadwood. 

During the same year that W E and Mary wed, five members of the Deadwood Businessmen's Club met to discuss the possibility of establishing a historical museum for the preservation of documents and artifacts that reflected Deadwood's history. Cognizant of the Club's interest, Mary encouraged Adams to build a museum not only to preserve Black Hills' history but also as a memorial to his deceased first wife and children. Thus, W E Adams became an ardent supporter and financier of a museum for Deadwood. 

An official announcement to build a museum was made in the form of a design contest. Prominent architects from South Dakota and several surrounding states participated, but the winning drawing was produced by a local man, R L Ewing. Soon after the plans were accepted and the cost estimates provided, the American stock market collapsed, sending the nation into the Great Depression. Building a museum at this time was a rare and decidedly risky venture. By the same token, the building of the Adams Museum must have been a sign of hope to the citizens of the Black Hills, with one of Deadwood's leading businessmen investing in the future of the community by protecting its past. 

Adams had initially planned to donate $35,000 for the construction, but as expenses mounted even before ground breaking, he instead wrote a check for $50,000 to get the building started. When all was said and done, Adams donated a total of $75,000 to complete the building. The Adams Memorial Hall Museum was dedicated on October 4, 1930. In the program for the opening ceremonies, Adams wrote: "To my friends- to my neighbors- and in memory of the dear ones who have graced my fireside I offer this as a token of my love for the Black Hills." 

Mary Adams described the seven years that she and W E had together as happy, and she grew to love and respect him. However, on June 7, 1934, W E Adams suffered a stroke while attending a board meeting at First National Bank. He was taken to his home at 22 Van Buren Street where he died on June 16, 1934 at the age of 80. His body lay in state at the Adams Memorial Hall Museum before being transported to the Adams Mausoleum in California. At the time of his death, Adams' estate was the largest ever to go through probate in South Dakota. 

Mary Adams was well provided for when W E died. He left her $40, 000 in securities, the Deadwood house and his automobiles. However, following Adams' death, Mary closed up the house on Van Buren Street, and would never permanently reside there again.  In 1937, Mary wed Dr William E Balmat, a dentist from Rapid City, South Dakota. The marriage can only be described as acrimonious and short-lived. After an argument, Balmat abandoned Mary in 1938. Thirty years later, the destitute retired dentist sued her for spousal support. The judge ruled against Balmat and granted Mary a divorce.

 During her years alone, Mary Adams often traveled abroad. Although she made her permanent home in Los Angeles, California, she visited Deadwood every year to maintain her South Dakota residency. Instead of staying in her home at 22 Van Buren, Mary chose to stay at the Franklin Hotel. She did little to alter the home after closing it and delighted in giving friends and family tours of the house. In addition, Mary invested a portion of her inheritance to establish a trust fund. The Adams-Mastrovich Family Foundation continues to offer major support for many organizations in the Northern Black Hills, including Deadwood's Adams Museum, Historic Adams House and Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center. Considered by some to be a shrewd businesswoman, Mary was one of the early investors in IBM and the Walt Disney Company. 

In 1987, the elderly Mary Adams returned to Deadwood to sell her home to Bruce and Rebecca Crosswait of Rapid City, South Dakota. Soon after, Mary suffered a stroke in California. She was cared for at the Marycrest Manor Skilled Nursing Home in Culver City, California until her death on June 4, 1993 at the age of 95. Mary is buried in the Adams Mausoleum at Mountain View Cemetery in Pasadena.

W E ADAMS erected a monument, at Mount Moriah, Deadwood, South Dakota which includes his first wife, two daughters and only grandchild.

W E Adams was born 13 May 1854 in Bertrand, Michigan;
raised in Faribault [County] Minnesota;
1877 - working in Minneapolis;
then went West with older brother, James.

1860> Minnesota> Steele> Orion
James W Adams, 50y b.DE, occ: Farmer
Sarah, 45y b.DE
Helen, 13y b.MI
?Hester (f), 10y b.MI
William, 7y b.MI
Foster (m), 2y b.MN

1870> Minnesota> Rice> Wells Twp
James W Adams, 60y b.DE, occ: Farmer
Sarah, 54y b.DE
John W, 32y b.MI, occ: Farm labor
Martha, 15y bMI
Foster D, 11y b.MN
Hattie, 3y b.MN

Where is William, 17y?

Possibly - 1870> Illinois> Kendall> Lisbon
Wm Adams, 17y b.MI, occ: Clerk in store
with A B and Ellen Blatt

1880, James W not found; Sarah d.March 1877

1880> Dakota Territory> Lawrence> Deadwood
h> James Adams, 38y b.MI, occ: Grocer
w> Sarah M, 37y b.MA
d> Bertha J, 13y b.MN
s> Robert, 6y b.MN

1880> Dakota Territory> Lawrence> Deadwood
h> J H Adams, 39y b.MI, occ: Grocer
w> Sarah, 39y b.MA
s> Robert, 6y b.MN
d> Bertha, 13y b.MN
brother> W E, 26y b.MI, occ: Grocer

1900, 1910, and 1920 W E is listed on the memorial page with (first) wife, Alice; and/or daughters, Lucile and Helen living in Deadwood, Lawrence County, South Dakota.

1930> SD> Lawrence> 4-WD> Image 13
h> William E Adams, 75y b.MI, occ: Merchant/Wholesale
w> Mary A, 32y b.SD
residence: 22 Van Buren Street, Deadwood
[Mary is William's second wife]
Family links: 
  Alice May Burnham Adams (1860 - 1925)
  Mary Ann Mastrovich Adams (1898 - 1993)
  Lucile Sarah Adams Stratton (1884 - 1912)*
  Helen Adams Benton (1892 - 1925)*
*Calculated relationship
Mountain View Cemetery and Mausoleum
Los Angeles County
California, USA
Plot: Adams Mausoleum, Eages View Section, Lot 1804
Maintained by: SMG
Originally Created by: Shiver
Record added: Jan 04, 2004
Find A Grave Memorial# 8243337
William Emery Adams
Added by: SMG
William Emery Adams
Added by: SMG
William Emery Adams
Added by: A.J. Marik
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- Kathye Snyder-Knight
 Added: Dec. 9, 2014
Rest in Peace.
 Added: Mar. 9, 2010
- quebecoise
 Added: Sep. 12, 2006

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