Civil War Union Army Surgeon. Assistant Surgeon, 116th Indiana Volunteer Infantry.
MARCELLUS MARTIN ADAMS, M. D.
The subject of this review is one whose memory links in an indissoluble chain the trend of events from the early pioneer period of history of this section of the state to the latter day epoch, when peace, prosperity and progress crown the end of one and the beginning of another century. This personal and ancestral identification with the formative period of the commonwealth of Indiana would alone authorize a review of his life in this connection, but, superadded to this, there are circumstances which render such indulgence practically imperative if this publication is to be consistent with itself and fulfill the purpose for which intended. Ever since his birth, sixty-seven years ago, Dr. Adams has retained his residence in Hancock county, is known throughout the length and breadth of the same, not only as one of its most eminent professional men, but as an enterprising citizen, conspicuously identified with the promotion and furtherance of all measures which have concerned the progress and material prosperity of this highly favored section. He has carried on a work which, though of personal concern, has been of great value to the community and from the beginning of his career his life has been one of signal usefulness and exalted honor. To him then should be rendered a due tribute of respect in this volume, whose purpose is to accord consideration to the men who have been and are representative in the affairs of the city of Greenfield and the county of Hancock.
A native of Indiana, Dr. Adams is an honorable representative of one of the old pioneer families of the county of Hancock which figured conspicuously in the affairs of this part of the state prior to the year 1830. His grandfather, Moses Adams, a native of North Carolina, married Mrs. Sarah Munson and settled in Scott county, Kentucky, where he died. His widow came to Hancock county in 1832 and died May 29 of the year following. Among his children was Isaac Adams, the Doctor's father, whose birth occurred in Scott county, Kentucky on the 13th of August, 1799. He came to Indiana as early as 1826, settling in Hancock county on the 26th of October of that year, and entered a tract of land, though he lived on rented land and was compelled to give up the tract he had entered by reason of inability through sickness to meet the last payment when due. It was while thus disabled, that another man, learning of the circumstances, went to the land office, paid what was still due and by a base procedure such as was considered highly dishonorable among the pioneers, obtained a deed to the land and compelled Mr. Adams and family to remove to other parts.
Isaac Adams was a cooper by trade, to which he added that of making shoes for the early pioneers of his neighborhood. He was also skilled in woodcraft and as an expert huntsman, kept his table well supplied with the choicest of game for a number of years after settling in the woods. He became a man of considerable local prominence and influence, assisted to project and construct roads through the country, built bridges and mills, and although dying poor in this world's goods, left to his descendants an unspotted reputation which they dearly prize. He married, in Scott county, Kentucky, Nancy Polk, who was born there on the 9th day of August, 1796, the daughter of Ephraim and Rhoda Polk, natives of Delaware.
Isaac and Nancy Adams reared eleven children, of whom the subject of this sketch was the last born. The oldest was James, whose birth occurred January 15, 1820. He grew to manhood in Indiana, became a physician and practiced his profession for many years in the county of Shelby, dying there on the 20th day of September, 1894. Amanda, the second, was born March 17, 1821, married John White and made her home in Wabash, this state; she died some years ago while on a visit to a relative in Rush county; Edward P., born August 21, 1822, was a farmer of Rush county, where he passed the greater part of his life, dying November 18, 1899; Mary , who was born November 26, 1823, became the wife of Dr. J. M. Ely in June, 1847, and departed this life in the county of Hancock on the 26th of October, 1897; Hester, whose birth occurred January 1, 1825, married Allen McMichael and died in Polk county, Iowa, in the year 1892; Malinda Ann was born April 26, 1826, and passed into the other life on March 26 of the year following; David, born May 26, 1829, died on the 21st day of January, 1845; Rhoda A., who became the wife of John H. Hufford, was born February 19, 1831, and died in Hancock county January 5, 1845; Sarah J. was born April 10, 1832, and married Thomas A. Gant, who death occurred October 21, 1882, though she is still living at Greenfield; one child died in infancy. Isaac Adams died October 7, 1851, his wife preceded him, death occurring March 11, 1850.
The Doctor's maternal grandfather, Ephraim Polk, married in 1792, Rhoda Morris, who was born October 27, 1773, and whose death occurred October 23, 1839. Mr. Polk died March 24, 1814, a short time after joining the army under Gen. Andrew Jackson for the defense of New Orleans. Mrs. Polk was the daughter of Daniel Morris, a relative of Robert Morris, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and moved with her husband to Kentucky in 1793.
Dr. Marcellus Martin Adams, the direct subject of the sketch, was born in Hancock County, Indiana, on the 12th day of November, 1834. He first saw the light of day in a small log cabin of the most primitive pattern and passed his youthful years upon his father's different places in Rush, Shelby and Hancock counties. It is needless to say that he earnestly became familiar with the manifold details which entered into the reclamation and cultivation of a pioneer farm, and this formative period of his life had a decided influence upon his entire subsequent career, since he then learned the value of consecutive endeavor and to appreciate the sturdy independence which is invariably begotten under such circumstances and environments. His initial scholastic discipline was received, when quite young, in the old-time log school house under the instruction of a pedagogue whose tenure appeared to have depended more upon his physical strength than upon his mental ability to impart knowledge. The Doctor retains many vivid recollections of this "master, " who, in his general make-up, much resembled the "Mr. Squeers" as described by Dickens, save that the former had two eyes and stammered in his speech. The Doctor, being the youngest and smallest pupil in school, was exempt from much of the severe punishment which the older boys almost daily received and he recalls the fact that he was afraid of growing larger for fear of the punishment which he was led to believe constituted such an important part of every urchin's education. He continued his efforts under such discouraging conditions until he had acquired a fair knowledge of the branches which were then studied and later, in the winter of 1854-55, attended a seminary at Rushville, where he studied some of the higher branches.
In the winter of 1855-56 the Doctor taught school at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, whither he went the preceding summer, and received for his services liberal wages for that time. He saved his money with the strictest economy, intending to buy land. The better to carry out this purpose, he entrusted his savings to a man whose judgment in the matter of lands he thought good and in whose honesty and integrity he placed the utmost confidence. Like many other credulous person, he soon became cognizant of the fact that experience is an exceedingly dear school, for his trusted friend appropriated the money to his own use and then decamped, leaving young Adams a great deal wiser, if much poorer.
Years before, while attending school and boarding with his brother-in-law, Dr. Ely, young Adams would smuggle the latter's medical books and pore over them hour by hour when on one was watching him, and the still small hours of the morning found him many a time deeply immersed in the pages of some abstruse author. When discovered he suffered the consequence of this surreptitious procedure, but, animated by a determination to become a doctor, he continued his reading as opportunity would admit until he obtained a reliable knowledge of many of the great underlying principles of the medical profession.
Subsequently he was permitted to enter Dr. Ely's office as a student, and for two years he prosecuted his studies with great assiduity, leaving nothing within his power undone to extend the area of his knowledge, at the same time gaining much practical experience by accompanying the Doctor in the latter's rounds among patients. The time thus spent was fruitful and July 1, 1858, he was deemed sufficiently advanced in professional lore to begin the practice, which he did by opening an office in Henry county. After practicing there for one year with gratifying results Dr. Adams located at Freeport, Shelby county, where he remained until the breaking out of the great rebellion, meantime acting as postmaster of the town.
In 1862 he tendered his services to the government, enlisting in August in Company I, Third Indiana Cavalry. On reaching Indianapolis he was given charge of the barrack in camp containing the recruits, and so methodically and creditably did he discharge the duties thus imposed upon him, including the medical care of the sick, that his name was brought to the favorable notice of the superior officers. In September, 1863, he was made assistant surgeon of the One Hundred and Sixteenth Indiana Regiment and during the six months following accompanied his command through east Tennessee, his attention to duty eliciting the warmest praise from his superiors. The regiment being ordered home, he was left in charge of the sick of the brigade and was soon ordered to bring home as many as were able to travel. He started with thirty-four men and one hundred and thirty-nine horses and four mules, but without bridles or saddles. It was one hundred and fourteen miles to Camp Nelson, Kentucky, requiring a week's travel. The roads were almost impassible and the horses being worn out, the road was lined with dead or disabled horses and mules. It was estimated that there were carcasses enough to have bridged the road to Knoxville. In 1864 Mr. Adams was sent to Cumberland Hospital, Nashville, by the Indiana Sanitary Commission and for a period of two months had charge of two wards in that institution, during which time he treated hundreds of critical cases, besides performing many skillful and delicate surgical operations.
On the 1st day of February, 1865, Dr. Adams opened an office in Greenfield and here he has since prospered professionally and financially, growing into the love and confidence of the people until his name is now a familiar one to every man, woman and child within Hancock county. In point of continuous service he is the oldest practitioner in the county and as far as success is concerned it may be modestly stated that no physician in this part of the state has achieved greater distinction. The Doctor combines with a thorough knowledge of his profession the qualities of the ideal family physician and thirty-five years have made him acquainted with nearly every household in the country where his presence is ever hailed as the precursor of life and hope. While old in the practice, he is mentally as strong and vigorous as when in his physical prime, and his success abundantly proves that he has kept pace with this most exacting age in all matters of modern medical research.
If the Doctor has any one characteristic more striking than another, it is the exceedingly methodical way in which he prosecutes his profession and attends to his private affairs. Method is stamped upon everything he does and to this alone may be attributed much of his success. Not only is he deeply read in the standard works of his profession, but his acquaintance with the best literature of all countries and all times is both general and profound. He has accumulated a large and valuable library, including many rare and curious volumes, and there he spends his leisure time in close personal converse with the ablest minds of all ages. Noted as a bibliographer, he has also devoted much attention to various curios, having a fine cabinet of valuable relics from all parts of the world, representative of both ancient and modern times. Among these are old manuscripts; implements of warfare, long since abolished, and other things, too numerous to mention. He is one of the most extensive collectors in the country and his cabinets, which cannot be adequately valued in dollars and cents, represent many years of painstaking and research.
Dr. Adams has been twice married, the first time on the 20th day of October, 1858, to Miss Miranda V. Bailey, who bore him three daughters: Clara, born October 19, 1859, died December 2, 1863, and Fannie, born January 28, 1862, married M. P. Stutesman and had a family of five children; she died March 13, 1895. The youngest child is Nettie, whose birth occurred December 1, 1866. A grevious loss was that which came to the Doctor on the 11th day of July, 1873, when his devoted and cherished wife was summoned to her eternal rest. She was a woman of gentle refinement and beautiful character and had lived so as to win the esteem and love of a large circle of friends and acquaintances. March 12, 1874, was solemnized the ceremony which untied the Doctor and Miss Nancy Hinchman in the holy bonds of wedlock, a marriage blessed with three children: Olive, Mary and Ellen.
Dr. Adams is not connected with any church or fraternal organization, believing religion to be largely a matter of conscience with which the world has little to do, and dispensing his benefactions in the quiet and unobtrusive manner characteristic of the true philanthropist. All societies or movements tending in their practical working and influence to benefit humanity and subserve the public good have his friendship and support, but he has no use for ostentatious display, while shams of all kinds are his especial abominations. Aside from serving as member of the city council, he has never held nor aspired to public position, preferring to devote all of his time and attention to his profession, which has always been extensive and not infrequently very exacting, and while a close student of political, economic and kindred questions, is not noted as an active party worker.
Dr. Adams is a gentleman of such well defined and remarkable traits of character that his many years of practice and activity in Greenfield and throughout Hancock county have left the impress of his ability and strong personality wherever he is known. Endowed by nature with a sturdy physique a clear and alert intellect, nearly always in good health, with an abundance of spirit, it is not strange that time and labor have had so little effect upon his vital forces. Honorable and upright in all his dealings and meeting his every obligation with almost religious exactness, his name, wherever known, passes current as a synonym for all that is correct and proper, and in him are combined to a remarkable degree all the elements essential to citizenship. While Hancock county has produced many men noted in all spheres of endeavor, and while its annals teem with the records of unselfish lives and noble deeds, the name of Dr. Marcellus M. Adams will always occupy a high place among her representative citizens, not alone by reason of his long and eminently useful career as a minister of comfort and healing to suffering humanity, but also on account of his broad sympathies, sterling honor and abiding public spirit.
Transcribed from Biographical Memoirs of Hancock County B. F. Bowen, Publisher, Logansport, Indiana, 1902 Pages 273-278.