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Silas Graffe Adair
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Birth: Apr. 14, 1883
Death: Apr. 13, 1927
Philadelphia County
Pennsylvania, USA

Silas Adair caught my imagination when he was spoken of by my Grandpa Storkey as Uncle Si, supposedly the first man to perfect the circus trick of standing simultaneously on the backs of two running horses. I've since learned that this trick is called "Roman riding" and goes back to ancient times, so maybe Uncle Si was the first American to do it, or maybe he was just one of the few men who could in his day. Whatever... that he had some daring is obvious. What do you do after learning that? Probably you're not scared of heights, so Silas becoming a painting contractor is not too big a leap to make.

For the longest time, I could not figure out how Silas was my grandpa's uncle, thinking perhaps he was called "Uncle Si" affectionately and not with accuracy. Finally, receiving copies of old writings of my grandpa where he recounts some family, I learned that my grandpa's grandpa had raised three daughters - Elizabeth aka "Libby", Georgeanna and one stepdaughter whose name he could not recall, but whom he knew married "old Bob Adair" (as opposed to his son, young Bob). This stepdaughter must have been Ella, who was Bob's wife and Silas' mother. (I have edited this for accuracy - the writings actually assume the three girls were all my grandpa's grandpa's daughters, but they were not, as the second wife brought Ella into the marriage.)

Long ago, going back to the 1870 census, I did see an Adair family (John, an Irish blacksmith and wife Annie Adair) running a boarding house in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia which is only four households away from the Weir family (mis-spelled on the census as Weare). These Weirs are definitely linked to my Storkey family, with a son Archibald, aka my grandpa's Uncle Archie Weir. I think this John and Annie Adair are related to my Adairs, but have not finished seeking the connection.

Though he was not yet born, Silas Adair's family is first distinguishable on the 1880 census: father Robert age 26, born in Ireland, working in a paper mill, mother Ella R. Adair, born in PA, age 25, and two children (so far) Nellie 4, and Clara age 2.

One family member who never shows up on a census is Silas's brother Charles. He was born 1881 and died 1882.

Another "lost" sibling is Silas' sister Bessie Adair. She was born about 1888 and died 1895 at age 7 of membranous croup. She would have showed up on the 1890 census had most of it not been lost.

Silas himself first shows up in the 1900 census in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was a son of Robert Adair and Ella R. Adair, and brother to Mary and Russell. The family lives at 7616 Ridge Avenue in the Roxborough section of the city. I believe Silas' sister Mary was "Mary Alice Adair" and sometimes went by Alice, as a daughter of this name and the same age shows up on subsequent censuses.

Using information from this census, Silas' father Robert was born in November 1853, was 46 on his last birthday, and was born in Ireland like his parents. The census says he came to the United States in 1888 (though this cannot be right since we see him on the 1870 census) and was a naturalized citizen. His occupation is paper maker, and he rents his home.

Silas' mother Ella R. was born in December 1856 and born in Pennsylvania, as were her parents. She reports having had 7 children, of whom 5 are alive.

Ella and Robert report having been married 22 years (1878), which would suggest they married before Robert arrived from Ireland. This seems unlikely because their eldest child in the home, Silas's sister Clara age 22 was born in Pennsylvania in March of 1878. Clara works as a stenographer. The eldest child on the last 1880 census, Nellie, who would by now be 24, is not in evidence here. Perhaps she has married and left home. In fact it appears she may have become Mrs. Charles McCloskey, because a 1914 death certificate for a child named Mary A. McCloskey has been found, whose mother is listed as having a maiden name of Nellie Adair... but that's for another day.

Back to the 1900 census - little sister Mary was born in Pennsylvania in September 1891, and little brother Russell was born in Pennsylvania in July 1895.

As always happens, the family moves on. The 1910 census shows the family at an unnumbered home on Minerva Street in Roxborough. There we see father Robert (age 56, a papermaker in a pulp mill, parents and self born in Ireland), wife Ella (age 54, mom of 7 kids of whom 5 are alive), and kids Clara (age 32, real estate stenographer), Alice (19) and Russell (15). As we'll see below, Silas has moved out and gotten married. On a different street (Nixon St.) but obviously close because it's on the same census page five households away, is the family of Archie Weir (Grandpa Storkey's uncle Archie, an engineer at the water bureau), consisting of Archie himself, wife Mary E (formerly Storkey) Weir. With the couple is their daughter in law Catherine L (38, a department store dressmaker, married 17 years), and Catherine's daughter Sarah E. (age 16, a department store milliner, hat-maker). Catherine and Sarah are the family of Archie's son Johnson Saunders Weir. (Johnson himself is a boarder in town at 2331 Gratz Street, listed as married 15 years, a machinist working in engine repairs.)

The 1920 census shows Silas' brother Russell (age 25) living at 486 Minerva Street in Roxborough working as a city draftsman. With him are his sisters, Clara (a stenographer in real estate) and sister Alice, age 29. Interestingly, Alice's last name is shown as "Hannah" which is then crossed out, but she is listed as married though no husband appears. (Query for another day - is this possibly Hannah Betteridge who would marry Silas' son Russell?) Tantalizingly, right up the street, five households away at 470 Minerva Street is the Swaincott family whom I know to be related to my Storkey clan through my Grandpa Storkey's recollections, both by the surname and the daughter of the household, Georgeanna. "Aunt Georgie" is another daughter of my grandpa's grandpa, and clearly the Weirs, Storkeys, Adairs and Swaincotts were close by one another.

Back to Silas and his new family in 1910. The family of Silas G. Adair age 27 lives at 512 Harry street in Conshohocken in Montgomery County, just outside of Philadelphia and just above Roxborough. A clipping about his marriage from the Allentown Democrat tells us that the couple had been married on the lawn of his wife Olive's home which was 512 Harry, so they lived in her old home. His wife Olive M. is age 26 and they have been married 3 years, and have a son Russell (named after Silas' brother perhaps) age 2. Silas works as a painter, and this census tells a very different story about the family than we had before. Here it's claimed Silas and his dad were born in New Jersey and his mother in Vermont. His wife Olive was supposedly born in Pennsylvania as was her mom, and her father in Scotland. Little Russell was born in Pennsylvania, and supposedly his father in New Jersey and his mother in Scotland, which doesn't match the answers previously given for his parents at all. Perhaps Silas had kindly offered the census taker a drink... or had one with him.

The Reading Times of December 7, 1911 reports the winners of the Reading Poultry and Pigeon Association show, and Silas took first on "silver spangled Hamburg hen and cockerel"and second on "silver spangled Hamburg cockerel". Who knew one could raise them in the city next to a church?

By 1920 census time, Silas is 35, wife Olive M. is 35, son Russell is 11. Silas (and his mom) is PA-born, Olive (and her dad) is New Jersey born with a PA born mom... and Russell is PA born like his dad, and mom NJ born. That's better. They still live at 512 Harry Street in Conshohocken. Also there is Silas and Olive's daughter Eulia, as well as Olive's (apparently maternal) grandparents, Nathan B. and Mary Dana, born in Vermont.

This would be the last census on which Silas would appear, as he died in 1927, just before his 44th birthday. Friends of his daughter suggested he'd died of heart trouble, but in November of 2013 I found an obituary for him in the Conshohocken Recorder stating he died at Samaritan Hospital in Philadelphia while undergoing a course of treatment for glandular problems in his neck, for which he'd already undergone one surgery, and that a second was attempted without success. Not having heard of this hospital, my quick lookup showed it opened in 1892 a three-story house at 3403 North Broad Street was purchased and re-named Samaritan Hospital. Dr. Russell Conwell (of Temple University) was appointed president of the 20-bed hospital, which was designed to provide free care for those unable to afford payment, regardless of race, nationality or creed. In 1929 it was renamed Temple University Hospital.

Still, despite this detailed obit, and that he may have had the initial surgery some time before, his death certificate says there was no surgery near his death, and that he passed of Hodgkin's disease, basically a lymphatic cancer which indeed would have given him glandular neck problems.

In this obituary his birthplace in clearly given as Roxborough, and his mother is named as Ella nee Lehman Adair.

The Conshohocken Recorder is loaded with small everyday references to Silas, who'd moved there in 1907. He was a well-known painting contractor who was active in his Methodist church's Bible Class and choir, he appeared in community musicals, and was involved with the athletic association. He served on bank and savings and loan organizations as well. His obituary recounts his standing as a man of quality in his profession, and indeed, it is only after his death that his company began advertising in the Recorder. Overall, he seems to have been a vibrant, decent, well-rounded man, which explains why he was among my grandpa's favorite uncles.

The Recorder published a 1920 book about its hometown, "The Conshohocken Register" and therein Silas Adair is noted as a steward of the Conshohocken Methodist Episcopal Church (Sixth and Fayette streets).

On September 27, 1923, the Ambler Gazette noted:

Contracts awarded for Houses

The directors of the Conshohocken Realty Corporation have awarded contracts to the following local firms for labor and materials in the new operation of 18 dwellings to be erected on East Ninth avenue (a long list follows which includes):

Painting and glazing to Silas Adair.

The September 2, 1926 edition of the Ambler Gazette showcased the following item:

Made Bank Director

Silas Adair, painting contractor, of 512 Harry street, has been made a director of the Tradesmen's Bank, Conshohocken.

Additional information: The Tradesmen's National Bank, founded 1882, was located at the corner of West Hector Street and Fayette Street. According to Conshohocken by Brian Coll, it grew into one of the county's strongest banks. Closing in 1943, it was merged with the bank across the street, the First National Bank of Conshohocken. In the late 1920's that bank built a new building at its old location, and it later merged with Philadelphia National Bank (PNB). Tradesmen's original building served as Smith's Music Store, a travel agency, and other retail stores until it was taken down in the 1970's in a sweep of urban renewal. It's now a parking lot.

From Bean's 1884 History of Montgomery Co, PA.

THE TRADESMEN'S NATIONAL BANK OF CONSHOHOCKEN was organized February 1, 1882, with a capital stock of $100,000 and a surplus fund of $10,500. The institution commenced business May 20, 1882, with the following officers:

President, John Wood
Vice-President and Cashier, William Henry Cresson

The present Directors are:

John Wood
William Henry Cresson
John A. Righter
B. Brooke Adams
Jay Wood Lukens
George Corson
George W. Wood
Franklin Dundore
Daniel H. Kent

[Note- Fans of local history will note the names of some of these gents as being the same as several streets in Roxborough/Manayunk, and of course, the Lukens family connected to the steel business.]

The present capital is $100,000; surplus fund, $10,500; deposits, $172,887.58; loans and discounts, $228,850.32; and the value of bank property $9000.

A sidenote: At the time of this writing (2009) Silas' old home at 512 Harry Street in Conshohocken is now listed with the county as the parsonage for Saint Mark's Evangelical Church. The church's own website calls the church St. Mark's Lutheran, and their address is 508 Harry Street in Conshohocken.

In 2009, I had reason to be in Silas' old hometown, and drove eagerly to his old address... only to find it is now just the backyard of the church and day care. If it was like the neighboring homes, it was a tall, thin, well-kept row home.

Once I received a box of old family photographs, I finally got to see Silas' handsome face, and the prim, kind face of his wife Olive. In a sepia-toned souvenir photography from Wildwood, the two look into the camera, and are frozen in a moment of time when they were probably newly-wed. Olive, in a large hat, beautiful pleated skirt-suit with embellished cuffs, white shirt with high lace collar, and tailored gloves sits on a chair, while Silas perches on the arm of it, wearing a longer gents' suit and a dapper polka-dot bowtie. The sedate pose and earnest faces of the couple suggest nothing special about them, but if you look closely, you can still see some fire burning in Silas' eyes and think maybe his days of Roman-riding will ever be close to his heart.

Family links: 
  Robert Adair (1853 - 1916)
  Ella Rebecca Lehman Adair (1855 - 1916)
  Olive M MacCollum Adair (1884 - 1975)*
  Russell N Adair (1908 - 1969)*
  Eulia M Adair Frain (1911 - 2007)*
  Nellie M Adair Dotterer (1876 - 1945)*
  Clara Adair (1878 - 1953)*
  Charles W Adair (1881 - 1882)*
  Silas Graffe Adair (1883 - 1927)
  Bessie S Adair (1888 - 1895)*
  Mary Alice Adair Hanna (1890 - 1954)*
  Russell Hamilton Adair (1894 - ____)*
*Calculated relationship
Gulph United Church of Christ Cemetery
West Conshohocken
Montgomery County
Pennsylvania, USA
Created by: sr/ks
Record added: Jul 15, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 39471618
Silas Graffe Adair
Added by: sr/ks
Silas Graffe Adair
Added by: sr/ks
Silas Graffe Adair
Added by: sr/ks
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- sr/ks
 Added: Nov. 14, 2014

- Diane Miller
 Added: Apr. 13, 2014

- Monika♥
 Added: May. 22, 2013
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