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John Adams
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Birth: Sep. 18, 1772
Windham County
Connecticut, USA
Death: Apr. 24, 1863
Morgan County
Illinois, USA

John Adams (September 18, 1772 – April 24, 1863) was an American educator noted for organizing several hundred Sunday schools.

John Adams was born in Canterbury, Windham County, Connecticut, on the 18th of September, 1772. He was the eldest of ten children of Captain John Adams, a farmer of Canterbury and an officer of the Revolution, and grandson of Captain John and Abigail (Cleveland, Brown) Adams, also of Canterbury. His mother was Mary, daughter of Deacon Joshua and Jemima (Davenport) Parker, of Needham, Massachusetts. A brother was graduated at Yale in 1804. He was prepared for College at the Academy in the adjoining town of Plainfield, under the instruction of Daniel Chapman, of the Class of 1789. When he took his degree at Commencement, he delivered a Dissertation on the Benefits of Theatrical Establishments.

In the fall of 1795 he began a private school in the northern part of his native town, where he exhibited such uncommon aptitude in instruction and management as to draw a large number of pupils. In 1796 he took charge, with an increase of salary, of one of the district schools in the town, which he continued to teach with rare success until the spring of 1801.

Meantime he was married, on May 8, 1798, to Elizabeth, the only surviving daughter of Gamaliel and Judith (Perkins) Ripley, of Scotland Society, in Windham, and niece of the Rev. David Ripley (Yale 1749) and the Rev. Hezekiah Ripley (Yale 1763).

From the spring of 1801 to the fall of 1803 he was Master of Plainfield Academy, instructing about two hundred pupils with pronounced success.

His reputation as a teacher led in 1803 to his being selected to be the Preceptor of Bacon Academy, recently established in Colchester, in New London County. The appointment was a distinct promotion, and was entered on with many misgivings;. but the seven years which he spent there must be reckoned among the most successful of his life. He united with the First Congregational Church, on profession of his faith, in 1805, and was chosen to the office of Deacon in that church in April, 1808.

Early in 1810 his pleasant and useful work in Colchester was brought to a sudden termination, by a difference of opinion with the trustees in regard to a case of discipline. Convinced that in such a matter he must have an absolutely free hand, Mr. Adams immediately resigned, and declined to reconsider his determination.

Very soon after this the Trustees of Phillips Academy, in Andover, Massachusetts, offered him the headship of that institution, with a salary of nine hundred dollars and a house. This flattering invitation was accepted, and in June, 1810, the great work of his life was begun.

An interregnum in the office of Principal had reduced the number of pupils to twenty-three; but by 1817 they increased to one hundred, and they remained at or near this figure for the rest of his term of service.

In this position of eminence he more than fulfilled all just expectations, upholding a high standard of scholarship and exercising a strong moral and religious influence over his pupils. He also served as a deacon in the church.

In the fall of 1832, when he was sixty years old—an age after which, he had been heard to say, no man ought to teach—he learned that some of the newer members of the Board of Trustees wished to place a younger man at the head of the Academy. Mortified though he was at the discovery, he obeyed the intimation unhesitatingly, presented his resignation at the next meeting of the Trustees, on November 22, and terminated work at the close of the Fall term four days later.

His wife, after two years of failing health and much suffering, died in Andover on February 23, 1829, at the age of 53; and he married, on August 30, 1831, Mabel, widow of Dr. Eli (or Ely) Burritt (Williams College 1800), of Troy, New York, and daughter of Deacon Ebenezer Stratton, of Williamstown, Massachusetts. An appreciative sketch of the first Mrs. Adams, by Professor Moses Stuart, was printed at Andover in 1829.

By the vote of the Academy Trustees he had the free use of the house he had occupied until August, 1833; but he broke up housekeeping in the spring of that year, and went out to search for employment.

In Elbridge, Onondaga County, New York, he found a wealthy gentleman, the father of a former pupil, who offered to build an Academy for his use, and otherwise assist him. He went to Elbridge, accordingly, in September, 1833, and for about three years the Academy prospered under his direction. He then resigned, to the earnest regret of the Trustees, his reason being that his two youngest daughters who were his assistants, preferred not to teach in a school for both sexes.

A visit to relatives in Ohio and Illinois determined him to remove to the West, and in October, 1836, he left Elbridge with his family. They spent the winter in Jerseyville, in western Illinois, where he opened a school, and also in the want of a minister conducted church services.

In May, 1837, he removed about forty miles to the northward, to Jacksonville, to take charge of a female academy. Here for five happy years the seminary prospered beyond expectation. Meantime, however, one of the daughters who had hitherto assisted him married; and on attaining the age of seventy he felt constrained to retire permanently from the teacher's work.
Soon after this he was invited to become the agent of the American Sunday School Union for the State of Illinois. The offer appealed to him as a congenial one, and was accepted with alacrity; and for twelve years, with a salary of four hundred dollars, he performed this service. He was known and loved, by children and adults alike, as "Father Adams" over a wide area, and was an instrument of good to many communities. He also served as Elder in the Presbyterian Church of Jacksonville for twenty-five years.

He voluntarily resigned his commission in 1854, from a conscientious fear that he might be occupying the place of a younger and more active man; and spent the remnant of his life in retirement.

His wife died on July 17, 1856, at the age of 77, and he made his home thereafter with one of his married daughters, in Jacksonville. Investments which he made in government lands on his arrival in Illinois now yielded him a sufficient income; and his physical faculties remained unimpaired to the end. For the last year or two he was mainly confined to the house.

He died in Jacksonville on April 24, 1863, in his 91st year. The discourse preached at his funeral by his pastor, the Rev. Livingston M. Glover, was afterwards published. The epitaph placed over his grave describes him in words chosen by himself, as "A lover of children, a teacher of youth, a sinner saved by grace." Blest with an equable disposition, he was uniformly serene and peaceful, and loved to describe himself in his latter years as "happy and contented."

In 1854 Yale College conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. A very satisfactory portrait, painted the same year, was given to Phillips Academy.

Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, in his poem, The School Boy, read at the centennial celebration of the Academy in 1878, thus recalls him:

Grave is the Master's look; his forehead wears

Thick rows of wrinkles, prints of worrying cares;

Uneasy lie the heads of all that rule,

His most of all whose kingdom is a school.

Supreme he sits; before the awful frown

That bends his brows the boldest eye goes down;

Not more submissive Israel heard and saw

At Sinai's foot the Giver of the Law.

By his first marriage he had six daughters and five sons,—of whom all grew to maturity except the oldest and youngest sons, who died in infancy. The other sons were graduated at Yale, in the classes of 1821, 1825, and 1827, respectively,—the youngest being an eminent pastor in New York City.

The eldest daughter married the Rev. Daniel Hemenway (Middlebury College 1815). The second daughter married the Rev. George Cowles, a classmate of her eldest brother, and was lost by shipwreck with her husband. The third daughter married the Rev. John Q. A. Edgell (Univ. of Vermont 1827); and the fourth daughter married the Rev. Albert M. Egerton (Dartmouth 1829).

He published:

The Testimony of a Veteran to the value of the labours of Sunday-School Missionaries. Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union. [1854?] 120, pp. 12. [B. Publ.

He also prepared, late in life, at the request of friends, a little book of rules and maxims entitled

A Treatise on the Proper Training of Children; but this remains in manuscript.

Family links: 
  John Adams (1745 - 1818)
  Mary Parker Adams (1747 - 1798)
  Mehitabel Stratton Adams (1779 - 1856)
  Elizabeth Ripley Adams (1776 - 1829)*
  Mary Adams Hemenway (1799 - 1873)*
  Gamaliel Adams (1800 - 1802)*
  John Ripley Adams (1802 - 1866)*
  Elizabeth Ripley Adams Cowles (1805 - 1837)*
  William Adams (1807 - 1880)*
  Harriet Hannah Adams (1809 - 1810)*
  Arby Ann Adams (1811 - 1812)*
  Henry Adams (1813 - 1816)*
  Emily Jane Adams Bancroft (1813 - 1900)*
  Phoebe Phillips Adams Campbell (1817 - 1843)*
*Calculated relationship
"A lover of children, a teacher of youth, a sinner saved by grace."

Diamond Grove Cemetery
Morgan County
Illinois, USA
Plot: A2
Created by: Member#47194125
Record added: Dec 03, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 62490674
John Adams
Added by: Member#47194125
John Adams
Added by: Jeannie Hemphill
John Adams
Cemetery Photo
Added by: D C McJonathan-Swarm
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- Dee
 Added: Mar. 20, 2014

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