El Dorado County







            The history of Judge Frederick Adams covers a long period in the development of this country in which the United States has made marked progress in business and useful inventions, has displayed considerable military prowess and has led the van in the settlement and development of her own and foreign lands.  His is a career of marked interest, owing to his active connection with many events which have had marked bearing upon the annals of the country.  He is a veteran of the Mexican War, the Civil War and the Rogue River Indian war, and his work has figured prominently in connection with the progress and advancement of California, for he came to the Pacific coast in 1849, before this state was admitted to the Union.  A man of marked individuality and great strength of character, his opinions and judgment have aided in shaping public policy and have influenced public thought, feeling and action.  He is still engaged in the practice at Placerville and has long been accorded a position of distinction at the bar of central California.

            Judge Adams is a native of Pennsylvania, born in Crawford County, on the 12 of July, 1833, of Scotch ancestry.  His great-grandfather on the paternal side emigrated from Scotland to Pennsylvania at a very early day, bringing with him his wife and children, one of whom was the grandfather of our subject.  This son was reared and educated in the Keystone state and became a prominent physician there.  As a surgeon in the Continental Army during the war of the Revolution he participated in the battle of Bunker Hill and was actively connected with the Colonial troops until the surrender of Lord Cornwallis.  He attained the very advanced age of ninety-four years, living to see marked progress in the Republic which he aided in establishing.  His wife was Susanna McAuslan and their son, David M. Adams, became the father of our subject.  He was born in Philadelphia, in 1806, and having arrived at years of maturity married Grizella Hickman, a daughter of Captain Hickman, one of the heroes of the Revolution.  Both her paternal and maternal grandfathers were in the War of 1812 and the father served in the Black Hawk war.  In his family were ten children and five of the sons loyally served their country in the Civil War, two of them laying down their lives on the altar of their country and one being severely wounded.  Two of the sisters and one brother of Judge Adams are still living.

              The Judge obtained his education largely under the direction of his mother, who was a lady of superior mental culture.  He was also instructed by Father Deleman, a Catholic priest.  In 1835, the family having in the meantime removed to St. Louis, our subject’s father embarked in the profession of law in that city.  Young Frederick had through long connection with the Indian children learned the language of several tribes, and when but ten years of age he went with a commission, consisting of T. P. Andrews, Thomas H. Harvey, and Gideon C. Matlock, to Kansas to act as the Indian interpreter for Major Matlock, being able to converse with five different Indian nations.  For two years he was in Kansas and then came to Westport, where Kansas City now stands, and there he was in the employ of Alexander Majors as an interpreter.  When the Mexican War was inaugurated he joined Captain Neal’s Company of the First Missouri Cavalry.  His father was an ex-army officer and, objecting to his enlistment, forced him to leave the army and sent him to St. Louis.  After arriving there he went on board the Adelia as a cabin boy, but later joined the Second Indiana Regiment and with that command went to Mexico.  In a battle in the vicinity of Brownsville he was wounded and sent to the hospital at San Antonio, Texas.  Later he was transferred to the Second Texas Regiment, with which he was sent out to fight the Indians.  He participated in the battles at Wild Horse creek, both at the fork of the creek and at its head.  The regiment also had an engagement with the Indians at Silver Springs, in which the red men were victorious and the Texas regiment lost four hundred and seventy-six men in the four battles.  After their return to San Antonio, Mr. Adams was detailed with an escort and sent with dispatches to Colonel Doniphan, but the command passed El Paso before the escort arrived there.  At that place he was honorably discharged.  Subsequently he carried the military mail for six months from El Paso, Texas, to Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Indians were very troublesome at the time, showing great hostility to the white men and during the six months he had five horses shot from under him and he experienced many hairbreadth escapes.  Judge William J. Graves at that time had command of his escort.  Subsequently Judge Adams returned to Captain Neal’s company and to Westport, Missouri, in October, 1848, where he learned of the discovery of gold in California.

            With the spirit of adventure strong within him, stirred with a desire to gain a fortune in the land of the precious metal, he started on the 14th of November, 1848, for the gold fields.  In New Mexico he joined Captain Marcy’s discharge.  From there he came to El Dorado County, where he engaged in placer mining from 1849 until 1854.  He owned rich claims and made much money.  He arrived at Screech Owl district just about the time its rich discoveries were made.  He inquired of a man where he could find a gold mine and the man replied “in the gulch.”  Mr. Adams was certainly very fortunate, for his first find was a nugget worth one hundred and twenty-three dollars, and on the first day he took out gold to the value of four hundred and seventeen dollars.  He succeeded in getting on an average of about six ounces a day, and thus his fortune rapidly accumulated.

            In April, 1854, he went to Siskiyou County.  He took with him sixty-three head of brood mares, but at the Oregon line the Indians stampeded the horses and he lost all but the ones they were riding.  Subsequently Mr. Adams engaged in mining on the Klamath and Scott rivers, where again his efforts were attended with splendid success.  He with others in Jackass claim, opposite Scott’s Bar, took out two hundred and seven pounds of gold in one day, one piece weighing fourteen pounds.  At Clarksville, in the spring of 1850, Mr. Adams found a piece worth five hundred and thirty dollars.  Like other pioneer miners, he both made and lost money in different speculations, but altogether met with prosperity in his search for the precious metal.

            When a boy he had read Blackstone.  In 1853 he was interested in a ditch over which there was litigation, and this led him to continue his study of law.  He made his first case on French Bar in 1855, where he was opposed by Captain J. D. Fair and Kentuck Lewis, another prominent lawyer of that time; but his marked ability enabled him to win his suit.  When it was appealed he succeeded in having the appeal dismissed.  His success encouraged him, and, having a natural taste for the law, he resolved to devote his energies to practice, and in 1862 he was admitted to the bar.  His career as a member of the legal fraternity was somewhat unlike that of lawyers in the east, for the unsettled condition of the sate made continuous practice impossible.  He was a volunteer in the Rogue River Indian war and was elected the captain of his company.  After his admission to the bar he volunteered for service in the Union army with the California troops and was sent on detached service to Idaho, being stationed for a time at Bannock City, where he served as provost marshal.

            After the war Judge Adams took up his abode in Grant County, Oregon, and was soon regarded as one of the most prominent citizens of the place.  He served as county treasurer and county judge and was elected to the Oregon assembly, but his seat was contested and before the close of the session he lost it.  He practiced law in Oregon until 1868, after which he practiced at different times in Santa Cruz and San Luis Obispo counties and in San Francisco and Oakland.  In 1898, on account of his wife’s health, he removed to Placerville, where he soon acquired a large and distinctively representative clientage.  He occupies an eminent position in the ranks of his profession in this county.  He has been interested in business ventures and has met with several financial reverses, losing heavily in going security for a friend.  He also last a large number of cattle in one of the severe droughts that visited Arizona.

            In 1860 Judge Adams was united in marriage to Miss Eliza Miller, a daughter of Henry Miller, who came to California in 1854.  She was born in North Carolina, and their union has been blessed with two daughters:  Mrs. E. R. Tutt, of Oakland; and Mrs. H. A. Barklew, of Fresno.  Mrs. Adams is a member of the Methodist church and a lady of Christian culture who enjoys the high esteem of many friends.

            Judge Adams has been an Odd Fellow since 1857, a Mason since 1868, and in the latter has attained the Knight Templar degree, and also belongs to the Mystic Shrine, and to the Ancient Order of United Workmen, of which in 1890 he was the grand master workman of the state of California.  He is also an esteemed member of the Society of California Pioneers and the Society of Veterans of the Mexican War.

            In politics he is an unswerving Republican, and four times has canvassed the state in behalf of his party, being one of the leading political speakers at the time of the election of General Grant.  Although a veteran of three wars and familiar with the hardships and trials of pioneer life, he is still a well preserved man.  His record has ever been honorable and straightforward, commending him to the confidence and regard of all with whom he has been associated.  Socially he is held in the highest regard by many friends who delight in doing him honor.



Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.

Source: “A Volume of Memoirs and Genealogy of Representative Citizens of Northern California”, Pages 184-187. Chicago Standard Genealogical  Publishing Co. 1901.

© 2010  Gerald Iaquinta.



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