Dr. HENRY WILLIAM ADAMSON



The earliest known ancestor of our Adamson family was Dr. Henry William Adamson (1811-1861).  He was born in London, England, on November 22, 1811.  Henry was “reared by pious parents, both members of the Presbyterian Church.”[1]  Considering that Adamson was a Scottish surname and that Presbyterianism never really took hold well in England, save for among Scottish expatriates, it is very safe to assume that the Adamsons were originally from Scotland, perhaps arriving in London a generation or two before Henry.  In fact, almost all Presbyterian parishioners in England during that time period were of Scottish origin.  Some descendants believe that the Adamsons were originally from the Glasgow, Scotland, region.
At any rate, in 1831, Henry married his first wife, Frances (1815-1843), in London.  They had a son in London less than two years later, Thomas Henry Adamson (1833-1844), and the three of them set sail six months after the child’s birth to New York on the ship Admiral Monsom,[2] owned and operated by Captain Clay Monsom.  Their ship arrived in the port at New York City on Friday, August 23, 1833.  Frances is listed on the ship’s manifest as “Mrs. Adamson.”   Henry’s occupation was listed as “gentleman,” which clearly implies he was a man of substance who had no need for an occupation.
The Adamsons lived in New York for some unknown period of time, and had their first daughter there.  They then moved to New Orleans, where their second daughter was born, where he is said to have studied medicine at Tulane University and became a physician.




The chronology of what happened next is not very clear, but it is certain that he moved to Whitesville,[3] East Florida, on April 4, 1839, and he served in the U.S. Army, likely as a physician, during the Second Seminole War.  The details are not yet known, but it is suspected that he likely could have traveled to Florida with the Louisiana Volunteers to the Second Seminole War in 1837, and ultimately brought his family over to Whitesville by 1839.  It appears he served at nearby Fort Heileman. 
Dr. Adamson had at least three children by Frances:
1.       Thomas Henry Adamson, born in February 1833, in London, England.  Died circa 1844, in Whitesville, Duval (now Clay), East Florida.
2.       Frances Adamson, born in 1839, in New York City, New York. [4]
3.   Victoria Adamson, born 1841, in New Orleans, Louisiana.[5] On September 16, 1843, Mrs. Frances Adamson died in Whitesville.  As his son, Henry, was still alive at the time, it is presumed that he died shortly thereafter, as it is known the son was dead before Dr. Adamson’s removal to Georgia shortly thereafter.  The obituary of Mrs. Frances Adamson states:
In 1846, Henry took his two surviving daughters to Georgia.  He put them in the Bethesda Orphanage in Savannah while he set up his practice in the town of Reidsville, Tattnall, Georgia, and he also apparently purchased a farm nearby.[7]
Life in the orphanage was not satisfactory for Frances and Victoria.  Several letters they wrote to their father survive, pleading for him to return and bring them home.  These letters were handed down in the line of Victoria, to her great-great-great grandchildren.[8]
Henry returned to Savannah after 1850, to pick up his girls to bring them home for good.  The 1850 U.S. Census has Henry living alone in Tattnall Co., 35 years old, a physician, (and erroneously having been born in Scotland).  His daughters, Frances and Victoria, were still at the Bethesda Orphanage at the time.
He married, secondly, Anna Brazell (1826-1887), sometimes spelled Annie Braswell, on July 23, 1851, in Tattnall Co., by Thomas S. L. Harwell, M.G.  She was the daughter of John Brazell and Elizabeth Burton[9].  She was reportedly unusually attractive, well known as the “prettiest girl in Reidsville.”[10]  They had the following children; his last child was born shortly after his death:
4.       Richard Adamson, born 1851, in Tattnall Co., Georgia.
5.       Elizabeth Adamson, born 1853, in Tattnall Co., Georgia
6.       Emma Adamson, born 1855, in Tattnall Co., Georgia.
7.       Joseph Adamson, born 1858, in Tattnall Co., Georgia.
8.       Anna Elizabeth Adamson, born early 1862, in Tattnall Co., Georgia, a few months after the death of her father.
There is another child who shows in the 1870 U.S. Census as being born in 1868.  His name is John Adamson.  His relationship to Henry is unknown..
                Apparently, Henry was small in stature and quite confident.  He spoke with an upper-class British accent, and was known to say, “I can’t, and I shan’t!” (which was pronounced as “I cahn’t ahnd I shahn’t!”). 
He also invested in land around Tattnall County, and seemed quite smart with financial matters.  On January 5, 1858, Dr. Adamson purchased four lots in Reidsville “with improvements” from the estate of fellow Englishman, Alexander McRae, who had originally purchased the property in 1849, and built a home on one of the lots.  Ownership of the house transferred to Dr. Adamson at that time. 

Dr. Adamson had previously joined the Methodist Episcopal Church in Whitesville, East Florida, in 1837.  He became “licensed to exhort” in the church in Reidsville in 1848.  In 1859, he became “licensed to preach,” to which he apparently devoted much energy.  His preaching style has been described as “instructive, plain, and pointed, and found its way to the heart of the attentive hearer.”
            Dr. Adamson was a member of the Tattnall County Rising Sun Lodge, Number 20, of the Grand Lodge of Georgia in 1854.  They used to meet regularly on the first Saturday after the full moon in each month.
Henry clearly fell seriously ill around the summer of 1860, and he had to cease preaching during that time, much to his dismay.  That winter, he was rarely to be seen outside his home.  His friend, William J. Jordan, evidently visited him frequently during that time.  Henry had evidently taken a turn for the worst by mid-April, for he wrote a will on April 13th.  It is recorded in the Tattnall Co., Georgia, courthouse:
 
A record of the last will and testament of H.W. Adamson, Deceased.
 
State of Georgia
Tattnall County
 
In the name of God, Amen.  I, Henry W. Adamson of said state and county being in feeble health but of sound and disposing mind and memory knowing that I must shortly depart this life deem it right and proper both as respects my family and myself that I shall make a disposition of the property with which a kind providence has blessed me I do therefore make this my last will and testament hereby revoking and annulling all others by me heretofore made.
 
First, I desire and direct that my body be buried in a decent and Christian-like manner suitable to my circumstances and condition in life, my soul I trust shall return to rest with God who gave it as I hope for salvation through the merits and atonement of the blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
 
Second, I desire and direct that all my just debts be paid without delay by my executors herein after named and appointed.
 
Thirdly, I give, bequeath, and devise to my beloved wife, Anna, my negro woman, Mary, and all my household and kitchen furniture without limitation or reserve.  Also, my gold watch.
 
Fourthly, I give and bequeath to my two daughters, Frances E. Tool and Victory Merriman in equal shares, my negro fellow of every which I value at fifteen hundred dollars, the share of my daughter, Frances E. Tool, I desire not to be subject to the debts liabilities of her present husband, William J. Tool.
 
Fifthly, I give, bequeath, and devise to my sons, Richard and Joseph, to my daughters, Elizabeth and Emma, and any other that may be born hereafter, share and share alike my negro fellow, Jim, the whole of my lands lying and being in the County and State aforesaid, also all of my stock consisting of my horses, cattle, hogs, and sheep, likewise, all of my farming utensils of every description.
 
Sixthly, I desire my wife, Anna, shall retain the possession of all the property herein conveyed to my children in the fifth item of this, my will, during her widowhood, and to manage and control the same as she may think best for the support and education of my children.
 
Seventhly, I desire that my debts shall be paid as follows to wit:  By using what money I may be possessed of notes and book accounts and if there be not an amount sufficient then my executors hereinafter named to sell my wagon and horses.
 
Eighthly, I desire all of my book and surgical instruments to be sold only such as my wife, Anna, and two daughters, Frances and Victoria, may desire to keep for their own use in that case they or either of them may make such selection as they think proper and retain them and appropriate the same to their own use.
 
Ninthly, I hereby constitute and appoint my wife, Anna, Executrix and my son-in-law, George I. Merriman, Executor of this my last will and testament this April 13, 1861.
 
H.W. Adamson
 
Signed, sealed, declared, and published by Dr. Henry W. Adamson as his last will and testament in the presence of us, the undersigned, who subscribed our names hereto in the presence of said testator at his special instance and request and in the presence of each other this April 13th, 1861.
 
Alex. W. Daley
A.P. Moore
A. P. McRae
 
Mr. Jordan wrote that, before he died, Dr. Adamson had difficulty worrying about how his wife and children would fare without him, but that he ultimately decided that God would take care of them.  He quoted the dying Dr. Adamson, “I have the victory over that I feel that if we must part, God will take care of them, so I am now ready to go.”  Mr. Jordan wrote that Henry “…remained in that state of mind unto the last.  At about noon of the day he died, I went to see him, and found his mind clear.  All afternoon he seemed to think of nothing but heaven and immortal glory, often exclaiming, “Bless the Lord, for that perfect peace I feel.  Among his last words were, ‘The best of all is, the Lord is with me all the while.’”
Henry died on Tuesday, April 23, 1861, at his home in Reidsville, Tattnall, Georgia.  His cause of death was listed as “consumption,” which is an archaic medical term for pulmonary tuberculosis.  Dr. Adamson is buried under a large obelisk in the Adamson Cemetery, now known as the Reidsville Cemetery in Reidsville.  His obituary states:
 
“The Rev. H.W. Adamson died of consumption near Reidsville, Ga., on 23d April, 1861.
He was born in London 22d November, 1811, reared by pious parents, both members of the Presbyterian Church.  He grew up a steady youth.  In his 21st year he was married in his native land, and came to New York perhaps in 1833.  In 1837, he went in to the Indian war in Florida; in 1844 lost his wife, and about 1846 he located at Reidsville, and engaged in the practice of medicine extensively and successfully.  In 1851 he was married to Miss Anna Brazell, of Reidsville, who is now with two little children, and two daughters by the first marriage, left to mourn their loss.  He joined the M.E. Church in 1837, and ever after lived with an eye single to the glory of God.  In 1848 he was licensed to exhort; in 1859, to preach, to which high calling he devoted his mind, strength, and energy.  His preaching was instructive, plain, and pointed, and found its way to the heart of the attentive hearer.  Some months before his death he was unable to preach, but he often wished to get able to do so.  Through the past winter he was out but little, yet it was my privilege to visit him frequently, and ever found him composed and happy in a Saviour’s love.  He had a hard struggle on account of his wife and children; but, said he, “I have the victory over that I feel that if we must part, God will take care of them, so I am now ready to go.”  He remained in that state of mind unto the last.  About noon of the day he died I went to see him, and found his mind clear.  ‘I can’t stay here much longer; but what of that?  I am ready to depart and be at rest.  Bless God for perfect peace.’  All the afternoon he seemed to think of nothing but heaven and immortal glory, often exclaiming “Bless the Lord, for that perfect peace I feel.”  Thus his heart was filled to overflowing, and among his last words were, ‘The best of all is, the Lord is with me all the while.’”

[1] From his obituary, Tattnall Journal, April 1861.
[2] Port of New York, manifest of all the passengers on board the Admiral Monson, arriving in the port on August 23, 1833.

[3] Whitesville was located in Duval County, East Florida, at the time.  Florida did not become a state until 1845, so East Florida was a territory at that time.  The location of Whitesville is now in present-day Clay County, and was about two miles from present-day Middleburg.  Whitesville no longer exists, and Middleburg was known back then as Garey’s Ferry.

[4] 1850 U.S. Census, Savannah, Georgia (Bethesda Orphanage).

[5] Ibid.
[6] The name Garey’s Ferry changed to Middleburgh on May 1, 1851, and finally to Middleburg on September 8, 1893.

[7] A distant cousin claims that “Adamson’s land was toward Glennville from Reidsville on the west side of Shepherd’s bridge.”

[8]Personal knowledge of Mrs. Mary Collins of Rockledge, Georgia, 2007.  The letters are now in the care of Mr. Stephen G. Merriman, Jr., in Savannah, Georgia.  Mr. Merriman is a descendant of Victoria Adamson and George Merriman.

[9] John Brazell married Elizabeth Burton of Screven Co., Georgia, on July 28, 1825, and they moved to Tattnall Co., Georgia, circa 1832.  John was a merchant and farmer in Tattnall County until 1867.  John’s last will and testament was probated in November 1867, but his place of burial is unknown.  They raised nine children, and two of their daughters married into the Sharpe and Tippins families, and their sons fought in the Civil War with the Tattnall Co. Rangers and Volunteers of the 61st Georgia Regiment of the Confederate Army.

[10]Mrs. Mary Collins of Rockledge, Georgia, personal knowledge.


Submitted by: Tom Baine
Clay County Home Page

last updated 17, May 2011