COL. WESLEY ROWE ADAMS was one of the pioneer builders of the City of Larned. He helped make a town there when it required infinite courage, confidence in the future and unlimited industry to maintain a foothold on these western prairies. Colonel Adams presents a fine picture of the complete adequacy of the American pioneer. He came to Kansas with a soldier's experience, gained his military title by more than three years of action in the Civil war, and is one of the last survivors of the sufferings and hardships of Libby prison, and with Capt. Edward S. Scott, who escaped with him, and now the chaplain of the Soldiers' Home of Marion, Indiana, probably the only ones still living who made their escape from that prison by tunneling from under its walls. Perhaps no western Kansan has enjoyed a more picturesque career than Colonel Adams.
He represents some splendid ancestry. He was born in Ross County, Ohio, near Clarksburg, August 12, 1838. The county seat of Ross County is Chillicothe, the first capital of Ohio and the home of many of Ohio's best known historic characters. The Adams family came out of Delaware, where the Colonel's father, Peter Adams, was born in 1810, a son of Bailey Adams. Peter Adams went when a boy with his mother to Ross County, and became a prominent citizen during the middle period of the last century. He possessed a strong character and determined purpose, and was one of the men most active in Ross County in supporting the Union during the war. He represented the county in the Legislature during that struggle, and was also very active in raising Company K of the Eighty-Ninth Ohio Infantry, of which company his son Wesley R. became captain. He afterwards followed his son to the West, and died in 1894. Peter Adams married Mary Timmons. Her father, John Wesley Timmons, was a member of one of Madison County's most notable families, and many of his descendants are still found in that section of Ohio. Peter Adams and wife reared a number of children. Besides Col. Wesley R., the oldest, there were several sons who had army records and also became men of note in times of peace. The second child was Ruth Ann, who married G. W. Geesy and now lives in Southern California. William F., the second son, was a soldier in the Seventy-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry, was wounded at the battle of Gettysburg, and given an honorable discharge, and afterward came with his people to Independence, Missouri, where he died. Capt. John W., who was also in the Seventy-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry, rose to the rank of captain, served throughout the war, and is now living in the Soldiers Home near Los Angeles. David D. was with the Sixty-First Ohio Infantry, fought from his enlistment until the end of the rebellion, became sergeant of his company, and was recommended for a lieutenant's commission, but the war closed before he was given that rank. After the war he went west and studied law, served as county attorney of Russell County, Kansas, represented the county one term in the Legislature, and subsequently had a varied experience in the South in the mining regions of the Black Hills, and finally returning to Illinois was appointed conductor on the Missouri Pacific Railway by Superintendent Nettleton. While waiting to enter upon his duties in that position he acted as brakeman and was killed near St. Louis while on duty. The next son, also a soldier, was Nelson, who became a private in Company K of the Eighty-Ninth Ohio Infantry on March 1, 1864, at the age of fifteen years, six months and twenty days. He was transferred to Company I of the Thirty-First Ohio Regiment as a corporal on June 5, 1865. After the war he spent a year in Allen County, Kansas, and in 1873 took a homestead in Pawnee County. He was appointed county attorney, served two regular terms by elections, represented the county for one term in the Lower House of the Legislature, and attained rank as one of the lending lawyers of Western Kansas. He was always in the lead in connection with any movement pertaining to the welfare of his county, and was prominent as a republican. He died in the Soldiers Home of Kansas. The next of the family was Lucinda, who married H. M. Morrison and died at Independence, Missouri. The youngest is Thomas J., who for a time was a farmer in Missouri, became deputy treasurer of Kansas City, Missouri, and is now living in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
When the family history of Colonel Adams is considered it is in some ways not strange that he became a leader of men and has always been in the forefront of activities. As a boy he lived on his father's farm in old Ross County and had chiefly the advantages of the rural schools there. He afterwards supplemented this training by four terms in the Ohio Wesleyan University at Delaware, and just before the war he taught a term of country school.
It was only a day or so after the disastrous battle of Bull Run when Colonel Adams enlisted on August 1, 1861, as a private in Company A of the Twenty-Seventh Ohio Infantry, under Capt. Nelson L. Lutz and Col. John W. Fuller. The regiment was ordered out to Western Missouri, and spent some time in the district where Kansas City now is. From there it marched south to Springfield, Missouri, and then came under the command of Gen. John C. Fremont. Colonel Adams during his service with this regiment was in the siege of New Madrid, Island No. 10, and the capture of Corinth. He became sergeant of his company but was discharged on September 26, 1862, to accept the captaincy of Company K, Eighty-Ninth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, in which Governor Foraker served. A warm intimacy as soldier comrades sprang up between Colonel Adams and Governor Foraker, and that friendship continued until the Governor's death.
The Eighty-Ninth Ohio took part in the great battle of Chickamauga and during that engagement the brigade of which it was a part was sacrificed to save General Thomas' Corps. Colonel Adams was captured with his regiment just at dark at the close of the battle, and he and his comrades were sent to Libby prison. He remained in that foul prison pen for four months and nine days. Perhaps no incident of the war has been told and described more frequently than the tunnel which the Libby prisoners constructed, engineered by Colonel Rose. Colonel Adams was one of the 109 prisoners who passed through this tunnel, and about one-half of the entire party finally reached the Federal lines. He entered the Federal lines at Williamsburg, Virginia, and he and his comrades were eight days in making their escape, walking the entire distance, and suffering constantly from cold, hunger, thirst, weariness and anxiety. After recuperating a short while he rejoined his company at Ringgold, Georgia, and then participated with Sherman's army throughout the rest of the campaign against Atlanta. When that city was captured Colonel Adams was sent back under General Thomas in pursuit of Hood's army, and while on the march he received his commission as colonel of the One Hundred and Seventy-Fifth Ohio Infantry. He obtained a leave of absence to go to Nashville, where he resigned as captain and applied for muster as colonel of his new regiment. Before his commission reached him the One Hundred and Seventy-Fifth Regiment was cut to pieces in the battle of Franklin, and was so reduced in numbers that Colonel Adams was refused muster as colonel. Colonel Adams failed in his efforts to recruit the regiment, and the war being almost at a close he returned home.
In a little more than three years Colonel Adams had undergone experiences such as the ordinary man does not have in an entire lifetime. Still his vigor was undimmed and he was soon ready for a new achievement. He went back to the parental farm in Ross County, and while living there served as a delegate to the Republican State Convention and helped nominate Governor Cox. In the fall of 1865 he and his brother Capt. John W. Adams went out to Missouri. Colonel Adams was influenced in this move by his previous experiences while with the army in Western Missouri, having been so much attracted by the country around Kansas City that he determined to make it his home. He and his brother located near Independence, Missouri, and their parents followed them a few months later and bought a farm just east of Independence, on which his father lived until his death. Subsequently the mother came out to Larned and died there.
While at Independence, Missouri, Colonel Adams was engaged in farming and cattle raising. In 1869 he came to Kansas, locating at Olathe. Olathe was then a comparatively small town and he helped to build it up and witnessed its growth from a village of 400 to a city of 3,000 population. He was active in the real estate business and lent his aid to every general improvement. While at Olathe he was associated with John T. Little, then a young man, but later attorney general of Kansas.
Colonel Adams left Olathe and came out to Pawnee County largely because of the benefit he expected his wife to receive in the way of better health at Larned. He also hoped to reap some advantages for himself by accepting the privileges of the homestead law. It was in 1873 that Colonel Adams joined forces with the small colony of people at Larned. He almost at once became identified with the Town Company and soon succeeded ex-Governor Crawford as its president. He procured the land which the company had selected for its own, and through the probate judge he secured title for the company. After a half interest in the town site had been sold to the "Western Colony" he resigned his office and took up the real estate business on his own account. Following that Colonel Adams entered the northeast quarter of section 32, township 21, range 16, then adjoining the town and now all in the townsite and largely built over. On this quarter section the acre of ground which now surrounds Colonel Adams' modest home was taken.
Colonel Adams became prominent as a real estate man. His chief partnership was the firm of Scott & Adams. This firm laid out and developed a number of additions to Larned, and some of the best portions of the modern city were put on the market through this partnership. Colonel Adams justified his faith in the town by generous contributions to its growth and development. He was one of the main contributors in getting the old stone building on Upper Broadway erected, this being the first permanent business house in the city. He also furnished some of the finances for the construction of the brick block now the St. Charles Hotel. He saw the Larned High School building spring up almost in the center of his homestead. The firm of Scott & Adams was succeeded by the Pioneer Realty Agency, and Colonel Adams was and has been for years the moving spirit in this well known business firm.
It was only natural that Colonel Adams should also become early identified with politics in Pawnee County. He was appointed the first clerk of the district court of the county and was clerk of the first court held in the county. Later he was appointed to the office of probate judge and was twice elected to succeed himself. While probate judge most of the school lands were proved up. He was the first elected school director, and he employed the first primary teacher at Larned, paying her a salary at the start of $33.33 1/3 a month. This primary teacher was Miss Belle Worrell, now Mrs. Isabell Worrell Ball of the National Tribune at Washington, D. C. Colonel Adams grew up in an atmosphere and his early experiences were such that he could hardly have been anything else than a republican. He was stanchly aligned with that party for a number of years, but became dissatisfied with its later policies and control and accepted the role of an independent, and he is still so. In 1904 he voted for Mr. Roosevelt, supported Taft in 1908, in 1912 was a Roosevelt man, and in 1916 voted for Mr. Wilson. He was a delegate in the convention of 1878 which nominated John P. St. John for governor of Kansas, and has always been given the chief credit for bringing about that nomination. He supported Governor St. John for a third term also. He was a personal friend of this noted Kansas governor, and a relationship exists between the St. John and Adams families.
The older residents of Larned recall that Colonel Adams was one of the six men who nobly manifested the real progressive spirit and their faith in the town by constructing the street railroad, a line a mile in length. The road paid expenses the first two years, but the company had to make up a deficit the third year, and after that the corporation was abandoned and the track was taken up.
Another distinction that falls to Colonel Adams is that he was the first Methodist to locate in Pawnee County. He organized the first Union Sunday school of the county, was elected assistant and later superintendent of the school, and also helped organize the Methodist Church and assisted in building the first edifice in which that congregation worshiped.
He has been a member of one of the boards of the church almost constantly, was a trustee for twenty years, and has been a visitor in several conferences. While a resident of Olathe he was a trustee of Baker University, and some years later was a trustee of Winfield College. Much of his time in recent years Colonel Adams has devoted to writing and also to unraveling the prophesies in the Scriptures. People of Kansas will at once recall how several years age he predicted with almost marvelous accuracy the outbreak of the European war.
Colonel Adams was married at Independence, Missouri, December 20, 1866, to Miss Jennie M. Strudevant. Her father, Rev. Charles Strudevant, was a Presbyterian minister from Ohio, served as president of the Female Seminary at Springfield in that state, and afterward was proprietor and president of the McClain Institute at Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1863 he had located at Independence, Missouri, and later followed his daughter, Mrs. Adams, to Olathe and to Larned and died in the latter city about 1875. Mrs. Adams' mother lived to be ninety-seven years of age. After almost a half century's companionship Colonel Adams lost his wife in 1914. She was one of the three children of her parents to grow up and marry. Her brother Charles N. also served in the Union army, and is married and now living at Alva, Oklahoma, having one daughter, Wardell, now in the high school of that city. The oldest of the children of Colonel Adams is Ernest W., who lives in Los Angeles, and he and his wife, Myrtle, have five children. Charles Francis, the next older, is superintendent of construction with the Southern Pacific Railroad Company and lives at San Francisco. He and his wife, Anna, have one child. Sarah Louise is the wife of Prof. J. W. Mayberry, of the Kansas State Normal School, and their three children are Mignon, James W., Jr., and Margaret. Claribel married Charles O. Funk, of Larned, and their children are Charles Otto, Josephine and Caroline.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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