April 16, 1800 when Nicholas Salisbury, from Western N. Y., found his way into town through Lowville, by a tedious journey of twenty-six days bringing with them an ox-team and sled, his family and goods, fording the streams with great peril and camping at night wherever necessity compelled them. Solomon Smith and son accompanied as hired men. John Smith, Francis McKee, Consider Law, David Smith, Peter Doxtater, and others, several with families, came into town and began small clearings - mostly in the valley of Sandy Creek. The terms of purchase were $3 per acre, and an obligation to clear two acres and build a house within a certain time. In the spring of this year came David Smith, taking up 500 acres of land where Adams village now is and later in the season witnessed the arrival of numerous settlers, mostly from Oneida county. Those on foot came by way of Redfield, but this route was then impassable for teams. In 1801 Jacob Kellogg, John Cole, and many others moved in and in the second or third following years a flood of immigration soon filled up the town which everywhere presented small patches of clearing, rude huts, blind paths through the forest, destined to become roads, and from every side echoed the woodman’s axe that gradually prepared the way for cultivation.

The first deeds of land to actual settlers were given August 20, 1802, to George Houseman, Peter Doxtater, Francis McKee, Robert Myrick, and David Smith. 1) The first acre of clearing in the town was cut in May and June, 1800, by Samuel Fox, three miles above the village. On March 21, 1801, occurred the first death, that of Alexander Salisbury, who was drowned while attempting to cross Sandy Creek in a scow above the dam at Adams village. The marriage of his widow to Daniel Ellis, June 8, 1802, is supposed to have been the first wedding in town.






"ADAMS is a large and thriving post village located on the north branch of Sandy Creek, and is a station on the R., W. & O. R. R. 13 miles from Watertown, 169 miles from Albany, and 311 miles from New York. It contains two national banks, is the seat of Adams Collegiate Institute, has four churches (Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Episcopal), two hotels, a weekly newspaper, express, telegraph, and telephone accommodations, and the requisite number of shops and stores necessary to supply its 1,500 inhabitants and the surrounding country. A daily stage runs to Belleville, Henderson, and Worth. The village was incorporated under the general act, by the Court of Sessions, November 11, 1851, and confirmed by a vote of 79 to 51 on the 19th of December of the same year. The village plat includes 812 acres. In 1823 an unsuccessful attempt had been made to obtain an act of incorporation, the notice of application being signed by Elihu Morton, David Smith, Benjamin Wright, and John Burch. The first trustees of the village were John H. Whipple, Samuel Bond, Calvin Skinner, Calvin R. Totman, and Wells Benton. May 27, 1852, the village was divided into five wards, and a code of by-laws adopted. The Rural Cemetery Association was formed January 17, 1848, of 33 citizens, who laid out a neat and quiet lot for the purpose in the eastern part of the village, is one of the finest rural cemeteries in the county. A fire company was formed in Adams about 1836, and a small crank engine purchased by voluntary subscriptions. Since its organization the village has made ample provision for protection against the destructive element. April 23, 1852, an appropriation of $650 was voted to purchase a fire engine and its necessary apparatus. May 24, 1853, the “Tempest Fire Company” was formed with 44 men. The new water-works have added largely to the protection against fire.

In 1880 Adams had a population of 3, 302. The town is located in the first school district of Jefferson County, and in 1888 had 14 school districts, in which 19 teachers were employed 28 weeks or more. The whole number of scholars attending school was 682, while the aggregate days attendance during the year was 68,234. The total value of school buildings and sites was $13,690, and the assessed valuation of all the districts was $1,870,305. The whole amount raised during the year for school purposes was $6,817.30, $4,352.94 of which was received by local tax. S. Whitford Maxson was school commissioner."


(From Childs’ Gazetteer - pp. 209 - 226)   (Publication of 1890)




In 1865, NY State Bureau of Military Record required each town clerk to make a report of the service personnel serving in the Civil War from his town. Most of the towns of Jefferson County are recorded on microfilm at the New York State Archives. The Town of Adams, from that microfilm, has been deciphered and committed to electronic data by Madge Griswold, a volunteer…