The Search for Mrs. James ADAIR

Contributed by Gwen Deberry Hendrix

From the Pee Dee Queue, Pee Dee Chapter, South Carolina Gen. Society, July-August 2000, Vol. XXIV, no.4, page 1

Although W. C. HARLLEE devoted ninety-two pages of his three volumne work Kinfolks, published in New Orleans in 1934, to Dr. James Robert ADAIR, and his descendants, he was unable to establish theidentity of the wife of the Eighteenth Century Indian trader and author. Who was this woman who was the mother of the ADAIR'S three daughters, Sarahann, Elizabeth HOBSON and Agnes? And where was his young family when ADAIR was away having adventures among the Indians? As a descendant of the oldest daughter Sarahann ADAIR, who married William MCTYER, I am among the many who have long sought answers to those questions. The purpose of this article is to share with readers how I found the answers.

In 1751 North Carolina will of Elizabeth ALLEN of Johnston County, apparently not found by HARLLEE, gives a partial answer. It provide sthe clue that Mrs. ADAIR'S given name was CLARK. Elizabeth ALLEN gave to her husband, Andrew ALLEN, "during his natural life" the use of all her slaves, and after her husband's decease, the slaves were to "fall into the hands of my Kinswoman Sarahann ADAIR Daughter of James ADAIR and his wife Clerk (sic) ADAIR." James and Clark ADAIR werenamed executor and executrix, and Clark ADAIR witnessed the will, along with William BAIRFIELD. The will, made on 19 September 1751 and proved by the witnesses in the Johnston County March Court 1752, was recorded in the Secretary of the Province's Will Book 7, pages 136 and 137, now in the North Carolina Archives.

Land Records show that the ALLENS and the ADAIRS were neighbors in the part of Johnston County that became Dobbs County in 1759 and is now Greene County, N.C. This location was easily accessible by water from New Bern, than the capital of North Carolina. On 10 Oct. 1755, James ADAIR received a grant of 462 acres in Johnston County (commonly called "Fairfields") on the north side of Great Contentnea Creek, with Andrew ALLEN as one of the adjoining landowners. ADAIR also owned other land in the area, some acquired as early as 1751. It is probable that the youngest ADAIR daughter, Agnes, was born there about that time. Unfortunatley, there are few remaining countyr ecords for that area, but there are three deeds, recorded in North Carolina Land Grant Book 76, which show that ADAIR gave all of Fairfields to his oldest daughter Sarahann and her husband William MCTYER between August 1759 and December 1763. The two 1763 deeds were witnessed by John CADE and his wife, Elizabeth Hobson CADE, second of the ADAIR daughters. In the third of these deeds, made 5 December 1763, James ADAIR described the 200 acres as land "on which I now live named Fairfields," and he reserved from the gift "my wife's grave yard." This tells us that Clark ADAIR had died before 5December 1763 and was buried at Fairfields. And with his two older daughters married, it is likely that the widower was preparing to leave the area. When the MCTYERS sold Fairfields to Abraham SHEPARD,Jr. on 22 November 1764, they reserved "the Doctor's Room," half of the kitchen and half of the garden for one year.

Although the North Carolina records do not reveal the exact relationship between the ADAIRS and the ALLENS or where they came from, I was confident in 1993 when I found Elizabeth ALLEN'S will, that solving the rest of the mystery of Mrs. James ADAIR would be easy. That was not to be the case. As HARLLEE did, I suspected that she was probably a HOBSON because of her second daughter's middle name. A thorough search of North Carolina records uncovered not a single HOBSON family with a daughter named Clark. Because the base ofJames ADAIR'S Indian trading operations, at least until his very public quarrel with Governor James GLEN in the early 1750's, was Charleston, S.C., I then turned to South Carolina records and found not trace of either Clark HOBSON or Clark ADAIR.

There are many records in both states, however, concerning James ADAIR, his daughters, and their descendants. Among these records are three in South Carolina Miscellaneous Records, Volume 00, at the South Carolina Archives, which show that by 1768 ADAIR'S youngest daughter, Agnes, had married John GIBSON, son of Gideon GIBSON, gentleman, of Craven County, South Carolina. James ADAIR at the time was "of Dobbs County in the Province of North Carolina."

The next clue in solving the Clark ADAIR mystery was a long time coming. It came this spring from a very unexpected source. Genealogical Publishing Company's catalog included CD #503: FamilyTree Maker's Family Archives, Virginia Colonial Records, 1600's & 1700's, which I ordered because my DEBERRY and DUMAS ancestors were originally from Virginia. The CD shows photocopies of pages from fifteen books about early Virginia and has a master index for all of them. Somewhat disappointed at finding nothing new on the people I knew were in Colonial Virginia, on a whim I typed in "ADAIR, James" and Voila! Two entries from Virginia Colonial Abstracts, Vol. 1, Northumberland County Record of Births, 1661-1810, page 405:

Ann ADAIR Daug'r to James was born Octr 20 1743...
Hebsen (sic) ADAIR Daug'r to James was born Jany 23 1745/6

(This book was compiled from the transcriptions by Beverley FLEET ofthe records of Northumberland County, Va, among others. The ST. Stephen's Parish Register, from which the births above were taken, is torn on the left margin where first names would have been. Whoever made the entries in the Register did not include the names of any of the mothers at that time.)

Next I typed in "HOBSON, Clark" and found multiple entries in the index for that name, all form Virginia Colonial Abstracts, Vol.1 each of which I looked up and found that Clark HOBSON appeared to be a woman some what older that Clark ADAIR. This Clark HOBSON was the wife of Thomas HOBSON, Clerk of Northumberland County, who had many additional entries in the index. My research continued at a quickened pace. Trips to the North Carolina Archives in Raleigh, to the Virginia State Archives and Library in Richmond, and to Heathsville, Virginia, came in rapid succession. The mystery has beens olved. I now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Clark and Thomas HOBSON were the parents of Clark HOBSON, Jr. who married James ADAIR in either 1740 or 1741 in Northumberland County, Va. The Clerk's Fee Book, the extant record of marriages in that county, does not make the year clear.

It is somewhat ironic that Virginia researchers have known for many years that the younger Clark HOBSON, of the Northumberland HOBSONS, married a doctor names James ADAIR, but were unaware that he had any importance aside from being the husband of one of their own. On the other hand, it is equally as ironic that HARLLEE did not realize that he had found the HOBSON family he was looking for when he found that Thomas HOBSON was a Burgess form Northumberland County, Virginia, in 1702. When I first read that in Kinfolks many years ago, I made the fatal mistake of assuming that HARLLEE had followed up on that bit of information by researching Northumberland County records. After all, his search for Mrs. James ADAIR had extended as far as Connecticut. He could not have looked at Northumberland records, however, for if he had, he would easily have found that Thomas HOBSON was, indeed, Clark ADAIR'S father.

An article in Tyler's Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol. VIII, No. 2 (Oct. 1926), "Thomas HOBSON and some of His Descendants," by Mrs. O. A KEACH, on page 130, names the children of Capt. Thomas and Clark HOBSON as follows:

1)THOMAS HOBSON (III) Born 30 Aug. 1694. (Apparently never married) Appointed deputy clerk 20 March 1717 at the request of Mr. Richard LEE. Commissioned an officer in Co. Militia 17 July 1724. His will dated 5 Dec. 1726, proved 18 Jan. 1727, names sisters, Elizabeth, Letissina, Clark and Sarah Ann HOBSON; Brother Wm. HOBSON, executor. THe will left his sisters 200 acres of land "including my part of the manor plantation during the term of their maiden lives" and then to his brother William and his male heirs. (The will also indicated that some of Thomas HOBSON'S siblings were not then of age and that Clark HOBSON was his youngest sister.)

2)SARAH ANN HOBSON, born 13 Oct. 1698. (Apparently never married) There is a Power of Attorney of record in Northumberland County from Andrew ALLEN, of Accomack County, to her, dated 27 May 1743.

3)ELIZABETH HOBSON born 13 Oct. 1698 (Twin of Sarah Ann) married Andrew ALLEN. A marriage contract, dated 26 Dec. 1742, states that Andrew ALLEN of Accomack Co., gentleman, is firmly bound unto Mrs. Elizabeth HOBSON of St. Stephen's Parish.

4)WILLIAM HOBSON born 28 April 1700. Married Judith FLEET, daughter of Henry and Elizabeth Wildy FLEET. His will, dated 28 Feb. 1738 and proved 10 Sept. 1739, named his wife Judith, his on John and his daughters Sarah, Betty, Mary Ann and Judith HOBSON, to whom he left the homestead of 400 acres. To his son John he left the land given to him by his brother Thomas and the mill "now in the hands of my mother."

5)JOHN HOBSON, born 4 March 1701. Name of wife unknown. Probably the father of Adcock HOBSON. (John HOBSON apparently left Northumberland County early. It is probably his family that is found thereafter in Cumberland County, Virginia.)

6)LETESINA HOBSON, born 22 May 1712. Named in her brother's will in 1726 and in her mother's will in 1743.

7)JUDITH HOBSON, named in William WINDER'S will, dated 28 Sept. 1710, as daughter of Thomas HOBSON. (She had probably died by the time her brother Thomas made his will in 1726.)

8)CLARK HOBSON, Named in Mrs. Clark HOBSON'S will (and in her brother Thomas's will.) Married Dr. James ADAIR. They had Ann, born Oct. 20, 1743, Hobson, born June 23, 1745. (That is what was written in Mrs. KEACH'S article. She had probably misread "Jany" for "June." In a footnote she stated that there is a deed, dated 1 Oct. 1745, from "James ADAIR of St. Stephen's parish. Doctor & his wife Clark" to William BARRETT of Wicomico Parish for a parcel of land. When I went to Heathsville, seat of Northumberland County, and had the deed inquestion copied, I found that it was form James ADAIR alone, but that his wife Clark had relinquished dower rights, as was then the standard practice.)

The youngest child of the family, Clark HOBSON, was the first of the daughters to marry. Even so, she was probably in her mid-twenties when she married ADAIR. Her sister Elizabeth was 45 years old when she married Andrew ALLEN in 1743. It is clear from the Northumberland records that the HOBSON women enjoyed a measure of independence and were accustomed to participating in the family's business affairs. As long as they remained unmarried, they could continue to do so and live in the "manor" left to them by their brother Thomas. It is highly probable that after her marriage, Clark continued to live withher unmarried sisters while her husband went off on his trips.

The HOBSON family was of some prominence in Northumberland County, northeasternmost and oldest of the Northern Neck Virginia counties and home of some of the ancestors of many famous Virginians, including George WASHINGTON and Robert E. LEE. Not only had Clark ADAIR'S father been Clerk of court until his death in 1717, but her grandfather, also named Thomas HOBSON, had been too, until 1683 when he became High Sheriff of the county. At the time of his death in 1691, the elder Thomas HOBSON was one of the Justices of Northumberland. For the HOBSONS life was no doubt very pleasant therein the land between the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay.

North Carolina records suggest that Andrew and Elizabeth Hobson ALLEN moved form Virginia to Johnston County before James ADAIR owned land there. It is possible that Clark and the children lived with the ALLENS there before ADAIR built his own "manor house" at Fairfields. Elizabeth ALLEN'S will makes it clear that the ADAIRS were nearby in 1751.

To the dismay of later researchers, James ADAIR was very successful in keeping his colorful public life and his family life completely separated. He did not mention his family at all in History of the American Indians, published in London in 1775. Why was he so secretive about his family life? Upon reflection, two possible reasons, not entirely honorable but highly practical in Eighteenth Century America, come to mind. In the early years of the marriage he would not have wanted his creditors in Charleston to know about assets in Virginia which he had acquired by marrying Clark HOBSON. After her death, his book's claim that he had spent forty years living among the Indians was completely at odds with the fact that he had spent at least some of that time in an entirely conventional family setting raising three daughters whose mother was not of Native American descent. It is possible, too, that he wanted to shield his family form some of the more unsavory details of his public life. Whatever the reason, I did not find the trail to NorthumberlandCounty, Virginia, until the arrival of the CD this year.

I highly recommend a research trip to Heathsville, Virginia, to anyone for whom there is the slightest possibility of having roots there. The county records are remarkably intact for such an old county, and many of them have been photo copied and bound in volumes which are kept in a research facility maintained by the Northumberland County Historical Society a block from the court house.(The microfilm of these same records at the Virginia State Library in Richmond, is, for the most part, unreadable.) Mr. W. Preston HAYNIE and his able assistant, "Bootsie" BURGESS, welcome and assist researchers. I look forward to a return trip to try to find out where Clark Hobson ADAIR'S mother got her first name.

A Colonial Confession of Judgement - Judgement of James ADAIR of Dobbs Co., N.C.

Will of Elizabeth ALLEN - Johnston County, N.C.

Surname Projects A-L