The Search for Mrs. James ADAIR

Contributed by Gwen Deberry Hendrix
with kind permission for use at "Old Dobbers"

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 volumnework Kinfolks, published in New Orleans in 1934, to Dr. JamesRobert ADAIR,a nd his descendants, he was unable to establish theidentity of the wife of the Eighteenth Century Indian trader andauthor. Who was this woman who was the mother of the ADAIR'S threedaughters, Sarahann, Elizabeth HOBSON and Agnes? And where was hisyoung family when ADAIR was away having adventures among the Indians?As a descendant of the oldest daughter Sarahann ADAIR, who marriedWilliam MCTYER, I am among the many who have long sought answers tothose questions. The purpose of this article is to share with readershow 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 providesthe clue that Mrs. ADAIR'S given name was CLARK. Elizabeth ALLEN gaveto her husband, Andrew ALLEN, "during his natural life" the use ofall her slaves, and after her husband's decease,t he slaves were to"fall into the hands of my Kinswoman Sarahann ADAIR Daughter of JamesADAIR 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 andproved by the witnesses in the Johnston County March Court 1752, wasrecorded in the Secretary of the Province's Will Book 7, pages 136and 137, now in the North Carolina Archives.

Land Records show that the ALLENS and the ADAIRS were neighbors inthe part of Johnston County that became Dobbs County in 1759 and isnow Greene County, N.C. This location was easily accessible by waterfrom 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 ContentneaCreek, with Andrew ALLEN as one of the adjoining landowners. ADAIRalso owned other land in the area, some acquired as early as 1751. Itis probable that the youngest ADAIR daughter, Agnes, was born thereabout that time. Unfortunatley, there are few remaining countyrecords for that area, but there are three deeds, recorded in NorthCarolina Land Grant Book 76, which show that ADAIR gave all ofFairfields to his oldest daughter Sarahann and her husband WilliamMCTYER between August 1759 and December 1763. The two 1763 deeds werewitnessed by John CADE and his wife, Elizabeth Hobson CADE, second ofthe ADAIR daughters. In the third of these deeds, made 5 December1763, James ADAIR described the 200 acres as land "on which I nowlive named Fairfields," and he reserved from the gift "my wife'sgrave yard." This tells us that Clark ADAIR had died before 5December 1763 and was buried at Fairfields. And with his two olderdaughters married, it is likely that the widower was preparing toleave the area. When the MCTYERS sold Fairfields to Abraham SHEPARD,Jr. on 22 November 1764, they reserved "the Doctor's Room," half ofthe kitchen and half of the garden for one year.

Although the North Carolina records do not reveal the exactrelationship between the ADAIRS and the ALLENS or where they camefrom, I was confident in 1993 when I found Elizabeth ALLEN'S will,that solving the rest of the mystery of Mrs. James ADAIR would beeasy. That was not to be the case. As HARLLEE did, I suspected thatshe was probably a HOBSON because of her second daughter's middlename. A thorough search of North Carolina records uncovered not asingle HOBSON family with a daughter names Clark. Because the base ofJames ADAIR'S Indian trading operations, at least until his verypublic quarrel with Governor James GLEN in the early 1750's, wasCharleston, S.C., I then turned to South Carolina records and foundnot trace of either Clark HOBSON or Clark ADAIR.

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

The next clue in solving the Clark ADAIR mystery was a long timecoming. 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 wereoriginally from Virginia. The CD shows photocopies of pages formfifteen books about early Virginia and has a master index for all ofthem. Somewhat disappointed at finding nothing new on the people Iknew 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, istorn on the left margin where first names would have been. Whoevermade the entries in the Register did not include the names of any ofthe mothers at that time.)

Next I typed in "HOBSON, Clark" and found multiple entries in theindex for that name, all form Virginia Colonial Abstracts, Vol.1 each of which I looked up and found that Clark HOBSON appearedto be a woman somewhat older that Clark ADAIR. This Clark HOBSON wasthe wife of Thomas HOBSON, Clerk of Northumberland County, who hadmany additional entries in the index. My research continued at aquickened pace. Trips to the North Carolina Archives in Raleigh, tothe Virginia State Archives and Library in Richmond, and toHeathsville, Virginia, came in rapid succession. The mystery has beensolved. I now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Clark and ThomasHOBSON were the parents of Clark HOBSON, Jr. who married James ADAIRin either 1740 or 1741 in Northumberland County, Va. The Clerk's FeeBook, the extant record of marriages in that county, does not makethe year clear.

It is somewhat ironic that Virginia researchers have known for manyyears that the younger Clark HOBSON, of the Northumberland HOBSONS,married a doctor names James ADAIR, but were unaware that he had anyimportance aside from being the husband of one of their own. On theother hand, it is equally as ironic that HARLLEE did not realize thathe had found the HOBSON family he was looking for when he found thatThomas HOBSON was a Burgess form Northumberland County, Virginia, in1702. When I first read that in Kinfolks many years ago, Imade the fatal mistake of assuming that HARLLEE had followed up onthat bit of information by researching Northumberland County records.After all, his search for Mrs. James ADAIR had extended as far asConnecticut. He could not have looked at Northumberland records,however, for if he had, he would easily have found that Thomas HOBSONwas, indeed, Clark ADAIR'S father.

An article in Tyler's Quarterly Historical and GenealogicalMagazine, Vol. VIII, No. 2 (Oct. 1926), "Thomas HOBSON and someof His Descendants," by Mrs. O. A KEACH, on page 130, names thechildren 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. RichardLEE. Commissioned an officer in Co. Militia 17 July 1724. His willdated 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 themanor plantation during the term of their maiden lives" and then tohis brother William and his male heirs. (The will also indicated thatsome of Thomas HOBSON'S siblings were not then of age and that ClarkHOBSON 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 fromAndrew ALLEN, of Accomack County, to her, dated 27 May 1743.

3)ELIZABETH HOBSON born 13 Oct. 1698 (Twin of Sarah Ann) marriedAndrew ALLEN. A marriage contract, dated 26 Dec. 1742, states thatAndrew 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, daughterof Henry and Elizabeth Wildy FLEET. His will, dated 28 Feb. 1738 andproved 10 Sept. 1739, named his wife Judith, his on John and hisdaughters Sarah, Betty, Mary Ann and Judith HOBSON, to whom he leftthe homestead of 400 acres. To his son John he left the land given tohim by his brother Thomas and the mill "now in the hands of mymother."

5)JOHN HOBSON, born 4 March 1701. Name of wife unknown. Probably thefather of Adcock HOBSON. (John HOBSON apparently left NorthumberlandCounty early. It is probably his family that is found thereafter inCumberland County, Virginia.)

6)LETESINA HOBSON, born 22 May 1712. Named in her brother's will in1726 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 herbrother Thomas made his will in 1726.)

8)CLARK HOBSON, Named in Mrs. Clark HOBSON'S will (and in her brotherThomas'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 afootnote she stated that there is a deed, dated 1 Oct. 1745, from"James ADAIR of St. Stephen's parish. Doctor & his wife Clark" toWilliam BARRETT of Wicomico Parish for a parcel of land. When I wentto Heathsville, seat of Northumberland County, and had the deed inquestion copied, I found that it was form James ADAIR alone, but thathis wife Clark had relinquished dower rights, as was then thestandard practice.)

The youngest child of the family, Clark HOBSON, was the first of thedaughters to marry. Even so, she was probably in her mid-twentieswhen she married ADAIR. Her sister Elizabeth was 45 years old whenshe married Andrew ALLEN in 1743. It is clear from the Northumberlandrecords that the HOBSON women enjoyed a measure of independence andwere accustomed to participating in the family's business affairs. Aslong as they remained unmarried, they could continue to do so andlive in the "manor" left to them by their brother Thomas. It ishighly 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 countiesand home of some of the ancestors of many famous Virginians,including George WASHINGTON and Robert E. LEE. Not only had ClarkADAIR'S father been Clerk of court until his death in 1717, but hergrandfather, also named Thomas HOBSON, had been too, until 1683 whenhe became High Sheriff of the county. At the time of his death in1691, the elder Thomas HOBSON was one of the Justices ofNorthumberland. 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 ALLENmoved form Virginia to Johnston County before James ADAIR owned landthere. It is possible that Clark and the children lived with theALLENS there before ADAIR built his own "manor house" at Fairfields.Elizabeth ALLEN'S will makes it clear that the ADAIRS were nearby in1751.

To the dismay of later researchers, James ADAIR was very successfulin keeping his colorful public life and his family life completelyseparated. He did not mention his family at all in History of theAmerican Indians, published in London in 1775. Why was he sosecretive about his family life? Upon reflection, two possiblereasons, not entirely honorable but highly practical in EighteenthCentury America, come to mind. In the early years of the marriage hewould not have wanted his creditors in Charleston to k now aboutassets in Virginia which he had acquired by marrying Clark HOBSON.After her death, his book's claim that he had spent forty yearsliving among the Indians was completely at odds with the fact that hehad spent at least some of that time in an entirely conventionalfamily setting raising three daughters whose mother was not of NativeAmerican descent. It is possible, too, that he wanted to shield hisfamily 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, toanyone for whom there is the slightest possibility of having rootsthere. The county records are remarkably intact for such an oldcounty, and many of them have been photocopied and bound in volumeswhich are kept in a research facility maintained by theNorthumberland County Historical Society a block from the courthouse.(The microfilm of these same records at the Virginia State Library inRichmond, is, for the most part, unreadable.) Mr. W. Preston HAYNIEand his able assistant, "Bootsie" BURGESS, welcome and assistresearchers. I look forward to a return trip to try to find out whereClark Hobson ADAIR'S mother got her first name.

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

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

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