John Downing Adams of Merrick County, Nebraska

My great-grandfather, John Downing Adams, was born in Hamilton County, Ohio, June 28, 1842, to David and Matilda (Kitchell) Adams. He was the seventh of nine children, four boys and five girls. About 1850, most of the family moved to Bureau County, Illinois, where he grew to manhood.

John enrolled in the Civil War February 20, 1865, as a private in Company H, 151st regiment of Illinois infantry. He took part in the fight at Kingston, Georgia, and was wounded in the left hip with a spent cannon ball. He was discharged at Columbus, Georgia, January 24, 1866.

He returned to Illinois and married Mary Elizabeth Lafferty, daughter of Wesley and Harriet Lafferty, October 27, 1867. John and Mary Adams lived in Bureau County, Illinois, and their first three children, Emma Matilda, October 22, 1868, Alcinda Susan, February 22, 1870, and Howard, May 18, 1872, were born there. In 1872 he, with three of his brothers, Robert, William, and George, and perhaps one sister, Mrs. Jane Moyer, migrated to Merrick County, Nebraska. They came in a covered wagon, arriving in November. It is said their first home was a dugout, as they arrived too late to get a soddy built.

Their daughter, Alcinda Susan, died in 1872, at the age of two. While her mother was chasing Indians out of the corn field she fell into a pot of hot water and was scalded. She lived about two weeks, being kept wrapped in wool blankets, but then died. She was buried out on the prairie.

John settled on property he later homesteaded. He first built a 17×18 ft. log house, a 12×14 ft. log stable, a 10×12 ft. log granary, a shed, a corral, and dug a well. He was a good carpenter and also farmed, raising wheat, oats, corn and barley. He liked to fish, and also ran a ferry on the Loup River before the bridge was built.

Six more children were born in Nebraska: Clarence Ethrud, June 3, 1875, Charles Marion, January 8, 1877, William Franklin, February 19, 1879, Florence Berl, December 2, 1880, Anna Jane, January 23, 1883, and Fred Allan, January 5, 1885.

William Franklin married and spent some time in Illinois, and although he died in Palmer, Nebraska, he is buried in Malden, Illinois. The rest of the children all married, lived, and died in Nebraska, and all but Charles are buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Palmer along with their parents. Charles is buried in Kimball, Nebraska.

John’s parents stayed in Illinois, and his father passed away March 31, 1856. His mother passed away April 25, 1874. Both are buried in the Mason Cemetery in Dover, Bureau County, Illinois.

My grandmother, Emma Matilda, married Allen Wilson Gee, February 10, 1886. They were the parents of ten children. More on their family can be found in the Gee history.

Howard married Bessie Elizabeth Rankin, May 16, 1903, in Fairplay, Colorado, but they moved back to Nebraska and had four children.

Clarence Ethrud married Flossie Elliott, November 6, 1902. They were the parents of six children.

Charles Marion married Martha James, April 15, 1903. They had one daughter who, along with her mother and her own daughter, were killed in an explosion and fire in 1943.

William Franklin married Jessie Amanda Stewart, November 28, 1901, in Princeton, Bureau County, Illinois. They were the parents of six children, most of whom were born in Illinois before they returned to Nebraska.

Florence Berl married George Maximus Charron, October 20, 1898. They were the parents of six children. Their oldest daughter, Mrs. Ruth Robbins, now lives in St. Paul, Nebraska.

Anna Jane married Byron Beryl Dooley, January 26, 1901. They were the parents of eight children.

Fred Allan married Clara May Starkey, February 29, 1911. They were the parents of three children. Their oldest daughter, Mrs. Violet Vardaman, now lives in St. Paul, Nebraska.

Mary Elizabeth Adams died in Palmer, December 17, 1915. She is buried in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Palmer. She was a faithful member of the Christian Church there, having joined February 27, 1894.

John Downing Adams died in Palmer June 9, 1922. He is also buried in the Rose Hill Cemetery.

John Downing Adams Siblings

In 1872, John Downing Adams and his family, along with three of his brothers, Robert, William, and George, came west from Illinois and settled in Merrick County, Nebraska. It is not known whether his sister, Jane Adams Moyer, came to Nebraska with her brothers or if she came later. Following are brief sketches of John’s brothers and sister:

Robert Adams married Amanda Jane Sill, February 7, 1865, in Princeton, Bureau County, Illinois. Four children were born in Illinois: Nora Irene, December 9, 1865, Howard Grant, January 26, 1868, Nellie Lincoln, November 19, 1869, and Birdie Catherine, July 31, 1871 (and she died August 3, 1872). Five more children were born after moving to Nebraska; Mary Evelyn, March 19, 1873, Nannie Louella, May 15, 1876, Alvin Ward, December 7, 1878, Fina Blanche, November 11, 1880, and Elmer Statten, May 25, 1885.

Nora Irene married Marshall Prutsman, Howard Grant married Cora Mae Reece, Nellie Lincoln married Oscar Burton, Mary Evelyn married Franklin Wymer, Nannie Louella married Reuben Walcott, Alvin Ward married Sue Benniger, Fina Blanche married Melvin Grimes and after his death, she married William Moore. Elmer Statten married Emma Finch.

Of Robert and Amanda’s descendants, some are in California, Idaho, Wyoming, and some still in Nebraska. Robert died August 20, 1897, and Amanda Jane died July 4, 1925.

William Adams married Amanda Cosner. They were the parents of at least three children: George, Lillie, and Nettie, who married Arthur A. Truil. Not much more is known about this family.

George Adams married Eliza Engart. They were the parents of at least five children: Cora M. married James Gugin, Laura A. married Jerome Peck, Mabel J. married Walter Campbell, Harrie E. married Esther Glouse, and Jessie R. married Moses M. Cresse. Nothing further is known about this family.

Jane Adams married Abraham Moyer, February 17, 1848, in Clermont County, Ohio. They were the parents of six children: David Allen, March 19, 1849, and Mary Lee, November 26, 1852, both born in Ohio, Harriet Ellen, about 1857 in Illinois and later died in Iowa, John Franklin, July 27, 1861 in Bureau County, Illinois, Amanda, February 1864, and Matilda J., November 1, 1866, both born in Iowa. Jane Moyer died in Nebraska December 14, 1890, and is buried in Burke Cemetery near Archer. Abraham Moyer died December 12, 1913, and is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Palmer. They have one granddaughter, Mrs. Goldie Stearman, now living in Palmer.


Persinger, C. E., A History of Merrick County, Nebraska: From “the Beginning” to 1895, Dallas, Texas : Taylor Publishing Company, 1981.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Discover more from Nebraska Genealogy

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Scroll to Top