The Valley of Heart's Delight

Pioneer of Gilroy
Sheriff of Santa Clara County

Bio- History of Santa Clara


Among the notable California  forty-niners resident in Santa Clara County who have joined the silent majority of that adventurous host and found homes in yet fairer golden lands than those to which they   struggled amid countless hardships in 1849, John Hicks Adams deserves especial mention in any historical record annalling the affairs of  Santa Clara County, since he was a real pioneer in that county.  On September 4, 1878, the county and that section of the state was called upon to mourn the taking of a true and worthy man, one who had been true to this own ideals an convictions, and who by his large life work conferred benefit upon hundreds of his fellow citizens who of necessity shared in what he accomplished toward the material progress and outbuilding of his community. While on his way from his mine in Arizona to Tucson he was killed by Mexicans in ambush.  He was born at Edwardsville, Ill, June 13, 1830.  His father John Quincy Adams, (named for the president) who had been a resident of Illinois since 1816, was engaged in wool carding and in the manufacture of woolen goods.  In 1822 he commenced raising the castor oil bean, having obtained a few seeds from the East Indies.  In 1823 he gave seeds to his neighbors, who put in crops, and their  returns ran as high as one dollar per bushel, paid them by Mr. Adams, who had erected a factory that season where he made castor oil to supply the market.  This was the beginning of this industry in the state of Illinois.

In 1823, Mrs. John Q. Adams died and the son, John H., our subject, was sent to school at Shurtleff College, in Upper Alton, and remained there two years.  In the meantime his father had married a Miss Gordon, then John H. returned home and assisted in his father’s factory and store.  On the night of April 12, 1838, the castor oil mills, five in number, with 20,000 bushels of beans and fifty barrels of oil, were completely destroyed by fire, there being no insurance, the loss being something like $45,000.  This was a severe loss, but they immediately set about erecting another building and continued their business. In 1838 John Quincy Adams was elected couth sheriff and his son, John Hicks, was appointed a deputy and looked after collection of taxes and court business.  During the winter of 1838 a bold jail break was effected by two men and, as Sheriff Adams was absent, John Hicks took full charge of the pursuit and after several days captured the two desperate men and returned them to the jail.  On May 16, 1840, the father passed away at Edwardsville, leaving five children by his first wife and three by his second.  John Hicks Adams then went into business with H. K. Eaton, and for the next two years manufactured castor oil; then e and his brother, W. R. Adams, carried on the business until low prices forced them to suspend.

In the spring of 1847, John Hicks Adams assisted in raising a company for the Mexican War and was mustered in on May 20, 1847, at Alton, Ill., in Company J, Fifth Illinois Volunteers, and Mr. Adams was commissioned first lieutenant, and at Fort Leavenworth he received the appointment of regimental quartermaster, taking charge of  the government supplies, stock and wagons to cross the plains to Santa Fe, 120 wagons in all ; later in July Lieutenant Adams was advanced to a captain, upon the death of Captain Niles, and took command at 110-mile Creek near the border, and during the march and campaign acquitted himself with honor.  At the close of the war he returned to Illinois with his regiment and was discharged at Alton on October 12, 1848. During the winter of ’48-’49 the news of the discovery of gold in California had reached Illinois and Captain Adams was among the first in his locality to leave.  With a six-mule team and light wagon, accompanied by Allen Pomeroy, William Reynolds, and Dr. C. N. Lusk, he left St. Joseph, Mo., April 8, 1849.  They passed heavily loaded trains, guarded carefully against Indian attacks, were joined by several other parties, and after many hardships and deprivations from lack of water, arrived at Hangtown  August 1, 1849.  Captain Adams mined an ran pack trains in carious camps in Northern California for two years, then went back to Illinois via Panama and arrived at Edwardsville, October 12, 1851.  In the spring of 1852 he started for California over the plains with his wife and two children, and arrived in Placerville on September 6 of that year.  The winter of 1852-53 was spent at Manhattan Creek near Georgetown, where his brother-in-law, Allen Pomeroy had located a claim for him and he was very successful.

In August, 1853, Captain Adams removed to Santa Clara County and settled on a farm near Gilroy, and the present Adams district school near Gilroy stands on the land which he donated to the county fore that purpose in 1856.  Those were wild west days, to be sure, when upon arriving at the schoolhouse in the morning, bear and lion tracks were to be found in front of the door and around the building.  In 1860 Captain Adams was elected a member of the county board of supervisors to represent Gilroy and Almaden  townships.  In the fall of 1863 he was elected sheriff of Santa Clara County and removed with his family to San Jose; he held this office for three successive terms; again reelected in 1871 and '73 and retired in March 1876.  While in office he acquired a reputation as a brave and efficient officer and a shrewd detective, second to none in the state. His connection with the pursuit and capture of Vasquez, the notorious  bandit of California, is well known by old-timers and the praise he received was well deserved.  To Captain Adams is due the credit for making the first exploration of Lake Tahoe.  One of a company of eight men, he set out from Georgetown on May 1, 1850, in search of gold, and on May 20 he reached this now-famous lake exploring this region extensively prospecting for the yellow treasure.

In December, 1841, Mr. Adams married Miss Matilda Pomeroy, born in Shelby County, Ky., and  they were the parents of eight children:  John H. died in Illinois in childhood; Mary married James Hanna and lives in Livermore and has one son living; Alice M., widow of John Gordon, resides in San Jose; Sadie married James Reed and both are dead; William H. of the Llagas district; Charles C, also on the Llagas; Abraham L. .of Los Angeles has one son and one daughter ; Nellie M. married George Stark and resides in San Jose and has one daughter living.  Mr. Adams organized the Home Guards in Gilroy during the Civil War and was their captain; he also served as president of the South Almaden Quicksilver Mining Company.  He was pubic-spirited in citizenship, was trustworthy in business, faithful in friendship, and in his home, was most devoted to the welfare and happiness of his wife and children.  Many were his good qualities and few his faults.  He loved truth and justice and represented a high type of our American manhood.

Transcribed by Carolyn Feroben , from Eugene T. Sawyers' History of Santa Clara County,California, published by Historic Record Co. , 1922.
page 1055

Thursday, 14 Nov 1861-Stockton Daily Independent
BIRTH -- in Gilroy, Oct. 27, to the wife of Capt. J.H. ADAMS, a daughter.

Gilroy- History


Santa Clara County- The Valley of Heart's Delight