Buena Vista County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Extracted from:  Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. 
 Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa
Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 344-45.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  Mordecai Adams

The enterprising little city of Alta numbers among its worthy and representative citizens the gentleman whose name introduces this review, who for seventeen years made his home here, while his residence in the county dates from 1878.


Mr. Adams, now eighty-three years of age, one of the most respected as well as venerable citizens of this county, was born in Ontario county, New York, November 18, 1825.  His parents were John and Eliza L. (Davis) Adams, both of whom were natives of Chester county, Pennsylvania, the mother's birth there occurring in 1771. The father was reared upon what was the old homestead farm and there his marriage was celebrated.  He and his brother eventually came into possession of that place and together continued its cultivation for a number of years.  John Adams, however, afterward removed to the state of New York, settling on a farm in Ontario county, where he reared his family and spent his last years, his death occurring in 1840.  His wife survived him for a number of years.


Mordecai Adams is one of a family of six sons who reached adult age, but is the only one now living.  One daughter of the family also survives.  He spent the days of his boyhood and youth in Ontario county, New York, and to a limited extent attended the common schools, but is largely self-educated, and in the school of experience has learned many valuable lessons.  In connection with a younger brother he bought out the other heirs in the old homestead in the Empire state, and owned and operated that property for a number of years.  He was married in the town of Bristol, Ontario county, New York, October 18, 1849, to Miss Ovanda J. Gooding, who was born January 14, 1831, and was reared in the Empire state.  Removing to Livingston county, New York, Mr. Adams there purchased a farm upon which he made his home for twelve years, when he sold that property and went to Illinois, taking up his abode in Will county, where he cultivated a rented farm for six years.  In 1878 he came to Iowa and purchased land which had been entered by his brother, James D. Adams, who was one of the first settlers in this part of the state.  He had been a prominent and influential resident of the county, was closely associated with its pioneer development and continued to reside upon his old homestead until his death.  The first election in the county was held on this farm and Thomas Walpole still has the old ballot box, only about nine votes being cast in that election.  The farm comprises two hundred acres and, as stated, Mordecai Adams purchased this property, which he further developed and improved, making it a fine, modern farm.  He erected a dwelling, also a barn and corncribs, and added all of the improvements and accessories of a model farm of the twentieth century.  For thirteen years he continued to till the fields and then sold the property to his son.  He still owns a place of forty acres adjoining Alta, and three hundred and twenty acres of land in South Dakota.  On retiring from the farm he bought a residence in the town and has since made his home in Alta, being numbered among its valued and honored citizens.  He has done much for its improvement and progress and his name is inseparably associated with its history.


Unto Mr. and Mrs. Adams were born four children:  John G., who died in Livingston county, New York, when but thirteen years of age; Effie B., who died in Buena Vista county when seventeen years of age; Albert A., who follows farming in Nokomis township; and Ida G., the wife of Charles P. Holmes, of Alta.


In polities Mr. Adams was originally an old line whig but joined the republican party upon its organization, and has since been one of its stanch and stalwart advocates.  He served as mayor of Alta for two terms, and gave to the city a businesslike and progressive administration.  While acting as chief executive, and after that time, he gave supervision to the cemetery, keeping it up for ten years.  In 1886 he was associated with thirteen others in organizing the fair association, was elected its first president and has served continuously since, maintaining one of the best county fairs in the state.  He also set out the trees in the Alta Park, was appointed one of the first park commissioners and has since acted in that capacity, giving much time to is [sic] supervision.  Although Mr. Adams has reached the eighty-third milestone on life's journey he is still a hale and hearty man, active and energetic, and while he has retired from business cares he is yet doing excellent work for the county in many ways, particularly in the upbuilding and improvement of Alta.  His worth as a citizen has long been widely acknowledged, and his enterprise constitutes a factor in the county's substantial development.  His life has been an honorable and upright one, and his example of progressive citizenship is one which might well be followed by others.