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Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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ADAMS, MICHAEL (1845-1899)

ADAMS, MICHAEL, lawyer, sportsman, MLA, MP, and senator; b. Douglastown, 13 Aug 1845, s/o Samuel Adams Sr and Mary Ann Daley, Catholic immigrants from Co. Cork, Ireland; brother of Samuel Adams and Richard B. Adams; m. 1st, 1869, Catherine Lobban Patterson, d/o James Patterson, of Chatham, and 2nd, 1882, Agnes Nealis, of Fredericton; d. Newcastle, 1 Jan 1899.

After attending the County Grammar School when it was taught by James Millar, Michael Adams studied law with Edward Williston (1864-67) and Allan A. Davidson Sr. Admitted to the bar in 1868, he established a practice in Newcastle. In 1878, when Richard A. Lawlor was called to the bar, he took him as his partner. For a short time Adams & Lawlor conducted a second office in Bathurst. In 1883 they opened one in Chatham. Adams was appointed QC in 1891.

Adams made his first appearance in politics in 1868

as a campaign speaker for Richard Hutchison, who defeated Jacob C. Gough in the contest for the House of Commons seat made vacant by the death of John M. Johnson. In 1870 he made a successful bid of his own for one of the Northumberland County seats in the provincial House of Assembly, and he sat until 1874. He was defeated in that year's general election, but after he regained the seat in 1878 he was appointed provincial surveyor general. He held the portfolio until 1883, under premiers John J. Fraser and Daniel L. Hanington. A legacy of his term is the community of Adamsville, in Kent County, which he authorized as a free grant settlement in 1879.

Adams was re-elected with the most votes of any candidate in the elections of 1882 and 1886, but he resigned in 1887 to seek the House of Commons seat. He was defeated by the popular sitting member, Peter Mitchell, but won the seat for the Liberal-Conservatives (then so-called) in 1891, in a second hard-fought contest with Mitchell. He held it until 1896, when he was appointed to the Senate.

The Union Advocate described Adams as "a man of strong impulses, very hearty, outspoken to the last degree." He was admired by his supporters for the sharpness of his repartee. He projected a devil-may-care image, as witness the disheveled hair and puckish expression which was captured in photographs. Although he was not given an opportunity to shine on either the provincial or federal stage, his supporters believed him to be the political equal of Mitchell. "There were times in the senator's life," observed the Miramichi Advance at the time of his death, "when the friction of political opposition or the shock of party contests obscured the real qualities of his heart. He was, however, possessed of a most genial disposition. He appreciated the bright, humorous things of life. He had a keen wit, which was sometimes veiled in satire, and his intuitive appreciation of a situation, and personal magnetism, made him ever popular with all classes."

Adams was an enthusiastic salmon angler who familiarized himself with the Miramichi river network as a young man and was later accompanied on fishing expeditions by family members, friends, and visiting sportsmen. The earliest trip of which a record has been found is one which he took in August 1879, when he and Robert R. Call caught nineteen grilse and nine salmon in two days of fishing, "well up the Main Northwest." In 1882 he and his brothers had a "residence" on the North West "for the accommodation of themselves or their friends during the fishing season." This was one of the first sporting camps on the river, but it is not known if it was the structure later referred to as "Camp Adams."

In July 1883 Michael Adams, along with his brother John J. Adams and two guests from New York, killed 108 salmon in five days of sport on the "Adams camping grounds." By 1885, if not by 1882, he was the owner and occupant of Camp Adams, which was situated on an island in the Northwest, some thirty-five miles upriver from Waye's. The camp was "a neat, nicely painted, story and a half building of the Swiss cottage style of architecture," furnished in a manner that made camping out "a luxury." A photo of Adams adorned the wall, along with photos of William Crawford, a New York lawyer who was among the first American 'sports' to hunt and fish on the Northwest, and Arthur Pringle of Stanley, N.B., who later trapped and guided in the Bald Mountain area. A log of the salmon, grilse, and trout catch was begun in 1884. It showed that in July 1885 Adams took twenty-three salmon in five days. Two United States anglers who spent eight days at the camp in August 1887 caught sixty-two salmon and grilse. The total take in a twenty-three-day period in 1888 was sixty-one salmon, eighty-three grilse, and seventy-five trout.

Adams was one of the first politicians to understand the commercial potential of developing a sport fishing and hunting industry in New Brunswick. During his term as provincial surveyor general he was instrumental in having the land grants issued which later became the property of the Miramichi Fish & Game Club. This club was formed by a number of wealthy American sportsmen after his death in 1899 and came under the management of Robert H. Armstrong of Newcastle the following year.

Adams's first wife, Catherine L. Patterson, died in 1881, leaving three sons and three daughters. There were also two sons and a daughter from the second marriage, but not all of the children lived to adulthood. After Adams died in 1899, at age fifty-three, his widow, Agnes Nealis, settled in Fitchburg, Mass. When she died in August 1922, S. Clay Adams, a son of the first marriage, was a prominent dry-goods merchant in New York, and Francis D. Adams, the younger son of the second marriage, was a prosperous solicitor in Los Angeles. Both of these men contributed liberally towards the development of team sports in Newcastle in the 1920s. The elder son of the second marriage, William A. Adams, was an important businessman in the American colony in Shanghai, China, where his death occurred in 1941.

Michael Adams was also survived by several exceptionally talented brothers. Besides Richard B. Adams and Samuel Adams, these included John J. Adams, a graduate of the law school at Columbia University who served a term as a United States congressman from New York, and Thomas D. Adams, a New York businessman who returned to New Brunswick as resident manager of the lumber firm of Burns, Adams & Co. of Bathurst, in which members of the Adams family in New York held a controlling interest in the 1890s. His sisters included Ellen G. Adams, the wife of John D. Creaghan, who was the matriarch of one of Newcastle's most accomplished families.


[b] church records [m] official records; World 2 Dec 1882 [d] Advance 5 Jan 1899 / Advance 7 Aug 1879, 19 Jul 1888, 30 Aug 1888; Advocate 24 Jul 1878, 12 Jul 1882, 8 Aug 1883, 27 Jul 1887, 3 Jan 1899, 15 Aug 1922, 30 Oct 1923, 9 Jun 1925; Can. Dir. Parl.; Cyclo. Can. Biog. 1888; Freeman 19 Feb 1881; Graves; Griffin; Leader 28 Nov 1941; Memories; NB Elections; Rayburn; Weeks; World 31 Mar 1883, 4 Aug 1883, 11 Jul 1885, 20 Aug 1887