It’s in the Will

The topic this week for 52 Ancestors is “Where There’s a Will.”

John Strong Adams dangled out on the edge of a branch of our family tree, an orphan with no connection except to his wife. He married my 5th great-aunt, Sarah Eve, and worked for the husband of my 6th great-aunt, Christopher Cashel Fitzsimons. He came from Randalstown, County Antrim, Ireland and later worked as a commission merchant in Charleston, South Carolina. John Strong Adams and Sarah Eve were married in 1803 in Augusta, Georgia, and called their home “Adam and Eve’s Paradise.” It is said that he had beautiful handwriting and had excellent taste in literature. He died while visiting Randalstown with his wife in 1812 and a memorial to him in the family cemetery in Augusta, Georgia, said he was buried in his father’s grave in Randalstown.

But searches for more information about him and his family had not brought up much more than marriage or property records in Georgia and South Carolina and a line in a Belfast newspaper noting his death. I also had suspicions that he was somehow related to the Adams branch of our family tree: they were from the same county in Ireland, had places in that county in common, both he and descendants of my Adams family end up in Augusta, Georgia, and both marry into the Eve family.

Recently, I decided to click on the search button you find on a person’s page in Ancestry. I was pretty sure I had done this before, but to my surprise, a few results I had never seen popped up, including two entries for his will, one in Philadelphia County and one in New York County. Both list the correct people and place: his wife, Christopher Fitzsimons, property in Randalstown, and the will was created in Charleston, South Carolina.

Happiest of all, the will mentions his mother, Ann Adams, his sister, Ann Eliza, his brothers, James and Thomas, and his uncle, William Adams. Suddenly, John Strong Adams went from being an orphan to having several family members. It is a pleasure to see these additional branches in our tree.

The mention of his Uncle William is important because my Adams family relatives also have an Uncle William who lives in Randalstown. While this doesn’t absolutely prove the link between the families, it is a step in that direction.

It can also be surmised from the will, which was written in 1809, that his father had died before then as John leaves the property in Randalstown that was “bequeathed to [him] by [his] father” to his mother and sister.

In other items in the will, John leaves 1/3 of his estate, “real, personal and otherwise,” to his “dear and beloved wife Sarah Adams.” He also leaves all his household slaves to her as well as their household furniture. The rest of his property is to be put into trust by Christopher Fitzsimons and John Stoney and sold. The result of the sale is to benefit his mother and siblings equally. He leaves Christopher Fitzsimons his bookcase and all the books in it. He leaves John Stoney his “writing desk and all its apparatus.” He leaves his Uncle William his gold watch. Of these three men, John writes,

These trifling articles I do not give with any view of their value but as slight memorials of my affection for the last named persons with whose friendship I have been long honored[,] a friendship that constituted the pride and pleasure of my existence and which will cease to be felt only when I cease to live.

Even though the will answered some questions, more questions have come up:

  • Who was John Strong Adams’ father and where were they buried?
  • What happened to the property and money (1/3 of his estate) that John left to his wife, Sarah? Sarah’s sister, Emmaline Eve Smith, writes that Sarah lost it and spent her days sewing to support herself. How did she loose it?
  • The documentation surrounding the will shows that the executors, Christopher Cashel Fitzsimons and John Stoney, decline to execute the will. Why did they decline?

17 thoughts on “It’s in the Will

  1. Eilene Lyon says:

    It’s interesting that he made out his will before traveling to Ireland. I wonder if he was ill and made the trip knowing he might not make it home. Or maybe he was just concerned about the perils of the sea.


    • julieflake says:

      What an interesting thought! I know he traveled to Ireland at least twice while married to Sarah. He may have gone more often than that. I might have to add this to my list of questions about him.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Adams Sibley says:

    Hi cousin, thanks for the read. John Adams is my namesake, though I don’t know much about him. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

    -Adams (Longstreet) Sibley


    • julie says:

      Hi Cousin! Nice to meet you. I’m glad I can help you learn more about him. Are you also related to the Longstreets? Gilbert Longstreet is one of my ancestors.

      Just for clarification, there are two men by the name of John Adams that I have written about: John Adams, who lived in Ireland and produced linen, and his nephew, John Strong Adams, who was born in Ireland, married in Georgia to an Eve daughter, and then died in Ireland.


  3. Theresa Sanders says:

    Hi Julie and Adams Sibley,
    Wonderful posts! You ask where John Strong Adams and Sarah Eve Adams home in Charleston was located. The house is located at 50 Laurens Street and is currently in excellent condition.
    Theresa Sanders

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Christopher Carroll says:

    The Adams/Ingraham house is at 50 Laurens in Charleston. Does anyone know who owned the home in 1847, or in the 1840-50’s?
    It seems the home was sold by the Adams family in 1819, and I read an article the house was owned by the Ingraham Family from 1828 to mid 19th Century (1850’s), but looks like the owner per 1861 directory was James Muirhead/Morehead. The person renting or resident was George Cordes. As for the Ingraham’s it doesn’t look like George or Duncan Ingraham lived at 50 Laurens till 1880’s.


    • Theresa Sanders says:

      Hi Christopher,
      From what we’ve found, the Adams Ingraham house was owned by George H. and Mary Rebecca Gaillard Ingraham from 1828 – 1899. The house was listed as 36 Laurens in the 1861 directory with the owner listed as “M.R. Ingraham” which probably was Mary Rebecca Ingraham. It was not uncommon for the street numbers to change due to filling in the marsh/water line along the harbor. And regarding Duncan Ingraham, we don’t believe he ever lived at the house as it was bought by his brother, George, (well actually bought by his wife’s father) after he married Mary Rebecca. I believe the two brothers grew up in a house on East Bay Street, but not certain.
      On a side note, we found Sarah Eve’s diary written in her beautiful script which unfortunately I’m not able to decipher. We’re having it professionally translated- it’s fascinating!
      You mention reading about the house in an article. Would you mind sharing the article? I would be very interested in reading it!
      Best regards,

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Christopher Carroll says:

    Do You Know Your Charleston?
    Laurens Street Home
    ‘Reborn ‘Alter Fire

    The’ Federal-style house at 50 Laurens St
    The’ Federal-style house at 50 Laurens St. could be called “The Phoenix” since it was reborn after a near- disastrous fire a few years ago.
    Built c. 1807-08 by John Strong Adams, the. three-story frame house was rehabilitated by its present owners, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Ward, after a fire in March 1974.
    The restored house will be featured Oat. 26 on the Ansonborough house and garden tour sponsored by the Preservation Society of Charleston.
    The Wards were in the process of restoring the house when an early-morning fire, fed by a brisk wind, destroyed the interior of the third floor and badly charred the federal style woodwork of one second-floor room.
    The brick walls or the kitchen house survived, although the frame interior and a roof which had been finished the same week were totally destroyed.
    Ward, whose hobby is woodworking and cabinets making, replaced the mantels, the upper part of the staircase and other woodwork with his own handiwork.
    The fire uncovered evidence that the house originally was a 21/2-story structure with a hipped roof, in a style more compatible with its early-l9th century building date.
    It is evident that the full third floor, with its Greek Revival period parapet roof line, was added some years after the house was built.
    The fire would have been a good excuse to remove remaining portions of the third floor and replace the hip- roofed half story, Ward said.
    The full third story, however, afforded more space and light than would have been possible in a hip-roofed ha1£ story, so Ward opted to restore the full third story.
    Ward also removed the damaged second level of the piazzas, retaining a balustrade around the resultant deck. A six light transom was added above the second floor doorway to provide light for the stair-hall.
    The site of the house was historically part of the lands of Christopher Gadsden, just above Ansonborough. Identified as Lot No. 18 of the Gadsden lands, it was one of several lots belonging to Gadsden’s estate which were sold at auction on May 2i, 1807.
    John Strong Adams was the highest bidder for Lot No. 18, purchasing it for 500 guineas.
    On May 14, 1808, Adams had Samuel A. Ruddock, city surveyor, draw a plat of the property. The plat shows Adams’ “Mansion House” o£ wood, a brick kitchen, a wooden coach house and wash house, and a garden on the property.
    The plat reveals the floor plan of the house: two rooms to a floor, divided by a central hall, with chimneys on the back side and a piazza or piazzas across the front. Adams, apparent builder of the house, was evidently an Irishman, as his will, probated in 1812, mentions property
    in the Village of Randalstown, County of Antrim, Ireland, which was to be divided among his mother and siblings. After Adams’ death, his Laurens Street property was acquired by Elizabeth Ryan, wife of Peter Thomas Ryan, administrator of Adams’ estate in South Carolina. Mrs. Ryan then sold it to her husband.
    After Ryan’s death, the property was sold at auction on Jan. 7, 1819. An advertisement of the sale, which appeared in time Courier on the same date, describes the property: “The dwelling house is two stories high, with garrets, on a high brick foundation, covered I roofed with slate, and having an excellent marble staircase in front, and all elegantly finished.”
    “The out offices are a brick building, 2 1/2 stories high, covered also with slate, calculated for a kitchen, servant’s rooms, wash house, carriage house and stable, well finished and glazed. On the premises are a Well and good cistern.
    “This property is in one of the most pleasant and heal thy situations in Charleston, and would make an excellent residence for a planter.”
    The house retains the flight of marble steps leading to the first floor piazza, mentioned in the advertisement.
    Original features also include the fanlighted main entrance, with its unusual chamfered pilasters, and in the interior, a Federal mantel with candlelight molding, pilasters, and some cornices with “candlelight” molding, dentils and gauge work, and Federal-period wainseoting.
    The house was purchased in 1819 by John Schulze, who sold if in 1828 to Bartholomew Gaillard, trustee of the marriage settlement of George H. Ingraham and Mary Rachel Ingraham.
    The Ingraham name is on the iron gateway to the property. The property remained in the Ingraham family until after the Civil War.


  6. Theresa Sanders says:

    Hi Christopher,
    Thank you so much for posting the article. There’s some very interesting new information in there that I didn’t know. I’m especially interested in finding a copy of the plat done by Samuel A. Ruddock as, according to the article, it shows the location of the outbuildings of the Adams Ingraham house!

    On another related note, I’ve recently read that Princess Diana was a descendant of the Strong family. It makes me wonder if John Strong Adams had a connection? After doing a very brief search, I found the following-

    Might be interesting to track down the possibility!
    Best regards,


  7. Christopher Carroll says:

    Also I checked with Karen at the Foundation, but plat not located there, she gave suggestions.
    Hi Chris,

    The plat isn’t in HCF’s archives. Given the date of the article (i.e., way before HCF’s Archives existed, I can guess that the plat referred to came from one of the repositories that was the “go-to” place for historians at the time. I recommend that you contact them in this order:

    City of Charleston Records Management Division (because the article refers to the surveyor as “city surveyor”) (note though that historic plats may have been given to the public library)

    SC Room of the Charleston County Public Library

    SC Historical Society

    Please let me know if you find it. J

    Good luck!


    Karen Brickman Emmons

    I left off another place: Charleston County Register of Deeds Office, which houses many historic plats. I didn’t find the one you’re looking for on the website but, frankly, it’s very difficult to find plats given the search terms allowed. For example, you can’t search by surveyor name, and many other hurdles. So you could give someone over there a call and ask if it’s available online and how to find it or see if they have the plat in the historic records room.


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