Genealogy Trails History Group Finding Ancestors wherever their trails led

McLean County, Illinois
History and Genealogy



WILLIAM H. H. ADAMS, President of the Illinois Wesleyan University [ed., Illinois Wesleyan University], at Bloomington, is a native of this State, having been born in Effingham County, March 30, 1840. He is the son of Christopher B. and Sarah (Gannaway) Adams, and is descended from English ancestry, the Adams family being a branch of that from which President John Q. Adams sprang. The grandfather of our subject, Eli Adams, of London, Madison Co., Ohio, was one of the early settlers of the Buckeye State. The Gannaway family settled in Virginia two centuries ago. One of the most prominent representatives in this country was John Gannaway, the maternal grandfather of our subject, who was an extensive slaveholder and carried on a large plantation in the Old Dominion. During the early years of his life he removed to Illinois, where he liberated his slaves and departed this life at the advanced age of eighty-six years. Eli Adams married the daughter of Christopher Beeks, who emigrated from England during the Revolutionary War, enlisted in the service of the colonies, and fell at the battle of Bunker Hill. His son, Christopher B., the father of our subject, was born in Xenia, Ohio, and was principally reared in Madison County, whence he emigrated to Illinois in 1837. He was married the following year to Miss Sarah Gannaway, and they became the parents of six children.

President Adams was reared principally in Coles County, this State, and entered upon his primary education in the pioneer schools conducted in the log cabin. After having attained sufficient progress, he entered the Northwestern University, at Evanston, Ill. He began his theological course at Garrett Biblical Institute [ed., now Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary], Evanston, and was licensed to preach when a mere youth of seventeen years, being placed in charge of North Avenue Church, at Chicago, Ill., a position which he held during the last two years of his college course. Soon after graduating, in 1870, he joined the Illinois Conference, his first appointment being at Monticello for two years, and was then sent to Clinton, Ill., whence after three years he was called to Wesleyan University [ed., Illinois Wesleyan University], and in 1875 became its President and the successor to Bishop Fallows, now of Chicago.

Dr. Adams was united in marriage in 1867, with Miss Hannah Concklin, of Plymouth, Ohio, and they became the parents of four children, three daughters and one son Lula May, Grace, Charles C. and Katie.

During the late war Dr. Adams enlisted as a private in the Union service in Co. A, 111th Ill. Vol. Inf., and in 1863 he was promoted First Lieutenant and served as such until near the expiration of his term of enlistment, when he was brevetted, first as Captain and afterward as Major of the regiment. As Captain he commanded the 4th Battery, U. S. Artillery. Previous to this, however, he drilled the first 2,000 colored troops, formed them into companies, and turned them over to the service. His commission as Major was signed by President Lincoln. He was stationed for a time at Columbus, Ky., whence he went to Mobile, and from there to Little Rock, Ark. He was in the battle at Nashville, Tenn., under Gen. Thomas, and took part in several minor engagements against Gen. Forrest. He resigned his commission July 4, 1865, and returning to Evanston completed his college course. Early in life he identified himself with the Methodist Episcopal Church, and is a member in good standing of the Masonic fraternity.

When Dr. Adams first came to Bloomington he had received no information of the honor about to be conferred upon him. Wesleyan University [ed., Illinois Wesleyan University] was then in debt about $60,000, but under his wise and efficient management, the most of this has been liquidated, and it now has an endowment of $85,000. In 1886 there were 670 students enrolled, and its course of study is considered the most thorough and efficient of any institution in the State. Dr. Adams has proved himself equally able as an instructor and an executive, and is rightly regarded as one of the pillars of an institution in which the intelligent people of McLean County are vitally interested.

[SOURCE: Portrait and biographical album of McLean County, Ill. : containing full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county, together with portraits and biographies of all the governors of Illinois, and of the presidents of the United States. (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887). Transcribed and annotated by Judy Rosella Edwards.]


Copyright © Genealogy Trails
All Rights Reserved with Full Rights Reserved for Original Contributor