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Ezra Adams

Birthdate: (83)
Birthplace: Cambridge, Washington County, New York, United States
Death: December 11, 1871 (83)
Drayton, Wellington County, Ontario, Canada
Immediate Family:

Son of Eliphalet Adams and Patience Adams
Husband of Isa Adams; Amy Edmonds (Edmunds) Adams and Betsy Adams
Father of Betsy Almira Hurlburt (Adams); Eliza Roxana Swann (Adams); Jane Maria Mc Callum; George Washington Adams; Dr William Case Adams and 5 others
Brother of Rufus Adams; Phebe Kilborne; Eliphalet Adams, Jr.; Lucinda Adams; Vincent Adams and 4 others

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Ezra Adams

 The founders of the town of Acton were deeply religious and dedicated public servants. The most famous of them was Ezra, a saddlebags preacher on the Methodist Episcopal circuit. Preachers like Ezra and his brother Zenas spent years going from place to place bringing Christianity to the backwoods shanties and rudimentary villages of Upper Canada. This very hard life took its toll on the preachers and both Ezra and Zenas were forced by ill-health to retire for long periods.

Eliphalet Adams fought on the side of the Americans in the Revolutionary War. At the end of the war, he married Patience Rice and settled in Cambridge NY, a short distance northeast of Albany on the border with Vermont. There Rufus was born in 1783, Ezra in 1788, and Zenas in 1792. In 1798, the Eastern Townships in Lower Canada presented an opportunity for immigrants to obtain good land so Eliphalet and his family moved north to Canada. They settled in the Westbury area northeast of present-day Sherbrooke, in the backwoods miles from anywhere.

In 1811, Ezra heard a Methodist saddlebags preacher and was inspired. By March 1812, he had become a schoolteacher near Newmarket, Ontario. Two years later, he was a saddlebags preacher himself, working with David Culp on the Ancaster circuit. For the next eight years, he worked in the Bay of Quinte, Hallowell, Ottawa, Thames, and Niagara circuits. Finally, in 1822, he was forced by ill health to retire from the grind of the circuit. By then, he had married Isa Proctor and he and his family settled in Esquesing Township, probably working for Silas Emes to clear his land on lot 28 concession 2. By 1829, he had bought the eastern half of lot 28 concession 2 from Emes.

Meanwhile, in 1825, Ezra persuaded his brother Rufus to move to Esquesing from Westbury. Rufus obtained lot 28 concession 3, just across the road (now Main Street Acton) from Ezra. Most of present Acton is built on what was once Rufus' land. Rufus built his house at the end of what is now St Alban's Drive, which was the driveway to the house. Maria, Rufus' wife, wanted a schoolhouse for her children, so she built one across the road from her driveway on the land where Knox Church now stands. This school doubled as a chapel and the land behind became the family cemetery.

In 1827, Zenas Adams decided to join his brothers. He, like Ezra, had been a saddlebags preacher, but south of the border. Also like Ezra, he had burned out and needed to refresh himself, so he obtained land south of Ezra on lot 27 concession 2. Zenas first built a log cabin, then he built a frame house. When Asa Hall moved to the area in 1833, the only houses belonged to Rufus and Zenas. Zenas must have been the businessman of the family because he, in addition to his land south of Ezra, he bought l;and from his brothers. From Rufus, he bought all the land south of Mill Street, which is why the streets south of Mill Street are named after Zenas' children: Agnes, John, Frederick, Maria, and Wilbur. That is also why his second house was built at the corner of Church and Main Streets. The second house is still there but looks a bit worse for wear.

Zenas Adams House

In those early days of Canada, it was easy to clear land and build a house only to find that you had put in all that hard work on somebody else's property. That is what happened to Eliphalet Adams in Westbury, Lower Canada. After failing to get any satisfaction from the government, he decided in 1829 to pack up and move his family to be near his sons in Upper Canada. The next year, his youngest son Phineas, who had accompanied him from Westbury, died at 31 and was buried in the family cemetery. Two years later Eliphalet's wife Patience joined her son there.

By 1830, Ezra had recovered his health enough to take part in local politics, becoming Warden of Esquesing Township. Then, later in the year, he decided to become a saddlebags preacher again, taking up the Newmarket circuit. From there he went to the London District and then the Muncey mission, where his wife died in 1832. The next year, he married Amy Curtis, the widow of another preacher. Being on the circuit didn't stop Ezra from taking care of his Esquesing property. He returned in 1836 and built a gristmill and a sawmill. The gristmill was on the same site as the present flour mill and the sawmill was located where the stream crosses Main Street, south of Church Street. The present Fairy Lake was created when Ezra dammed the stream for his mill.

Ezra Adams in later life

Ezra continued on the circuit until his final retirement in 1843, when he moved to Dayton, Ontario to be near his stepdaughter. Once again he was a pioneer, building his home in the backwoods of Peel Township. His home became known as the Methodist Inn for the hospitality it offered to travellers. When his second wife, Amy, died in 1864, he married her sister Betsy, the widow of Smith Griffin, the nephew of the founder of Smithville, Ontario. He died in Dayton in 1871.

Adamsville became Acton Ontario

For almost 150 years this place has been called Acton. It was 1844 when Robert Swan, our first postmaster, suggested this name to replace "Adamsville" (chosen in honour of the founders) and the original name, "Dansville".

Acton was settled in 1825 by the Rev. Ezra, Rev. Zenas, and Rufus Adams. Saddlebag Methodist preachers, they retired to farm and rebuilt their strength, returning to the circuit in 1830. Zenas preached the first sermon ever delivered in the locality, just east of Acton, opposite Worden's farm. Zenas held services at his home on the corner of Main and Church Streets. Built of yellow pine about 1830, his home still stands. Zenas died in 1847.

Ezra, whose home stood near Bower Avenue later moved to Drayton. Rufus' wife opened the Acton School in 1826 where the Knox Church now stands. The school also doubled as a Methodist Chapel. Rufus died in 1856 and his widow soon moved to Dundas. A fourth brother, Eliphalet Adams later joined his brothers here. His son Phineas who died at age 31 in 1830 may have been the first grave behind the Chapel (Pioneer Cemetery - now behind Knox Church). Eliphalet, who died in 1844 had a younger son, Ransom, who was a bachelor businessman here until his death in 1880. He was the last Adams to reside in Acton.

The Adams brothers dammed up the creek to create the Mill pond which powered their saw mill and later the flour mill which operates on the same site today. The mill pond, named "Fairy Lake" by Sarah Secord, surrounds Prospect Park. The 14 acres have served as the town park and fairgrounds since the village purchased it in 1889 for $3000. The stone pillars were erected in 1924 to celebrate 50 years of incorporation. The arena was erected in 1929 on the site of the army drill shed. The 1867 barn stands beside the arena and serves the Acton Agricultural Society as a Poultry barn at Fairtimes.

Main street was Acton's principal thoroughfare in the early days. The Adams family laid out thestreets in a grid pattern, naming them after family members. Then the boom began with the coming of the railroad. The first Grand Trunk train steamed through town in 1856. The Toronto-to-Guelph Road (Highway 7) also served as a main road. It was laid out in 1827. Main Street became Highway 25 as the automobile became king, causing passenger rail service to decline until November 1967 when Acton Station was closed. Limited service was reintroduced in 1987 although the station has long since been pulled down.

Acton adopted the theme of "Leathertown" in recent years and with good reason. The tanning industry began in 1842 under Abraham Nelles. By 1865, the Beardmore Tanning Company, a Hamilton tanner since 1844, purchased the business and became an integral part of the village. They built employee housing, tennis courts, a bowling green, a golf course, boathouse, ran a co-operative store, and the village outdoor arena on Frederick Street. At one time the tannery proclaimed itselfas the largest in the British Empire. Canada Packers purchased it in 1944, operating under the Beardmore name until they closed it on Sept. 12, 1986.

Acton was part of Esquesing Township until 1874 when it was incorporated as a village. The Town Hall was erected in 1882 for the municipal council, the constabulary and the fire brigade. When Acton became part of Halton Hills in 1974, the hall was no longer needed. Designated an historic building in 1977, it was eventually sold to Heritage Acton for one dollar. They are presently restoring the building which still includes the nineteenth century lockup. The other principal public buildings in Acton include its centennial projects: the Hydro offices, which were considerably enlarged in 1988-89 and the Public Library, whose parklike setting includes a small arched bridge popular with photographers.

Pausing to read the historical marker at this site, it is worth noting that the small stream under the bridge was once responsible for supplying power to the mills of Acton, the very source of power that drew the Adams family to the site in the 1820s.


by John Mark Benbow Rowe for the

Esquesing Historical Society.

ADAMS, Rev. Ezra

Rev. Ezra Adams, Pioneer Canadian, and one of the fathers of the Methodist Church in Canada (born 1788 - died 1871). The United Empire Loyalist branch of the Adams Family of New England has lived as long as any other family under the English flag in America. 'There were no Englishmen in Canada when their forefathers landed as Puritans in Massachusetts, and it was about this time that a couple of French Jesuits went as missionaries and according to Parkman, built the first house in Upper Canada. For ten generations on this continent they 'have maintained a reputation for integrity, manliness of character and adherence to principle almost unique in history for an old family in any country. Possessed of magnificent physique by heredity, they have held their own in every walk of life. the "Almighty dollar," too often the God of the American citizen, has been their servant and not their master, and while not classed amongst the wealthiest citizens they have always been known as amongst the "best citizens" of Canada and the United States.

One of his first circuits was from Stony Creek on the other side of Hamilton to beyond Muddy York, now Toronto, north to Lake Simcoe. As he had but one Methodist associate on this circuit and there were no railroads in those days it will readily be seen that a "circuit rider," as he was called, or preacher of the Gospel, must necessarily belong to the muscular type of Christianity and that the hardships and privations were not a few which these noble pioneers of Methodism endured in carrying the good tidings to the remote settlements.

This was before the days of the "buckboard" (a species of buggy), or that steel spring buggies came into use, when the roads were bad and travelling on horseback was the easiest and quickest means of transit.

With his saddlebags containing his Bible and hymn book, and a change of clothing, the stalwart form of Rev. Ezra Adams mounted on a good horse, was a familiar figure on the military roads during the troublesome times of the war of 1814, after which peace was made between the United States and Great Britain - a peace which has lasted for almost a century.

His health having failed from overwork in the ministry, Rev. Adams with his two brothers settled in what, is now the town of Acton. here they took up 200 acres of land each, and he built the first grist and saw mills, and here his youngest son, John G. Adams, of Toronto, was born in 1839.

The place was for some time called Adamsville, but afterward was changed to Acton. The Rev. Ezra Adams afterward sold the mills, as having returned to pastoral work he found it interfered with his calling.

Newmarket was his first charge after leaving Acton and Stratford circuit before his retirement from active work in the ministry. From Stratford he removed to what is now the town of Drayton, township of Peel, County Wellington, and which was then being known as the "Queen's Bush."

Here he and the Rev. Benjamin Jones became the pioneers of the present town of Drayton, and here they built the first church in western Ontario in the Queen's bush, north of Elora.

His home, the second to he built in that section of the county, was known throughout the countryside for long afterwards as the "Methodist Inn," on account of the old-fashioned hospitality of the owner and the fact that it was the only large house in this section of 'the country.

He lived to see a thriving village and prosperous farming community develop in what was once but a forest wilderness when he retired from active work in the ministry.

Rev. Ezra Adams and Isa Proctor had children as follows:

Betsy Almira Adams, born in Fredericksburg, Upper Canada, Oct. 16, 1815, married June 15. 1832, Rev. Thomas Hurlbert

Henry Proctor Adams, born near Lundy's Lane, March 12, 1822, settled in Acton, County Halton, where he learned his occupation of miller and afterward, in 1855, built mills and did an extensive business, building up what is now the town of Hanover, where his son, James Henry Adams, still resides, and is resident manager of the Merchants' Bank.

William Case Adams, born near Lundy's Lane; Oct.18, 1823, married Oct.20, 1857, Matilda Osman; daughter of John Osman, Esq., of Seneca New York One daughter, Miss L.0. Adams, still resides in Toronto, where she is well known as an artist.

Eliza Roxana Adams was born in Adamsville (Acton), township of Esquesing, Halton county Ontario in 1828, and married Rev. Matthew Swann,, who was educated in Upper Canada College.

George Washington Adams, born in Acton in 1830, resides in Grand Rapids Michigan.

John Adams, born in Acton 1832, died 1832.

William Case Adams, dentist, was born in the Methodist parsonage at Lundy's Lane, near Niagara, on the 18th October, 1823, and is the third son of the Rev. Ezra Adams, U.E. Loyalist and Methodist minister, whose first circuit, in 1814, extended from Rama, on Lake Simcoe, down Yonge Street to York, and west to St. Catherines and Newark (now Niagara), thence to Queenston and on to Long Point, taking six weeks for the trip. Owing to the lack of postal communication, Mr. Adams carried letters for such as wished, this being the only way then of conveying news to friends at a distance.

The early education of Dr. Adams was chiefly by his mother, who was a school teacher previous to her marriage. After spending some time studying he went to Victoria College, Cobourg, and from thence to Highblue, Missouri, where he commenced the study of medicine with Dr. Berryman. He returned to Canada and finally turned his attention to dentistry, studying about a year with Dr. Harris and a year with a Dr. Jones, when he settled in Toronto, on King Street, in 1854. In 1870 he was elected one of the teachers in the Dental College and Infirmary, which position he held until 1873.

Dr. Adams is possessed of considerable mechanical skill, and has invented an appliance for removing roots and decayed stumps of teeth. With this instrument stumps and roots can be removed from the mouth with ease when all other known methods have failed. He was admitted a member of the American Dental Convention at Saratoga, which society changed its name from the American National Dental Convention in order to admit him and others from Canada. He is also a member of the Masonic body and Royal Arcanum, and is a member of the Methodist Church.

... from "A History of Toronto and County of York" - 1885

The following is from (Commemorative Biographical Records Of The County of York, Ontario 1907

William Case Adams, was the third dentist to practice in Toronto and was one of the founders or the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario, and one of the first professors in the School of Dentistry.

His literary education was obtained in Victoria University and Dr Nathaniel Burwash Chancellor of Victoria University-, says of him in "The Christian Guardian"1899 'He was a descendant of the Adams Family of Massachusetts, which has given to the United States so many of her foremost names. He with others of his family were U.E.. Loyalists and bringing to Canada and Canadian Methodism their hereditary ability and force of character, made no unworthy contribution to the building of our national life.

In the later forties, under the presidency of the late Dr. McNab, Mr. Adams, completed his literary education. In Victoria College where his fine physique and force of character made him a leader in manly exercises and in Christian work, and gave him a moral influence which commanded the esteem of professors and students alike. Commencing the practice of his profession in the city of Toronto, he became at once associated with the old Adelaide Street Church, a member of its official board, a class leader, a trustee, a Bible class leader and an active worker in all social reform and Christian benevolence. For over forty years he practised his profession in Toronto. Jane Maria Adams, born in Adamsville (Acton) in 1826, married about 1852, Archibald MacCallum,, principal of the Normal school at Hamilton, and afterward of the Model School in Toronto.

The following information in reference to the Rev. Ezra Adams is taken from "The Handbook of Canadian Methodism," by the Rev. George H. Cornish (printed at the Wesleyan Book and Job Printing Co., Toronto, 1867)

The first Canadian Methodist Conference was held in Canada in 1824 and at that time there were in connection with the church thirty-five ministers and preachers. These travelled in Canada under the direction of the Methodist Episcopal Church, United States, prior to the formation of the Canada Conference, or travelled under the direction of the English Conference.

For ten years previous to this Rev. Ezra Adams was actively engaged in the ministry of the Gospel under the Methodist Episcopal Church of the United States. His first circuit, in 1814, was Ancaster and Long Point. This circuit extended from the Niagara river to beyond Little York or Toronto around the head of Lake Ontario and Burlington Bay, westward beyond Oxford and southward to Long 1815 and 1816 he was on the Bay of Quinte Circuit; 1817, Hallowell; 1818-1819, Ottawa; 1820-1821,Thames; 1822-1823, Niagara.

While in the County of York his circuits after 1814 were, according to the same authority: Yonge Street, 1830 Toronto Circuit, 1840 Newmarket,. 1842-43-44; Markham, 1845 and 1846. In 1831 and 1832, Rev. Ezra Adams was presiding elder of the London District, and in 1833 and 1834 presiding Elder of the Munceytown District. In 1835 he was in Prescott and Augusta. From 1836 to 1839 inclusive he was superannuated. His last two appointments were Bradford, 1847, and Stratford, 1848, when he was superannuated on. account of old age after thirty-four years in the ministry."( He was affectionately known as "Father Adams" or "Uncle Ezra", a tradition followed by his great, great grandson, "Father" David C. Adams.)

ADAMS, Ezra (Christian Guardian) Late Rev. Ezra Adams - an appreciation born 1835 Prescott died Jan 21 1924 Courtland Ontario, 89 years old Mrs. Adams died Feb 1923 survived by 1 son and 4 daughters 1841 living Guelph with parents

Charges: 1815-1816 Bay of Quinte, 1817 Hallowell, 1818-1819 Ottawa, 1820-1821 Thames, 1822-1823 Niagara, 1823 Hallowell (Prince Edward Co.), 1830 Yonge St, 1831-1835 London/Munceytown, 1835-1836 Prescott/Augusta, 1836-1839 Nelson, 1840 Toronto, 1841 Woolwich/Norfolk St. Guelph (Wellington Co.), 1842 Queen's Bush (Wellington Co.), 1842-1844 Newmarket, 1845-1846 Markham, 1846 Pickering, 1847 Bradford, 1848 Stratford, 1849-1874 Drayton (Wellington Co.), 1851-1855 Peel (Wellington Co.) superannuated, 1863 Drayton (Wellington Co.), 1871 Peel (Wellington Co.)

Ezra Adams is usually recognised as the founder of Acton. He was a saddlebags Methodist preacher whose health had failed by 1822 from the grind of travelling. He probably hired himself to Silas Emes to clear the land for Emes to be able to claim a patent on it. In return, Adams got half of the land. So Adams became owner of the eastern half of Lot 28 Concession 2 Esquesing Township. This was on the western side of Main Street from about River Street to Cobbleshill Road.

Soon he was joined by his brothers Rufus, in 1825, and Zenas, in 1827. Rufus got Lot 28 Concession 3, which was parallel to Ezra's land but ran from the east side of Main Street to Eastern Street. Nearly all of the early settlement was on his land. He built a house at the eastern end of St Alban's Street. Zenas, like Ezra, was a saddlebags preacher and he too was taking a break to recover his health. Zenas received Lot 27 Concession 2 south of Ezra but also bought the southern half of Rufus' land. So all of the land from the southern side of Mill Street to Agnes Street belonged to Zenas. The streets here were named for Zenas's children. Zenas too built a house on the southeast corner of Church and Main Streets, and, under a worse-for-wear exterior, it is still there. Ezra's house kitty-corner from Zenas' on the northwest corner was demolished to make way for a parking lot. (Pave Paradise, put up a parking lot!)

Later, other people began to join the settlement, including Eliphalet and Patience Adams, the brothers' parents. About 1835, Miller Hemstreet built a log cabin and store on the west side of Main Street just north of Mill Street. He may have let his young employee Dan run the store because the store had a sign stating Danville Grocery (or possibly Dan's Village Grocery?) . Soon the settlement began to be named Danville after the store.

By 1830, Ezra was ready to get back on the circuit, returning to his land in 1836 to build two mills. He built a gristmill on the land occupied by the present mill, and the lake he created by damming the stream is the present Fairy Lake. The sawmill he built was where the stream crosses Main Street south of Church Street. These mills attracted people to the site and soon a flourishing village sprang up. The village at last became known for the Adams brothers as Adamsville. Ezra finally settled in what is now Drayton in Peel Township. He may have sent one of his flock when Robert Swan came south to buy the remainder of Ezra's land. In 1844, he built a store and post office near the corner of Main and Knox Streets. The name Adamsville had already been given to another post office so Swan gave his post office the name Acton

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Ezra Adams's Timeline

July 17, 1788
Cambridge, Washington County, New York, United States
October 16, 1815
Age 27
Probably Norfolk County, Upper Canada, British North America (Present Canada)
March 12, 1822
Age 33
Lundy's Lane, Ontario, Canada
October 18, 1823
Age 35
Acton, Halton, Ontario, Canada
July 22, 1826
Age 38
Acton, ON, Canada
May 4, 1828
Age 39
Acton, Halton, Ontario, Canada
July 4, 1830
Age 41
Acton, Ontario, Canada
Age 43
Acton, On, Canada