James Adair, Indian trader

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James Adair, Indian trader

Also Known As: "Dr. James Robert Adair"
Birthdate: (74)
Birthplace: County Antrim, Ulster, Ireland
Death: August 1783 (70-78)
Bladen County, North Carolina, United States
Place of Burial: Rowland, Robeson County, North Carolina, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of unknown Adair and N.N.
Husband of Clark Adair
Father of Saranna McTyre; Agnes Gibson and Elizabeth Hobson Cade

Occupation: Indian trader
Managed by: Erica Howton
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About James Adair, Indian trader

James Adair was born ca 1709 in County Antrim, Ireland and died around 1783. Will 21 Oct. 1766, proved 4 Nov. 1783 link to will


Parents: unknown. Said to have been a member of the Fitzgerald family.

Wife or wives uncertain, Was he the James Adair who married Clark Adair ?

Virginia, Marriages, 1785-1940

  • James Adair
  • Marriage: July 29 1740 - Northumberland Co., Virginia
  • Wife: Clark Hobson Jr.

Children named in the will of James Adair of Bladen County, North Carolina

  1. Saranna McTyre
  2. Agnes Gibson
  3. Elizabeth Hobson Cade

No known sons.

Cherokee Explorer and Trader

From: The Dictionary of American Biography

ADAIR, James (c1709-1783), pioneer Indian trader, author, is said to have been born in County Antrim, Ireland. The dates given above are merely conjectural.

It is certain that Adair was highly educated. By 1735 he had come to America, probably entering at the port of Charleston, SC. In that year he engaged in trade with the Catawbas and Cherokees, continuing with them until 1744. He then established himself among the Chickasaws, whose villages were on the headwaters of the Yazoo, in Mississippi, where he remained for about six years. During the latter part of this period he frequently visited the Choctaws, in an effort to counteract the influence of the French and to win them to an alliance with the English. The effort was successful, but it involved him in difficulties with other traders and with James Glen, royal governor of South Carolina from 1743 to 1756, which resulted, he asserts, in his financial ruin.

In 1751 he moved to District Ninety-six (the present Laurens County), SC, and resumed trade with the Cherokees, remaining there until about the end of 1759. His activities during these years covered a wide range. He was several times called in council by Gov. Glen, with whom he could never agree and whom he heartily detested. Among the Indians he was a diplomat and a peace maker, but he was also a fighter--"a valiant warrior," says Logan; and when he could not compose their quarrels he not infrequently took sides in their wars. At various times he was engaged in conflicts with the French. In the Indian war of 1760-61 he commanded a band of Chickasaws, receiving his supplies by way of Mobile. In 1769 he visited New York City. Either then or a few years later he probably voyaged to London. Of his later life nothing authentic is recorded. He was, as the conclusion of his book amply shows, a vigorous defender of the rights of the colonies, but there appears to be no mention of him in Revolutionary annals. He is said to have been married and to have has several children and also to have died in North Carolina shortly after the close of the Revolution.

  • link to American History Told by Contemporaries: Building of the republic, 1689-1783 edited by Albert Bushnell Hart. Page 327. "The Life of an Indian Trader.". By James Adair (1775)

Family notes

Updated April 2018

Parents seen as Thomas Adair and Margaret Adair without supporting evidence.

From https://www.geni.com/discussions/179495?msg=1209159

Kathryn Holland Braund, the editor of a recent scholarly edition of Adair's book includes a fifty-plus page description of Adair's life in America, and the fact that virtually nothing is known of his personal history or family. He wrote about his life with the Chickasaw with the clear implication that the had a Chickasaw wife and children. When not with the Indians, he lived at New Windsor, South Carolina. He hoped to take a Chickasaw delegation with him when he went to London to get his book published. The last record of him is a signature on a lease in 1774. She points out that there is no evidence for any of the theories regarding his birth and parents. There is no evidence to connect James Adair the author with the Cherokee Adair family.

Family Traces

Is there evidence to support this excerpt?

From: "Family Traces" by David and Kathy Grooms

James Adair, an explorer and trader who lived among the Cherokees for over forty years, along with his two white sons, John and Edward, sons of an English woman [SIC: no sons in his will]. James Adair, one of the first traders among the Cherokees, was a member of the powerful Fitzgerald family, Adair or Adare being the name of the ancient family estate. He was a younger son, leaving home against his parents' wishes, to explore for himself the excitement of the new-world. He arrived in Charleston in 1735 and by the year 1736, he entered North Carolina and settled in the most western recesses among the Cherokee people. He was forthright, honest and had a genuine respect for the Cherokee people. He took to wife a Cherokee bride and had several children by her. He spent the remainder of his life among his new people.


The manor of James Adair and Hobson (Clark) Adair was named "Fairfield." Wm. C. Harllee in his book, "Kinfolks," believed that the name had some significance, and used it to support the marriage of James Adair and Ann McCarty in Fairfield, Connecticut. However, there is also evidence of a James Adair married to Clark Hobson of Northumberland Co., Virginia, where there was at that time a parish named Fairfield.

Chickacoan Parish was one of two of the earliest parishes of Northumberland Co., Virginia. The boundaries, established in 1653, were changed in 1657 and again in 1658. A description of the revised boundaries of Chickacoan Parish, October 21, 1658, refers to a location called Fairfield. " ... abutting upon the Northwest side of an Indian field known by the name of Fairfield ..." On February 4, 1644 the following order was issued by the court of Northumberland County: "Whereas a great part of this county is by the Assembly ordered shortly to be taken in and included in Westmoreland County and the parishes in this county formerly laid out and bounded cannot so stand unless one of them be in two counties which may be inconvenient either to the counties or the parishes, it is therefore ordered that this county of Northumberland be divided into two parishes and thus named and bounded namely: The Parish of Chickacoan so formerly called is to be the Parish of Fairfield and the boundaries thereof from the north side of the Great Wiccocomoco River to the upmost bounds of the Country." Parish lists of 1680, 1702 and 1714 include Fairfield Parish. In 1698 St. Stephen's Parish was formed and included the former parish of Fairfield. "However, the parish continued to be known by the old name of 'Fairfield' until well into the eighteenth century." (Source: "Parish Lines, Diocese of VA" by Cocke, pp. 162-164, pp.162-164)

That Harllee reached his conclusion based on the stated clues is understandable as the following YET UNPROVED THEORY used the same approach with different results.

It's my opinion the James Adair that married Ann McCarty IS NOT the same person as James Adair, Indian trader and that the mother of James daughters named in his will was Clerk Hobson of Virginia. (DAB)

LDS records show James Adair and Clark Hobson married July 29, 1740 in Northumberland County, VA and had Ann, born October 5, 1743 and Hobson, born June 23, 1745. I have written to Northumberalnd County for the records to support the Northumberland theories.

Clark Hobson - Married July 29, 1740, in Northumberland Co., Virginia. Their children were Ann, born October 5, 1743, and Hobson, born June 23, 1745. (LDS records)

There were Hobsons in Chester County, PA (based on posts from the Hobson GenForum; further documentation needed. Any contributions of documentation would be greatly appreciated!)

Based on this new found information, and pending further research, I lean havily towards Clark Hobson being the mother of James' three daughters mentioned in his will, and as the wife buried at "Fairfields". Discussion is welcome and encouraged!

Lisa note: I wholehartedly agree with Ginger on many of these points:

1. James of Connecticut and James, Indian Trader, were two separate people.

2. Clark Hoson as the mother of James' daugheters, and buried in VA.

Hartlee theory:

  1. 18 Oct. 1744 to Ann McCarty in Fairfield, Connecticut [3]

Children of Ann McCarty and James Adair (recorded Fairfield; bapt. Greenfield) [3]

  1. Andrew, b 23 Apr, 1745, bapt. 1745/46
  2. Mary, b. 3 Jan. 1747, bapt. 12 Jan 1746/47; [m. Epaphras Merwin, of Easton].
  3. Esther, b. 2 July 1749; m. 20 Dec. 1770, James goodsell.
  4. Ann, b. 2 Feb. 1752.
  5. Sarah, b. 1 Mar. 1755.
  6. James, b. 26 Aug. 1757, d.y.

Additional Wives

("Kinfolks" by Wm. C. Harllee, p.1277)

Ginger note: James seemed to have two personas; his manor/father persona and his trader/warrior persona. James seemed to be a devoted family man, in spite of his extended stays in Indian Country, and that held his wife's memory in high regard as evidenced by his setting aside her final resting place when he transferred Fairfield to Sara Ann and William McTyre. (Kinfolkks, by Wm C. Harrlee, p 1256) He probably wouldn't have taken another wife (white or Indian) until he was free to do so. Therefore, it's plausible that James' wife, Clark Hobson, died not too long after 1755 and that he then took one or more Indian wives. I also believe that he did take a wife or wives among the Indians as I believe their oral tradition to be sound.

Lisa note: Again, I agree with Ginger. The evidence seems to support Indian wife or wives.

Life Work

Adair is chiefly known through his history of the Indians. Primarily it is an argument that the Indians are the descendants of the ancient Jews. The theory was accepted by Elias Boudinot, on-time president of the Continental Congress, who gave it hearty support in his book, A Star in the West (1816) Adair's work has outlived its thesis. Its' account of the various tribes, their manners, customs, their manners, and vocabularies, its depiction of scenes and its narration of incidents in his own eventful career, give it a permanent value. It is a record of close and intelligent observation, and its' fidelity of fact has been generally acknowledged. The book must have required many years of toil. In his preface he says that it was written "among our old friendly Chickasaws" (doubtless during his second period of residence with them) and that the labor was attended by the greatest difficulties.

Though some passages may subsequently have been added, it was probably finished by the end of 1768. In the Georgia Gazette, of Savannah, October 11, 1769, appeared an item dated February 27th of that year, apparently copied from a New York newspaper, announcing the arrival of Adair in New York and saying that "he intends to print the Essays". The care with which the book is printed indicates that he gave it personal supervision through the press. From the dedication it is evident that he had the friendship of the noted Indian traders, Col. George Galphin and Col. George Croghan (with the former of whom he may for a time have been in partnership) and Sir William Johnson; and from various references it is certain that he was highly respected by those who knew him. Logan credits him with the quick penetration of the Indian audacity, cool self-possession, and great powers of endurance, and Volwiler says that he was one of the few men of ability who personally embarked in the Indian trade.


  1. The known facts of his life are few, gathered in the main from the personal incidents narrated in his book, The History of the American Indians (1775) and occasional references in South Carolina chronicles. A recent book, Adair History and Genealogy (1924), by J.B. Adair, gives many biographical details purporting to be based on family tradition, but few of them are verifiable by any available records. (DAB)
  2. Fairfield Co. records and will written in 1776; probated 1783; will shown in separate section of this page (DAB)
  3. From: History and Genealogy of the Families of Old Fairfield VOL II, Part 1; Compiled and Edited by Donald Lines Jacobus, M.A.; Fairfield, CT; 1932; p 6


  1. Adair and Holland Genealogy by Lisa Bowes last updated 30 December 2011
  2. James Adair (c.1709-1783) History of the Indians (London: Edward & Charles Dilly, 1775)


  1. Drake, Francis S. Dictionary of American Biography Including Men of the Time: Containing Nearly Ten Thousand Notices of Persons ... Who Have Been Remarkable, or Prominently Connected with the Arts, Sciences, Literature, Politics, or History, of the Americancontinent. Boston: Houghton, Osgood & Co, 1879. Internet resource.

Additional resources

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James Adair, Indian trader's Timeline

County Antrim, Ulster, Ireland
October 5, 1743
Age 34
Northumberland County, Province of Virginia
Age 35
Northumberland County, Province of Virginia, Colonial America
June 23, 1745
Age 36
Heathsville, Northumberland County, Province of Virginia
August 1783
Age 74
Bladen County, North Carolina, United States
March 4, 1933
Age 74
April 21, 1933
Age 74
Rowland, Robeson County, North Carolina, United States