Saturday, August 27, 2016

Joseph Alexander Adair, Sr., Revolutionary soldier and settler in South Carolina

1711 – 1789
1 Joseph Alexander Adair, Sr. 2 Joseph Alexander Adair, Jr., 3 Elizabeth “Betsey” Adair, 4 Elizabeth “Betsey” Jones, 5 Robert Hatten Copeland, 6 Charles Mabry Copeland, 7 Charles Thomas Copeland, Sr., 8 Charles Thomas Copeland, Jr.

History describes Joseph Alexander Adair, Sr. as one of the first settlers of District Ninety-Six (a judicial district established in South Carolina in 1769 and incorporated into Laurens County in 1799).  His other claim to fame?  He was over 69 years old when he became the oldest known soldier to fight for freedom against the very country he had left 50 years before.

Ballymena Castle, Antrim County, Ireland
This member of the Adair family spent the first 18 years of his life in Antrim County, Ireland.  His Scots-Irish family had lived in Ballymena Castle for hundreds of years and proudly claimed as an ancestor the Rev. Patrick Adair, who had fought against the kings of that time for religious freedom in Ireland 100 years before (and featured in an earlier "Legends" post). 

But life for his family changed forever when,  in 1730, they came to the painful conclusion that despite Rev. Patrick's efforts all those years before, religious intolerance, loss of individual rights and repressive taxes still plagued the people of the United Kingdom and it was obvious that things weren't going to get better any time soon.  

Although there were many who accepted the situation or were afraid to change their lifestyle, others – like the Adairs and families featured earlier in this blog (the Copelands and Blakeleys) - had sold almost everything they owned and made arrangements to leave the country they had loved and served for hundreds of years in the hope of building a life which matched their beliefs.  
King George II

An area of deep concern of course was that  despite the distance, America, too, was under the thumb of King George II and his repressive government.  Perhaps they simply had to tuck that worry away in the hope that they would be able to lose themselves in the vast new country.
Joseph was only 19 years old when his entire family gathered whatever they could take with them and left their homeland. The journey was long and dangerous, and perhaps their arrival in America was just as scary!  One can't help but wonder how they felt when they finally neared land and spotted the wilderness that was to become their home. It certainly didn't look anything like the home they had left behind!

After replenishing their supplies, they finally arrived in Chester, Pennsylvania, a community composed of many Scots-Irish families which was situated between the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers.  It was there that they started to accustom themselves to a totally new way of living.

There was plenty to do during those first two years in America.  After all, fields had to be cleared and houses built.  It was only after things seemed to settle into a routine in this area known as “Little Britain” that 21 year old Joseph married Sarah Lafferty, whose parents had been born in Scotland but had migrated to America before she was born.

Their first years together were not exactly relaxing!  Besides building and furnishing their home, raising livestock, planting their fields, and using all their spare cash to invest in parcels of land, they had their first four children to care for. There were also very real fears that they would be attacked by Indians who weren't thrilled about being moved forcibly out of their ancestral lands and often resorted to making raids in the area now known as Pennsylvania.  

But since their spirit of adventure continued to linger despite the hardships they were enduring, it's not surprising that many of the transplanted settlers, including the Adairs, began to wonder what life would be like in another part of this vast country and turned their energies toward planning another big move.

Their journey from Pennsylvania to South Carolina was accomplished mostly on the "Great Wagon Road" which ran through the Shenandoah Valley and North Carolina  before reaching South Carolina.  Since the caravan was made up of people of all ages with all their worldly goods and animals, the journey was often tortuous and took considerably more time than had been anticipated.

Finally, they arrived in an area in South Carolina originally lived in by the Keowee Indians and named District Ninety-Six because of having been settled at the 96th milepost of a trail used by both traders and Indians.  (According to people living in the town today, its unofficial name was and still is "ABC Town" in honor of its first settlers, the Adairs, Blakelys and Copelands, many of whom still live there.)
During his first 37 years as a South Carolinian, Joseph: 
    Duncans Creek Presbyterian Church
    • Built a home for his expanding family;
    • Plowed and planted the fields;
    • Joined the other settlers in clearing 250 acres of land on Duncan's Creek where they built the Duncan Creek Presbyterian Church which is still active;
    • Set aside a portion of that property to serve as a cemetery; 
    • Buried parents and friends;
    • Was the grandfather of Mary Ramage Dillard who became known as a heroine of the American Revolution  because of her bravery; 
    • Lost his wife, Sarah, when their youngest child was 8 years old and eventually married Susanna Long;
    • Prepared for war!
    Mad King George III
    Perhaps these settlers had hoped that the English king would forget them and let them live in peace.  It was not to be. By 1776, "Mad King George III", the son of the late King George II, was making strong demands that his rulings were to be obeyed and taxes paid - no matter how odious those taxes were.  

    It is doubtful that Joseph, who was about 65
    when war was declared, would have ever considered actively joining the fight.   He probably thought that all he could do was pray for the young men going to war and cheer them on from afar. But obviously someone he trusted convinced him that his talent for management was badly needed and he'd be letting down his country if he simply stood on the sidelines and watched his friends and relatives die.  
    He was about 70 years old when he was appointed Commissary under Colonel Levi Casey, who reported to Col/Brig. General  James Wilson and General George Washington.  In this role, Joseph was responsible for the purchase and delivery of food and supplies desperately needed by the  Little River Regiment. It was a very stressful position, given the Revolutionary army’s lack of resources, especially when compared to those available to the British. (Backing him up as Deputy Commissary was his son, Joseph, Jr., who will have his own post one of these days.)

    Col.Wilson was a popular leader and fine soldier, who did things his own way and - after stepping on a number of toes - was accused of very bad behavior by powerful people in the regiment who the rank and file soldiers believed to be "private enemies of our Country in order to hurt Little River Regiment".  

    Pressures mounted to have him completely removed from leadership of his troops until finally his frustrated soldiers, including James, submitted a petition defending him  just before they went into battle at Kings Mountain.  This petition testified to his capabilities by saying (no one said people of that time knew how to spell!): 
    "We know Col. james Williams to havfe been a zealous Patriot from the commencement of the America contest with Briten; and to have allways stood foremost in every occasion when called upon to defience of his country.  l
    Kings Mountain battle
    Despite all the pressure against him, Colonel/Gen Brig Williams continued to lead his men until he was shot in the chest by one of the jealous officers who did not approve of his actions and thought he had gotten off lightly.  Colonel Levi Casey was then assigned to take over the command of the Little River Regiment and James Adair was assigned to support him as he had Col. Williams. ""James Williams: An American Patriot in the Carolina Backcountry" By William T Graves

    During those war years, he fought beside two of his sons (Joseph Jr. and Benjamin), a grandson  and his granddaughter's husband, Capt James Dillard. 

    Upon his death at age 78, Joseph Alexander Adair, a charter member of the church, was buried alongside his loved ones in the Duncan Creek Presbyterian Church Cemetery which he had helped to clear all those years before.

    This  marble tablet which honors the service of the townsmen buried in the Duncan Creek Presbyterian Church cemetery was placed on the wall inside the church by the Daughters of the Revolution in 1988.