John Adams (educator)

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John Adams (September 18, 1772 – April 24, 1863) was an American educator noted for organizing several hundred Sunday schools. His life was celebrated by Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. in his poem, "The School Boy", which was read at the centennial celebration of Phillips Academy in 1878, thus recalls him:


Early life[edit]

Adams was born in 1772 at Canterbury, Connecticut, to Captain John Adams, a farmer of Canterbury and an officer in the American Revolutionary War and Mary Parker, the daughter of Dea. Joshua Parker and Jemima Davenport. He graduated from Yale University in 1795.[1]


John Adams married on May 8, 1798 as his first wife Elizabeth Ripley,[1][2] with whom he had ten children. She was born on March 12, 1776 and died on February 23, 1829. She was a daughter of Gamaliel Ripley and Judith Perkins and was a great great-granddaughter of Governor William Bradford (1590–1657) of the Plymouth Colony and a passenger on the Mayflower.

John Adams married, as his second wife, on August 30, 1831 in Troy, Rensselaer County, New York, Mrs. Mehitable/Mabel Burritt[2] She was born July 19, 1779 in Williamstown, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, and died at Jacksonville, Illinois on July 17, 1856. She was a daughter of Dea. Ebenezer Stratton and Mary Blair.

Mehitable/Mabel married as her first husband at Williamstown, Berkshire County, Massachusetts on April 12, 1798, Ely Burritt, born March 12, 1773 at Pound Ridge, Westchester County, New York and died September 1, 1823 in Troy, Rensselaer County, New York. He graduated from Williams College in 1800, and was licensed to practice medicine at Troy, New York, on March 29, 1802 and quickly gained recognition for his medical skills. He was the eldest son of the Rev. Mr. Blackleach Burritt[1] Yale College 1765 (a great great-grandson of William Leete, a governor of the Colony of Connecticut)[3] and Martha Welles (a great great-granddaughter of Thomas Welles, the fourth governor of the Colony of Connecticut).[4]


He taught at the Plainfield, New Jersey Academy from 1800–1803, when he took the post as principal of Bacon Academy in Colchester, Connecticut. He remained in that position until 1810, when he started at the Phillips Academy[5] in Andover, Massachusetts.[6] He remained there through 1832. He also served as the principal of Monroe Academy in Elbridge, New York, and as the principal of Jacksonville Female Academy in Jacksonville, Illinois[7] from 1836-1843. The Academy was incorporated in 1903 with Illinois College becoming an co-educational institution (the first president of Illinois College,[8] was Edward Beecher, Yale College, 1822 and a son of Dr. Lyman Beecher, Yale College, 1797). While in Jacksonville, he served as an agent of the American Sunday School Union for the Middle West region, and assisted in the organization of several hundred Sunday Schools.


He died in Jacksonville, Illinois on April 24, 1863, and is buried there beside his wife, Mehitable/Mabel.


A son from his first marriage was the Rev. Dr. William Adams, D.D.[9] (1807–1880) an 1827 graduate of Yale and a graduate of Andover Theological Seminary, 1830. He was a principal founder as well as president of Union Theological Seminary.[10]

His daughter, Mary Elizabeth Adams (1842–1918), married on November 9, 1864, John Crosby Brown[11] (1838–1909), the son of James Brown and Eliza Maria Coe. James Brown was a well known banker and founder of the family company Brown Bros. & Co. James and Eliza lost several of their children when the steamship SS Arctic sank in 1854.[12]

John graduated from Columbia University in 1859. From 1866 onward, he was the senior partner of Brown Bros. & Co. This company merged in 1931 with Harriman Brothers & Company to become Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. one of the oldest and largest partnership banks in the United States.

A son of John and Mary Brown's was William Adams Brown[13] (1865–1943). He was born in New York City and was educated privately at first, and then he went to St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire. He received from Yale University an A.B. degree in 1886, an A.M. degree in 1888 and a Ph.D. in 1901. He graduated from the Union Theological Seminary in 1890, and studied at the University of Berlin from 1890 to 1892. He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1893. He was a member of the Yale Corporation from 1917 to 1934, and was acting president of Yale University from 1919 to 1920.

A great-grandson of John Adams's was William Adams Delano.


  • Who Was Who in America: Historical Volume, 1607-1896. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1963.
  • William Bradford of the Mayflower and his Descendants for Four Generations. compiled by Robert S. Wakefield, FASG and Published by the Gen. Society of Mayflower Descendants, 2001.


  1. ^ a b c Dexter, Franklin B. (1903). Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College with Annals of the College History. Cambridge: Henry Holt & Company. p. 133.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name ".27Biographical_Sketches_of_the_Graduates_of_Yale_College" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  2. ^ a b Bailey, Sarah Loring (1880). Historical sketches of Andover. Cambridge: Houghton, Mifflin and Company. p. 539. 
  3. ^ Norton, Frederick Calvin (1905). "Governors of Connecticut". Dorman Lithographing Company. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  4. ^ Norton, Frederick Calvin (1905). "Governors of Connecticut". Dorman Lithographing Company. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  5. ^ Phillips Academy. "Phillips Academy - An Independent Boarding High School". Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  6. ^ "History of Andover". Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  7. ^ Betty Carlson Kay; Gary Jack Barwick; Vernon R.Q. Fernandes; Bob Garner (2009). "Jacksonville - History of the City". Official City of Jacksonville Web Site. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  8. ^ Illinois College - About Us - Historic Years
  9. ^ [1] Archived June 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ "Union Theological Seminary - Timeline". Union Theological Seminary. 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  11. ^ "John Crosby Brown" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-07-26. 
  12. ^ Shaw, David W. (2002). The Sea Shall Embrace Them: The Tragic Story of the Steamship Arctic. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-2217-4. 
  13. ^ "William Adams Brown" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-07-26. 

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