William Adams (minister)

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William Adams
William Adams (minister).jpg
Born January 25, 1807 (1807-01-25)
Colchester, Connecticut, U.S.
Died August 31, 1880 (1880-09-01) (aged 73)
Orange Mountain, New Jersey, U.S.
Alma mater
Religion Presbyterian

William Adams (January 25, 1807 – August 31, 1880) was a noted American clergyman and academic.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Colchester, Connecticut in 1807[1][2] to John Adams (1772–1863), a 1795 graduate of Yale who was an American educator noted for organizing several hundred Sunday schools, and Elizabeth Ripley, the daughter of Gamaliel Ripley and Judith Perkins and a great great granddaughter of Governor William Bradford (1590–1657) of the Plymouth Colony and a passenger on the Mayflower.


He prepared for College at Phillips Academy at Andover, Massachusetts and graduated from Yale College in 1827. He studied for the ministry at Andover Theological Seminary, under Professor Moses Stuart, graduating in 1830.


On July 13, 1831, he married Susan P. Magoun, the daughter of Thatcher Magoun[3] and Mary Bradshaw. Following the death of his first wife (she died on May 22, 1834), he married her sister, Martha Bradshaw Magoun on August 12, 1835.


In February 1831, he was ordained as pastor of the Congregational Church in Brighton, Massachusetts, where he remained until April 1834. In August 1834, he took charge of the Central Presbyterian Church on Broome Street in New York City.

In 1836, he was a member of the group that founded the Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. In 1852, he served as the moderator of the New School Party, and was chairman of the New School Committee of Conferences in 1866. In 1874, he became the president of the Union Theological Seminary. He also served as a member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and as the president of the Presbyterian Foreign Board.

In 1853 his congregation founded the Madison Square Presbyterian Church, whose pastorate he resigned in 1873, after nearly forty years of consecutive service in one Church, to accept the presidency of the Union Theological Seminary in the city of New York, in connection with the professorship of sacred rhetoric and pastoral theology.


He died on August 31, 1880, at Orange Mountain, New Jersey. He was buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.[4]


His daughter, Mary Elizabeth Adams (1842–1918), married in New York City on November 9, 1864, John Crosby Brown (1838–1909),[5] the son of James Brown and Eliza Maria Coe. James Brown was the well known banker and founder of the family company Brown Bros. & Co.[6] John graduated from Columbia University in 1859 and 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 grandson of William Adams was William Adams Brown (1865–1943).[7] He was born in New York City and was educated privately at first, then 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 Union Theological Seminary in 1890 and was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1893. He also studied at the University of Berlin from 1890 to 1892. He was a member of the Yale Corporation from 1917 to 1934, and was acting president of Yale University from 1919 to 1920.

Another grandson was William Adams Delano (January 21, 1874 – January 12, 1960), an 1895 graduate of Yale, who was a prominent American architect, and a partner with Chester Holmes Aldrich in the firm of Delano & Aldrich that worked in the Beaux-Arts tradition for elite clients in New York City and Long Island, building townhouses, country houses, clubs and banks, often in the neo-Georgian and Federal styles, combining brick and limestone, which became their trademark.



  • 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.
  • From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan's Houses of Worship. David Dunlap, New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
  • Brief Histories of the Churches connected with the Presbytery of New York. Pre: 1949 Part I, Miriam Medina, The History Box website: http://thehistorybox.com.
  • The Presbyterian Church in New York City. New York: Theodore Fiske, published by The Presbytery of New York, 1949.
  • William Adams Delano Papers, 1947–1954 New-York Historical Society
  • John Brown Adams Obituary Record of Graduates of Yale University
Religious titles
Preceded by
The Rev. Albert Barnes
Moderator of the 58th General Assembly (New School) of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America
Succeeded by
The Rev. Diarca Howe Allen