Dr. John Smalley Adams, one of the foremost practitioners of Oakland, was born at Highgate, Franklin county, Vermont, December 24, 1830, his parents being Lemuel and Sallie (Smalley) Adams. On his father's side he descended from one of the oldest and best known families of New England. Lemuel Adams, his father, a successful farmer and large landowner, was one of the substantial men of Franklin county, Vermont. His wife, whom he married there, also came of an old New England family. They were the parents of four children, namely: J.S., our subject; Henry F., who was educated at Fairfax, Vermont, in the New England Baptist College, and at the Missouri Medical College, St. Louis, served for a time in the civil war as Surgeon of the Tenth Michigan Regiment, resigned on account of failing health, afterward rejoined the army and had charge of hospitals in Tennessee, and eventually removed to California, dying at Colton, January 18, 1890, from the effects of sickness contracted in the service of his country; Francis J., now of Jacksonville, Illinois; and Edward Payson, the owner of the old Adams homestead, who is now a State Senator of Vermont, residing at Swanton, Vermont, and engaged in commission and manufacturing business.
J. S. Adams, the subject of this sketch, was but three years of age when his parents removed from Highgate to Sheldon, Vermont, and in the latter place, on arriving at suitable age, he commenced his education in the common schools, continuing until fourteen years old, after which he attended Bakersfield and Franklin Academy, preparatory to a college course. At Sheldon he began the study of medicine, reading for a time with Dr. S. W. Landon, after which he attended lectures at Woodstock Medical College. He next went to Albany, New York, and while attending the medical college of that city, was a favored student of the late celebrated physician and surgeon, Dr. John Swinburne, who was afterward quarantine officer of the port of New York, was a surgeon in the Union army, and sent to France by the United States Government as a member of the Ambulance Committee, and was, later on, Mayor of Albany, New York, and a member of Congress. Our subject enjoyed the especial interest and care of Dr. Swinburne, and until his graduation, December 24, 1855, was the almost constant companion and protege of that famous Doctor.
Leaving college, Dr. Adams went to Troy, New York, and there entered upon the active practice of his profession, gaining, during the years of his residence there, substantial recognition of his merit, as well as adding largely to his professional knowledge by nearly six years' hospital experience in Albany and Troy. His health became shattered, however, by too constant application, and in 1863 he left there for California with his wife (whom he had married in Troy, June 19, 1856), and his son, Frank L. They made the tiresome journey across the plains, via Council Bluffs, the North Platte, Sweetwater, Fort Bridger, Salt Lake and Carson City. Arriving in California, he spent four years in the mountainous county of Alpine. The walking and riding incident to his practice brought back his former strength and health, and leaving that region he removed to San Francisco. Finding the climate here unsuited to him, he changed his location to St. Helena, Napa county, from which point he practiced extensively in that and adjoining counties. In 1874 he came to Oakland, and here he soon took a front rank in his profession, being at first alone in his practice, but afterward in partnership with Dr. A.H. Agard, with whom he has since for the most part been closely associated. Shortly after taking up his location here, he went to Europe on a tour of recreation. While there, he became a constant attendant on the principal hospitals of London, and his trip was extended to nearly a year's duration.
Dr. Adams is a member of the Alameda County Medical Association, of which he has been president, and was also one of the first members of the State Medical Society. He is a member of the American Society for the Advancement of Science. He has kept thoroughly in pace with the progress of medical science, and his long and varied experience in practice, together with that fact, has attained for him his present standing. He is known in the profession as one of the most practical of its exponents, reasoning quickly from effect to cause,--and possessing the faculty of being able to readily and efficiently apply the knowledge obtained by both study and practice. This is, in fact, the secret of success in every calling of life, and pre-eminently so in that grandest of all, the profession of medicine.
Dr. Adams was bereaved in 1885 by the death of his wife, who died September 4 of that year. She was by birth Ellen Tompkins, a native of Providence, Rhode Island, and daughter of Clark Tompkins, who, when she was a mere child, removed to Troy, New York, where he was a leading manufacturer and inventor. Two children were born to Dr. Adams and wife, viz.: Frank L., hereafter mentioned, and Carrie T., a young lady of promising musical talent, who commenced her education here in private schools, and has been since 1888 in attendance at Bradford Academy, Massachusetts, where it is her intention to complete the course.
Dr. Frank L. Adams, though yet a young man, has progressed with such strides in the medical profession as to be worthy of special mention among its leading representatives in the cities of Oakland and San Francisco. He was born in Troy, New York, July 30, 1858, and was principally reared in Oakland. He received the advantages afforded by the public schools of the latter city, and then attended the University of California, where he graduated in the class of 1881. At the commencement exercises attendant on his graduation he delivered an oration which commended marked attention and much favorable comment on account of the ability displayed, and a successful career was predicted for the orator. The prediction has so far been more than fulfilled. He at once entered faithfully and earnestly upon a medical career, reading with his father and attending Cooper Medical College, San Francisco, where he was graduated in 1883. During the year following he was on the medical staff of the city and county hospital of San Francisco, and then began what has proven a remarkably successful practice in Oakland. He is now serving his third term on the Board of Health of the city.
Transcribed 2-12-05 Marilyn R. Pankey.
Source: "The Bay of San Francisco," Vol. 2, pages 41-42, Lewis Publishing Co, 1892.
© 2005 Marilyn R. Pankey.