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McAdams in Pennsylvania


McAdams Coat of Arms

The tradition is that the name MackAdam, the original spelling, comes from the circumstance that Adam MacGregor changed his name to Adam MackAdam to hide his identity when his father, George or Gregor MackGregor was arrested in Galloway. Tradition says that George fled to Galloway with his cousin, Gilbert Grierson when the MacGregor Clan was outlawed. This tradition dates to 1445.

Tradition documents that the McAdam's Coat-of-Arms is derived from the fact that a McAdam had saved the King's life when a stag had endangered him. This is also claimed by another branch of the MacGregors and the McNabs. The design of the Arms suggest to historians that this tradition has merit and favors the McAdam claim.Almost all the early "Scotch-Irish" immigrants arrived in America at Philadelphia. Only a few remained in the area as most took to the back country as soon as they arrived. The first record of a McAdams in Philadelphia was Hugh McAdams who appears in 1738 and married Elizabeth Van Hurst in 1739 at Christ Church. They moved to Little Cove in York County.

Rebecca McCaddam married William Williams at Bethel Church in 1754. A James McAdams died in Philadelphia in Feb. 1762 but only Letters of Administration granted to Henry Turner to settle his estate has be located. Elizabeth McAdams married W. Jennings in 1774. A few McAdames are noted on the Ben Franklin's undelivered mail list: Robert -1761, John -1764, William -1773, Tim - 1776.
This information is from the Web Site maintained by The McAdams Historical Society, Sherman Oaks, California.

In 1822, 16-year old James McAdams said good-bye to his family and departed from Belfast on the Cerces. Perhaps James knew that as the second son, he would not inherit his father's property, so he set out on his own to the New World arrived in Philadelphia on May 13, 1822.

In 1827, James' older brother, Thomas got on the brig Florida, also out of Belfast with his wife Ann Curran. They were both 20 years old. In 1850, Thomas was working as a weaver and living in the Third Ward of New Kensington in Philadelphia County with their nine children: James, William, Robert, Hugh, Thomas, Alexander, John, Edward and Mary. At least two of Thomas and Ann's children, Robert and Thomas Jr. found their way to Pittsburgh. More about Thomas McAdams and Ann Curran can be found at Freeds Genealogy Home Page, the site maintained by Thomas and Ann's third great-grandson, Rick Freed.

Thomas Jr. was a plasterer who married Mary Jane. They had two daughters, Mary E. and Anna and a son, Thomas.

Rosa McAdams came from Belfast on the Mary Ann. She was alone when she arrived in Philadelphia at the age of 19 on July 9, 1827. James McAdams may have named his daughter, Rosanna after his sister.
William and John McAdams' Tombstone, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA
James, Thomas and Rosa may have convinced their parents to bring the rest of the family. William and Isabella McAdams were both 50 when they left Belfast on the barque Elizabeth Ann [or maybe Elizabeth Allen]. They arrived in Philadelphia on May 19, 1828 with Robert, 20, Ann age 19, John, 17, and William Joseph, 11 1/2. William died on July 1, 1839 and was buried in Section Sixteen of Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh. John died on June 27, 1835 and was buried with his father. Their tombstone is pictured to the right.

Robert was 20 when he arrived in Philadelphia on May 19, 1828 on the barque Elizabeth Ann [or maybe Elizabeth Allen] out of Belfast. With him were his parents, William and Isabella, brothers John, and William Joseph, and sister Ann. Robert McAdams was a farmer in Wilkins Township in 1850. He was living with his wife, Rebecca Keating and an 11-year old daughter, Harriet, both born in Pennsylvania. In 1860 Robert was a paper hanger living at 25 Fulton - 6th Ward of Pittsburgh and another daughter, Kate, is listed. Harriet married Newton McClarran. Their daughter Rebecca McAdams McClarran was named in her grandfather's will. Rebecca Keating McAdams died in 1882. Robert was living on Larmer Avenue in the East End at the time of his death in May, 1888 and was interred in Allegheny Cemetery near his father and brother John.

In 1837, James purchased property on Quarry Street in Pittsburgh for $310. He is listed as a resident of the "Northern Liberties."

In his 1989 book, Miscellaneous History of Lawrenceville, Joseph A. Borkowski describes the area where our ancestors lived:

The first Borough of record in the Pittsburgh area was Northern Liberties which was organized and laid out in 1816 and existed until March 1837 when it was annexed by the City of Pittsburgh. It was located on the southern bank of the Allegheny River bounded by Pennsylvania Canal (present Eleventh St.) extended to Grant Blvd. (presently Bigelow) followed eastward to a point midway between 25th and 26th Streets hence along Allegheny westward to Eleventh Street.

Later it became popularly known as Bayardstown for George A. Bayard, who owned several substantial tracts of land.

Recently, it has been referred to as 'The Strip,' whose boundaries are limited to present 27th Street.

Most of the inhabitants of old Bayardstown were from Northern Ireland. They wore stove pipe hats, large boots, frock coats and pantaloons with a barn door flap in front.

The streets of Old Bayardstown were all paved with cobblestones which were gathered by men and boys from the river bottom and sold to street contractors. (Miscellaneous History of Lawrenceville, page 9).

The history of the McAdams family resembles the history of the Irish Catholics of Pittsburgh.

The pioneer Irish Catholics who came to Pittsburgh flocked together. They consequently settled at the Point and then gradually flowed through the Strip (Bayardstown) and the Hill District. The Irish also inhabited nearby suburban communities, such as Lawrenceville, Oakland, where the living was more tolerable, at least to the relative degree that their neighbors would tolerate their presence. Consequently, we see the Irish immigrants taking over the "Hill District" and the "Lawrenceville Strip" areas. Their reason for settling in Lawrenceville, mostly below the Butler Street section, was because they were closer to employment which was readily available in numerous factories and mills along the river front.

The earliest Irish Catholics on record were those who came here with the French in 1754. The French were occupying forces at what is the present Point State Park. The Irish resided at Fort Duquesne under their protection.

Hereafter they came singly and by 1815 there was sufficient numbers to organize the first Roman Catholic congregation in the Pittsburgh Diocese. The church was located at the present intersection of 11th and Liberty Avenue in the proximity of the then existing Pennsylvania Canal Basin.

The Irish Catholics came here as railroad crew construction gangs and marine hands via the Pennsylvania Canal system, where they were used as deckhands. Being denied employment opportunities, they found coal mines, steel mills and factories ready to use their muscle as the Anglo-Saxons found the dust filled factories and mills not suitable for employment.

Under the dynamic leadership of Father Andrew P. Gibbs, the newly migrated Irish from "downtown" and "Strip" areas organized the St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in September of 1853. This was done despite the pronounced opposition by their neighbors who resented the Irish Catholics' intrusion into upper parts of Lawrenceville. Their neighbors also insinuated that "they" (the Irish) were the followers of the church of foreigners. (Joseph A. Borkowski Miscellaneous History of Lawrenceville, page 63).

Typical of the Pittsburgh Irish Catholics, the McAdams family first settled in the strip district, then moved to the Hill and then to Lawrenceville.

On February 9, 1837, a deed was drawn "Between James McAdams of Ross Township in the County of Allegheny and the State of Pennsylvania, Nancy his wife and James McAdams of the Northern Liberties." The deed described the purchase of the "Eastern half part of Lot No. 4" on Quarry Street for $310. Source: Allegheny County Deed Book, Volume 56, page 512.

The 1839 Pittsburgh City Directory lists James McAdams as a Plaster on Quarry Street, Fifth Ward. Quarry Street between Walnut and O'Hara was not far from the Canal. Quarry Street was parallel to Liberty Avenue. The property later purchased by the Pennsylvania Rail Road, and was somewhere near the present railroad terminal building down town.

Pennsylvania CanalThe Pennsylvania Canal, which connected Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, was built in 1829 at 11th Street. This picture of the Canal Viaduct was labeled, "Site of Union Station in 1850. Canal and footbridge at Liberty and Washington Streets. Faber's Foundry in left center and St. Patrick's Church at footbridge. NOTES: "Canal boats from the east arrived at Allegheny City [the North Side, later annexed by the City of Pittsburgh] first. Then they crossed the river by aqueduct to a basin at the present site (as seen in 1850) of Pennsylvania Station. For a time, it continued to the Monongahela River (Liberty Bridge), partly through a short-lived tunnel under Grant's Hill (Tunnel Street)." (Fleming's Views of old Pittsburgh, 1932). This information is from the Web Site maintained by the Carnegie Public Library.

This would have been a familiar scene to James McAdams. He might have attended St. Patrick's Church, one of the earliest in Pittsburgh.

For more about James McAdams and his family go to the James McAdams and Sarah Fagan page.

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Copyright 2000-2001 Nancy McAdams

March 22, 2000
Last update April 26, 2002

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