Adams, NY History and Genealogy


Updated July 2009

The following history contains excerpts from The Jefferson County Journal and the Watertown Daily Times, who granted permission to reproduce on The Adams, NY History and Genealogy web site.  Much of the information contained within this page was originally compiled and submitted to the town of Adams, NY, in an effort to gain historic funding to preserve the Dwight Block, and all of dowtown Adams, NY. 

Although downtown Adams, NY has now been designated a historic district by the National Historic Trust and the State of New York, the designation was too late for the Dwight Block.  Two other buildings in downtown Adams, NY will be torn down sometime in 2008.   Both of which are located near Belloff's and are built over the creek.

A historic park has been created at the site of the Dwignt Block by the Downtown Adams, NY Revitalization Committee.  If all goes according to plan, the park will be dedicated sometime during Labor Day weekend of 2008, and named in honor of J. Sterling Morton, who was born in Adams, and founded Arbor Day.

Thursday, August 28, 1884
The Principal Building Blocks on West Main Street Burned - Including Adams Collegiate Institute
Watertown Firemen with Steamer No. 2 come to the rescue.

For the third time Adams has met with a heavy loss by fire, probably the greatest in its history.  A few minutes before two o'clock this morning, fire was discovered in Chandler & Lamson's store by Dr. R. T. Kirkland and Fred Lee.  An alarm was immediately given and the fire engine was out promptly, first being placed near the millpond back of E. Cook's store.  The water in the pond was so low, however, that they could not reach it, and it was moved to the reservoir opposite the Huson House.  At first it seemed as tho' the firemen would control the fire, but it soon became evident that they could not and a dispatch was sent to Watertown for help.  The fire spread rapidly, taking in J. O. Brown's grocery store, Arms & Hungerford's and D. E. Taylor's dry goods stores, A. W. Kirby's clothing store and Ripley's boot and shoe store until the road was reached.  It was thought at the time that the building could be save, but when the reservoir on the north side of the creek was pumped dry, the company were compelled to move in the reservoir on the south side and directed their efforts to preventing the fire spreading south; which: they finally succeeded in doing, but not before H. E. Fox's drug store, John H. Gilbert's clothing store, Chas. Clark's saloon and Loren Ripley's harness shop were burned.

They succeeded in stopping the fire at Union block, which by the way is a wooden one, while those that burned were brick.  At two minutes before five the Watertown company No. 2 and part of No. 3 arrived with No. 2's steamer.  They were delayed in procuring a platform car on which to place their engine and at Adams Center waited six minutes to pass train No. 3.  This delay is what lost us our Institute Building formerly known as the Cooper House block.  If they had arrived a few minutes earlier, it would have been saved.  However, they prevented the fire from spreading any further, and undoubtedly saved Huson House, and private dwellings of Railroad street.  As far as we can assess at the present writing, the losses are as follows: Adams Collegiate Institute - $10,000, insurance $6,000; Prof. G. B. Rhodes had $600 insurance in his household goods which will cover his loss.  Wm. Daily, the janitor of the institute lost all household good was covered by insurance.  L. J. Bullock's stock millinery goods were nearly all removed, loss covered by insurance, W. A. Overton's grocery stock was nearly all removed and loss well covered by insurance.  N. A. Barney's stock was nearly all removed and loss covered by insurance.  D. A. Dwight's three stores in Institute block were appraised at $6,000, insurance $4,000.  The goods in Ripley's shop were nearly all removed and insured.  The stock in Taylor's dry goods store were nearly all removed, and the loss will be covered by insurance.  Maxon & Ramsdell saved their library and valuable papers.  Mrs. McNeal saved but little from her millinery rooms.  The block occupied by Kilby and Ripley were owned by Charles Chris and, valued at $6,000, insurance $4,000.  Arms Y Hungerford were unable to move but a little large stock of dry goods and probably are the heaviest losers.  Loss $2,500, insurance $1,600.  Not a thing was saved from J. O. Brown's grocery stock which was valued at $6,000, with an insurance of $3000.  Chandler & Lamson lost their entire stock valued at $6,000, with about $3,000 insurance.  H. E. Fox saved some of his drug stock, which was valued at $5,000 with $3,000 insurance.  W. H. H. Taylor lost his law library and all his law papers, no insurance.  C. W. Snow, billiard room, loss $1,000, insurance $500. The block occupied by Arms & Hungerford was owned by E. J. Wait, valued at $4,000 with $2,500 insurance.  The store occupied by J. O. Brown was owned by Mrs. A. B. Huson, valued at $3,500, insurance $2,500.  The store occupied by H. E. Fox was owned by Erastus Hale's estate, insurance $4,000, loss $2,000.  The store occupied by John H. Gilbert was owned by a. B. Gilbert on which there was no insurance.  Chas. Clark removed most of the stock in his saloon.  The stock of Loren Ripley's harness shop was also removed.  The building was owned by D. B. Lockwood, valued at $4,000, insurance $2,500.  Geo. Horth's store adjoining was not burned, but damaged to some extent as well as stock.  R. T. Kirkland, dentist, lost about $800, with $500 insurance.

Transcription by Nancy Ring Kendrick


To the citizens of Adams, a sermon on "The Fire" at the Presbyterian church, Sunday evening, by the pastor.  All invited to consider the lessons of the Fire.

Had our village been possessed of proper facilities for fighting fire, a large number of buildings would have been spared as their was little wind.  When will our people awake to the necessity of procuring something with which to properly fight the fire demon.  Let us arouse from our Rip Van Winkle sleep in this matter and do something.  Now is the time for action.

Many thanks are rendered to the boys of Watertown Fire department who rendered such effective service in checking the fire.

W. A. Overton has moved his stock of grocery goods into a store in Sanders' new block.

Hon. L. L. Hunt met with a loss of $500 on his law library.  But few volumes were saved out of the Holley public library.

John H. Gilbew saved the greater part of his clothing, loss covered by insurance.  

D. E. Taylor and A. D. Ripley have rented one half of J. S. Brown & son's block and are moving their stock.


An enterprising citizen, Thomas P. Saunders, born in 1821, came to Adams in 1834.  He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1850.  While practicing his profession he also gave attention to the erection of both public and private buildings.  The total cost of these buildings was $150,000 and increased the growth, prosperity and beauty of Adams.  He was ten times elected president of the village of Adams. During his administration, about twelve miles of concrete sidewalks were laid, and the waterworks in 1885 and electric light plant in 1889 were established.  In 1851, he built the first public hall on the fourth floor of a building 45' by 75', which burned in one of the fires shortly after.  In 1866, he built the COOPER House block with a public hall on the third floor with seating room for 1,000.  Though he promoted many improvements, he kept the village out of debt by his 'Pay as you go' policy.

In 1874, the Mendell Block was converted into a carriage shop and the Dodge Carriage works was also started.  In 1876 Saunders and Wright built a sawmill in the western part of the village.  In 1878 on the 1809 site of Abel Hart's inn a new hotel was erected and the Lockwood and COOPER House were still busy taverns.

A library had been started April 12, 1831 and lasted about 15 years and then closed due to lack of funds.  The second effort was started in two rooms on the second floor of the DWIGHT Block being named "The Adams Free Library," with Mrs. Bell as librarian.  It was founded in 1900 by the efforts of the women of the community.  Later it was in the Community Building and when the new Community Building was built in 1965, it was moved there.  Mrs. O. B. Rhodes served as librarian for many years.

(From an article dated 1955 by Marjorie Berry)  The library as it is known today was established at a much later date in rooms on the second floor of the DWIGHT Block (Transcribers Note:  Some may know this location as the second floor of the former RING's Store) on the corner of Main and West Church Street.  This had its beginning from a large gift of books from Mr. and Mrs. Brenton Babcock of Ohio.  This public library was sponsored by the Adams Study Club.

As public benefactor General Hungerford's greatest achievement was helping to bring Adams an educational institution of high quality.  Adams Collegiate Institute was chartered by the Regents in 1855.  General Hungerford was offered to give $10,000 if the community would match the endowment to start the school in a building that had come into his hands, the unfinished Basswood Hotel.  School started in 1864 with 160 students, but burned in 1868.  With the insurance money and more donations and the offer of a site on the hill of the name were changed to Hungerford Collegiate Institute, a fine brick building was built there and school began in 1870.  Under Principal Watkins and vice Principal Orlo Rhodes and a fine staff of teachers, 60 boarding and 200 day students were well trained and the school was noted for its discipline and scholarship.  The building was sold for debt in 1882.

Through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. D. A. DWIGHT, the Cooper Block was bought and rented to the school, and the Adams Collegiate Institute started again in the COOPER Block.  In 1884 that block burned and again the DWIGHT's came to the rescue and bought the Institute building (now the Sholtz Bldg.) and conveyed it to the trustees with reservations about keeping it a Christian school with no more  debts.  The cost to the community had been $80,000.

Ring's 5 & 10 was founded in 1938 by Felix (Fred) Michael Ring.  Once known as "Flansbury's", Ring's was located between the bank building (now the Jefferson County Journal) and the Market Basket on Main Street. 

In 1939 the sale of the property was finalized with Fred and Ada M. Ring becoming owners (see transcription of deed from 1939).

In 1945 Ring's Store enlarged when Felix (Fred) M. Ring began the process of purchasing the "Market Basket" which was adjacent to the original Ring's Store.  The Market Basket was located at the corner of Main and West Church Street.  It was also the year the Felix's sons, Fred and Al became partners and took over as owners of the operation, as Felix chose to retire.  The address became 1 - 5 Main Street, Adams, NY.

The Ring family filed for incorporation, and the business became Ring's Inc. in 1951.

Alan C. Ring sold the business to his brother Fred J. Ring in December of 1978.  The Alan Ring family moved to Flagler Beach, FL, when Al accepted a position as business manager of Dave Gibbs Chevrolet.  Fred and his wife Marguerite ran the store until the 1980's.





THIS INDENTURE Made the 30th day of September, in the year Nineteen Hundred and Thirty-nine, Between ADA M. CRONK   of the Town of Ellisburg, Jefferson County, New York, party of the first part, and FELIX M. RING and ADA M. RING, both of the Village of Adams, County of Jefferson and State of New York, parties of the second part.

WITNESSETH, that the said party of the first part, in consideration of One Dollar, lawful money of the United States, paid by the parties of the second part, does hereby grant and release unto the said parties of the second part, their heirs and assigns forever,

ALL THAT TRACT OR PARCEL OF LAND,    Situate in the TOWN AND VILLAGE OF ADAMS, County of Jefferson and State of New York, and bounded and described as follows:    On the west by the center of Main Street; on the north by lands of Nelson Green and Joseph Coon; on the east by lands of Julia Bond and lands now formerly in the possession of G. B. R. Whipple and on the south and southwest by lands of the Baptist Church, the Seminary Lot, Titus Barrett (Bassett); Thomas P. Saunders and William Puffer to the center of Main Street aforesaid, supposed to contain two acres of land, more or less.

Being the same land deeded by William Wright and wife April 14, 1864 to Olive A. Stearnes.

Excepting and Reserving therefrom the land conveyed by Juliette Lewis and husband, by Warrant Deed dated June 9, 1868, to Solon D. Hungerford and Julia Bond, and which deed was recorded in the Jefferson County Clerk's Office July 13, 1868, in Book of Deeds Number 177 at page 5.

Also Excepting and Reserving therefrom a small parcel of the above described premises heretofore sold and conveyed to Ambrose Johnson.

Also Excepting and Reserving therefrom that portion of said premises which was conveyed by Elizabeth D. Kirkland to Henry Adelbert Bettinger May 14, 1908, by deed recorded in Liber 326, page 298, in Clerk's office of Jefferson County, NY.

This conveyance is made subject to a certain mortgage dated January 7, 1926, given by Delia A. Enos and Henry M. Enos to George W. Hannahs, and recorded in Jefferson County Clerk's Office January 14, 1926, in Liber 223 of Mortgages at page 269, which said mortgage, by an instrument in writing, was thereafter assigned by the said George W. Hannahs to the Citizens and Farmers Trust Company, Adams, NY which said assignment is dated October 2nd, 1965, and is recorded in Jefferson County Clerk's Office in Liber 6 of Assignments of Mortgages at page 93, and entered in Liber 223 of Mortgages at page 269.  The principal amount of the aforementioned mortgage was $800, and there is now due and unpaid thereon the sum of Six Hundred Fifty ($650) Dollars with interest thereon from the 7th day of July, 1939, which said mortgage and the amount due and to grow due thereon the parties of the second part herein covenant, assume and agree to pay as part of the purchase price herein.

Being the same premises conveyed by Ross C. Scott, Jr. individually and a executor and others, to Ada M. Cronk, by warranty deed dated the 31st day of December and recorded in the Office of the clerk of Jefferson Count in Book No. 421 of Deeds at page 455.

Together with the appurtenances and all the estate and rights of the party of the first part in and to the said premises.  To have and to hold the above granted premises, unto the said parties of the second part, their heirs and assigns forever.  And the said Ada M. Cronk party of the first part, does covenant with said parties of the second part as follows:  First. - - That the parties of the second part shall quietly enjoy the said premises.  Second. -  - That the said Ada M. Cronk, party of the first part will forever Warrant the title to said premises.   Third. -  - That the grantor receive _ the consideration for this conveyance as a trust fund to be applied first for the  purpose of paying the cost of any improvement, that has been commenced upon the premises and has not been completed at least four months before the making and recording of this deed, and that the grantor will apply the same first to the payment of the cost of improvement before using any part of the total of the same for any other purposes.

In Witness Whereof, The said party of the first part has hereunto set her hand and seal the day and year first above written.

                                ADA M. CRONK                        (L.S.)

$2.50 I. R. Stps. Aff & Canc.

State of New York County of Jefferson Town of Adams SS:  On this 30th day of September in the year Nineteen Hundred and Thirty-nine before me, the subscriber, personally appeared Ada M. Cronk to me known and known to me to be the same person described in, and who executed the within Instrument, and she duly acknowledged to me that she executed the same.

Albert E. Smithler
Notary Public
Recorded Oct. 3, 1939 at 3:49 PM
                  Fred H. Moore (?)

Dwight Block Located At 1 through 5 Main Street Demolished On July 11, 2005

According to sources in Adams and Watertown, NY;

In the spring of 2005, a heavy rain storm added to the already perilous condition of the Dwight Block, also known as Ring's store.  After the storm, bricks in the back of the building (next to the Hotel Adams) at the 1st story level fell out.  It left a hole of about 5-6 feet high.  According Carl Fowler of The Jefferson County Journal; "You can see into the first floor corner of the building now."  Police crime line tape was put up for safety purposes.

The Village of Adams Board recently met to vote on three resolutions relating to the structures fate.  All resolutions dealt with demolition.  All resolutions passed.

Ring's store thrived until the inception of  GRANTS, K-Mart, and other discount houses.  Discount house corporations were the beginning of the end of the small five and dimes across the United States.  When Fred J. Ring purchased the business from my dad (Alan C. Ring) in 1979, it was a struggle.  The building has changed hands many times since the Ring's finally sold out and closed; once being owned by the operator of the Jefferson County Journal, Carl Fowler.  The final owner owed 14 years worth of back taxes.  The final owner caused the buildings demise.  They did nothing towards upkeep.


Left:  The Cooper House Block before the fire that destroyed much of the west side of Main Street.
Right:  The original Ring's Store prior to 1945 expansion and the purchase of the Market Basket.


Transcribed from The Watertown
Daily Times
Face of Adams to change July 11 with razing of historic Ring Building

Monday, June 27, 2005
Section: Jefferson
Edition: Both
Page: D6
By H. Michael Jalili
Times Staff Writer
Illustration: Color photos by Amanda Voisard Watertown Daily Times
Dateline: ADAMS, NY

The application for historical designation for the Ring Building was completed June 15 after several years of work.The next day, a section of the wall on the ground level tumbled down.  Preservationists' hopes fell with it.  They had put many hours of work into trying to save the red brick building at South Main and West Church streets. The idea to develop a historic district in the village initiated with the Ring Building. To history enthusiasts and revitalization activists, the vacant building represented the troubles and the potential of downtown.  Their dream ended when engineers said the building might collapse in a strong rainstorm. The only available option: Tear it down.  "I'm very upset," Adams historian Susan L. Herse said. "This isn't just one to three days of work with one or two interested people; we were working on this for a long time."     On Friday, village Mayor Dugal C. Peck said the building will be demolished July 11.  "It puts a major hole in a major intersection," Mr. Peck said. "We're still up in the air what will be put there."  But he said plans for revitalizing downtown will continue. The efforts include streetscape improvements and applying for listing several buildings in and around Main Street on the state and national historic registers.  "It won't change the direction of things, but that building is out of the calculations," Mr. Peck said.  Buildings registered as historic qualify for 20 percent federal income tax credit for costs of rehabilitation, and registered historic buildings owned by nonprofit organizations or government agencies are eligible for historic preservation grants.    

The Ring Building has been vacant since the early 1990s. The owners, Ronald and Denise Hibbard, have not maintained the building and no property taxes have been paid since 1991. It was condemned in 2002 with a ticket price of almost $1 million for renovation and stabilization. The village Board of Trustees then considered obtaining historic designation for the building as the only affordable option to save it.  Village Trustee Thomas E. Bowie, who led the historic district efforts, said that had the process to get historic designation been faster, the Ring Building might have been saved. It was more than a year after the village expressed an interest in having a historic district that a representative from Albany visited the village, Mr. Bowie said.  "Sometimes the government doesn't expedite things," Mr. Bowie said. "It's a historic building and I like to see them preserved. It will be hard to put something there."    

The building's history stretches to the late 19th century, when it was known as the Dwight Block. "It's one of the older ones, if not the oldest," Mrs. Herse said. It was built on the site of the Cooper House Hotel after a fire in August 1884 destroyed that section of the village.     In 1938, Felix M. Ring founded Ring's 5&10 in a section of the building. Before he retired in 1945, he expanded his business by buying Market Basket, a grocery store at Church and Main streets. He sold the business that year to his sons, Frederick J. and Alan C. The Rings owned the building into the 1980s. It has gone through different owners since the Rings, Mrs. Herse said.  "The reason it's known as the Ring Building is because the family owned it longer than anybody else," she said.  Nancy Ring Kendrick, Alan's daughter, who lives in Port Orange , Fla. , said by telephone that she is disappointed that the building bearing her family's name will be no more.  "Not just for us, but for the whole town of
Adams. I think there was so much history there," Mrs. Kendrick said. "I think more could have been done to save it.

All content in the transcription above © 2005 Watertown Daily Times
Republished with permission of Watertown Daily Times Staff Writer, Mike

The beginning of the end!  Ironically, bricks had been falling out of this building beginning in the 1960's and repaired on a yearly basis. 
Ignorance of policitians caused the demise of this historic building.  Contrary to the views of Adams officials, "the sky was not falling and the building was not going to fall down!"  Yet, they chose to destroy it due to their own agenda that did not include waiting for the outcome of the application for historic preservation!  All of"DOWNTOWN" Adams, NY was granted historic preservation status and funding in 2006, a few short weeks after the Dwight Block was demolished.  A true case of "patience is a virtue!"

This page is dedicated to the memory of Jean Hudson, who fought tirelessly to preserve downtown Adams, NY.  Cooper Block image courtesy of the Jefferson County Journal, Adams, NY.  The two center pictures are courtesy of the Watertown Daily Times, © 2005 Watertown Daily Times.  All rights reserved.  All other pictures courtesy and © 2007 The Herse and Ring famiy archives.  All rights reserved.

Facelift begins, mural mulled for Journal wall
By H. Michael Jalili
Times Staff Writer
Monday, October 03, 2005

ADAMS -- Work on the exposed wall of the Jefferson County Journal began last week and will be completed in the next few weeks if the weather permits.

Precision Plaster, Paint and Construction, Utica, has insulated the brick wall and began Tuesday covering it with polystyrene, which will be topped with mesh, said William P. Plante, an engineer with GYMO Architecture, Engineering, & Land Surveying, Watertown. The contractors will finish the job with masonry products.

"The final look will resemble the limestone in front of the building," Mr. Plante said.

The wall on the north side of the building was exposed when the village demolished the former Ring Building in July because it was structurally unsafe.

Mayor Dugal C. Peck said the village may eventually paint a mural on the finished wall.

Under an agreement the village entered into with Karl A. Fowler, publisher of Jefferson County Journal and owner of the building, the village owns an easement on the exterior of the wall.

The empty lot where the Ring building stood is at South Main and East Church streets. Denise and Ronald Hibbard, who were listed as owners of the now demolished building, have not paid county and village taxes since the early 1990s. The village, which paid for the demolition of the building, is eager to gain possession of the parcel from the county.

"There is a lot of discussion about what to do with that lot," Trustee Brian C. Thomas said.

The idea of a park is high on the list.

"The site is too small for development, and it's a tough one for development just because of its size," Mr. Plante said.

He said if the lot is turned into a park with benches, it will give people who work downtown a place to eat their meals and relax during warm-weather months.

There is also discussion of allowing parking on the empty lot.

"I would think a park would be better than parking," Mr. Thomas said. "I don't think there is enough space for parking there."

He said the site could become a park with a fountain, flower boxes and an interpretive plaque detailing the history of the building that stood there for more than 100 years.

All content in the transcription above © 2005 Watertown Daily Times
Republished with permission of Watertown Daily Times Staff Writer Mike