Historical Details

Adair, Calvin Jones and Family

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 12/08/2020


by Donna Eddy

Calvin (C.J.) Jones Adair (July 31, 1848 - Dec. 18, 1916) the son of John and Martha Adair of Lithia Springs, Ga. married Ophelia Pace at Atlanta, Ga.   They moved to Texas where he ran a blacksmith shop and mail run both to Tyler and Montague, Tex., in the early 1880's.

Ophelia's father owned and operated a store on the coast of Texas after the Civil War.

C.J. and Ophelia (Pace) Adair were the parents of ten children born in Cook, Montague and Smith counties, Texas. They are all deceased. They were Birdie Lotts, Henry, Mrs. Torn (Maude) Briggs, Claudette Duckett, Winnie Whittington, Mearle Elma Harris, Ernest J. Ewel who died at a young age, Earl, who died as an infant, Alvin Quanna and Emerald Gerald.

C.J. and family moved to Oklahoma when the Indian Territory was opened for home-. steading. Then in 1909 (possibly earlier) they moved to a homestead northeast of Lost Springs, Wyo. Their first home was a dug­ out. When logs could be obtained a log house was built. The logs were carefully peeled and every chip of wood and bark was saved to burn in the stove as they were so far from the timber.

The blizzard of April, 1912 took the lives of two sheepherders in the Keeline area and almost the life of Mrs. Mearle Harris and her father C.J.

Mrs. Harris had gone to her parents' home taking along her youngest child. It began to snow and she started to return for her other two children who were left at her cabin.  Mr. Adair, who decided to go, too, caught up with her, but soon the snow be­ came a blinding blizzard. They walked from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 the next morning when he found the top small wire of his fence line and followed it back to his place.

Mrs. Harris fell, dislocating a hip during the storm, but managed to continue to walk. They were circled by nine grey wolves several times. Both suffered with frozen feet and hands and severe frostbite.  They had gone in circles near the log house be­ing built.

Mrs. Adair had a crying baby and the worry of two small children in a cabin alone. Virgil and Bugs, the children, stayed in and went to bed where the anxious grandparents found them sound asleep the next morning.  Cattle and sheep died as well as men during the blizzard.

C.J. bought a pair of matched bay horses from the Nelsons (Horace Nelson's parents) for a surrey with a fringe on top.

He would kill and bring home rattlesnakes 3-6 feet long with 10-12 rattles and 4 to 6 inches around from the corn and bar­ley  field. He tried to grow flax and sugar cane on dry land.  He sold his land to Joe Bartos, and it is now all part of the Floyd Engebretsen ranch.

C.J. had a General Grant beard and walking cane.   He was a tubby man of about 225 pound and about 5'10" tall.  He always had a nickel for candy for his grandchildren and took one grand-daughter, Virgil Harris, to the old Douglas Park at sunrise to hear William Jennings Bryan on a vote getting trail for the Presidency in 1916.

He was a man with three main beliefs;  a hardshell Baptist (no other religion), 32nd degree Mason and a Democrat.  He was prepared to argue at the drop of a hat and was proud to have fought as a Confederate. Firm on his convictions, he would seal, sign and deliver them at will to anyone who would listen, especially so when his Irish and liquor were in control.   He was the favorite person of his grandchildren.

He was a member of the Masonic Lodge for 45 years, and was the first to be buried in Dec., 1916 in the southeast corner of the Masonic Lodge burial lot in Douglas. He was a diabetic and had recurring sores from the blizzard of 1912.

After his death Mrs. Adair married George Spracklin, who was the father of four children, Belle, Vern, Frank and Guy, from his first marriage and they moved to Laurel, Mont. where she passed away in 1921.

In Douglas, the C.J. Adairs lived on Antelope Creek on the 4th Street right on the bank of the creek. The bridge used to be right by the front door.

Earnest J. Adair and wife Nettie had a homestead to the north of his father's, C.J. Adair homestead.  They were the parents of Ozana, Ovella who died early in life and Cottie and Loretta.

A visit to Uncle Earnest's place was greatly anticipated as he had coconut sealed in tin pails in the cellar and he would give all his nieces and nephews a handful. What a treat that was!

Adairs left the homestead and moved to Keeline where the children could attend school. They lived straight across the road from the one-room school house.

It was not long until they left Kee­line. They moved to Oklahoma and later Earnest established a small truck farm in Texas.

His homestead is now part of the Floyd Engebretsen Ranch.

Maude Adair married Tom Griggs and they moved to Caldwell, Idaho.  They were the parents of six children, four of which still survive.

Winnie Adair married Marvin Whittington of Oklahoma.  They were the parents of two children, a daughter, Uaella and a son, Claude. Winnie died in 1909 at Duncan, Okla.

Alvin Adair married Etta Mae Wright of Lost Springs at Hemmingford, Nebr. She was a sister to homesteader Chester Wright. They were the parents of three children; Ruth Munshaw, Dalton, Nebr.; Faye (boy) deceased; Carl, Albany, Ore.

Alvin is at Grants Pass, Ore.

Emerald Gerald (April 20, 1893 - Feb. 13, 1966) married Emma C. O'Brien born 1894 in Douglas, the daughter of Jim and Rose (Housiaux) O'Brien who located in Cheyenne and then on the LaPrele soon after the Civil War.

Emerald lived in Keeline with Mearl Harris and the Connors where he helped Mike drill wells around the country.

Emma attended school on the LaPrele with John Peterson. She taught school at Glenrock, LaBonte, Wheatland and later was a substitute teacher in Douglas for many years.

They were the parents of two children, Marsha Amunson, Sacramento, Calif., who is a registered nurse and E.J. "Bud" Adair, College Park, Ga. where he is a pilot for Delta Airlines.

Mrs. Emma c. Adair now makes her home in Sacramento, Calif.

Birdie Lotta Adair married Jim Merchant.

They were the parents of one son, John Ester Merchant.  Jim Merchant died and is buried at Gering, Neb. They had a homestead which John Ester and Clara (Mouse) Merchant lived on later.

Birdie married Mike Connors of Keeline in about 1907. Mike was a lovable Irishman and an ingenious one. He drilled wells, drove the first Sears car, which was the doctor's main transportation to and from Lusk to the needed place in record time of that day.

The car had a straight bar that came across the driver's lap to steer with and chains that turned the wheels. It was fun to ride in. One of the nieces got to ride with Mike and Birdie all the way to Douglas to see a fair or a circus.  That was a thrill as the car only held two people so she had to ride the whole way on Auntie's lap.

Mike had a threshing machine, a black­ smith shop and tool repair shop besides cultivating his 120 acre homestead where he raised corn, wheat, barley and sugar cane. His homestead was only a short way up from the town well, school house, depot and general store.

They moved to Lewiston, Ida. in 1918.


Claud Della (Adair) Duckett Thomas was left a widow with two small children, Floyd Thomas and Ethel (Thomas) Erway.  She later married Doug Applegate, and they ran a store and post office in Keeline for a number of years.    They were there in the year of the Haley's Comet, May 1910.

The Applegates had stayed at the store working late, and Birdie's son John Ester Merchant went to the house where he told Floyd and Ethel the world was coming to an end, so they need not do the dishes The two children believed their cousin.  When their parents came home from the store and the dishes were still unwashed -- some minds were changed then and there.

After they left the store they lived in the German settlement southwest of Kee­line where they lived for a short time which did include the spring blizzard of April 1912.

Mrs. Applegate took a homestead joining her parents' homestead on the west side. A one-room log cabin was their home until a better house was built.

Times were hard and everyone worked. Mrs. Applegate, after a time, saved enough money to buy a team. Later they got a brown and white Pinto pony named "Happy" and the children rode bareback until they could afford a saddle.

Ethel, when just a small child, would ride to Keeline on Happy, with two or three flour sacks attached to the saddle to bring back small items for the neighbors, relatives and the family.

One cold day she went to Keeline for the mail and grocery items. It was a long nine miles for a little girl. It turned bitter cold. As she returned on her way home along the county road there were several nice homes, and as she neared the last one or two, someone came out and helped her off her pony and took her into the kitchen near the fire.  They bathed her hands and feet in cool water, gave her a hot drink and something to eat. This enabled her to make it the rest of the way home.

A school house was brought to the home­ steads and the homesteaders' children attended here. The first teacher was Miss Runser.   Before this the Thomas children lived with one, then another of the family when it was school time -- Keeline with Aunt Birdie Connors, Aunt Mearl Harris, and Lost Springs one winter with a barber and family.

Everyone worked. Ethel, a young girl would get on a harrow along with sacks of earth and drive the horses and harrow, you couldn't tell her from the soil in a few minutes.

Water was hauled in barrels on a sled from the C.J. Adairs' and Chester Wrights' who had wells before they did.

Floyd Thomas herded sheep for "Nigger Jim" one summer.

One year Applegates had a beautiful rye crop which a terrible hail storm laid flat in ten minutes. Another year they hauled potatoes all over trying to get a cent a pound for them.

They sold their homestead to Chester Wright and Mrs. Applegate and the children moved to Billings, Mont. These homesteads are now in the Kenneth Wright Ranch.


Mearl Elma Adair married Elmer W.Harris. They came to Wheatland in early 1909 and then moved to a homestead north­ east of Lost Springs in 1910 northeast of her parents.

While on the homestead, Mr. Harris worked for the big name sheep ranchers in the area for awhile.

Neighbors in the area were Murrys, by the chalk buttes. Close by were Tom House, his brother Chester House, Ester and Clara House Merchant, Earnest and Nettie Adair, Claud Applegate and children, Joe Bartos, Chester Wright and C.J. Adair families.

Threshing and well drilling time were super get-togethers with a holiday spirit. First the threshing or drilling crew came with wagon loads of equipment, then Mike and Birdie (Adair) Connors would drive up in their car. There was sure to be ice cream makings - who else had ice in the summer time?

Neighborhood men and families, wagons and a few sports buggies had all come for the occasion. What a picnic, and somehow it all seemed to be done by the time the sun said "Go", if you wanted to make it home before dark.

How the children loved the white sand when drilling wells. Pies and more pies and scoldings for getting in the way during the day's events. But, oh, how good the cool water tasted after drinking creek water

that was hot and days old at times and melted snow in the winter.   It didn't cost over ten to fifteen dollars for the job.

The same holiday spirit evolved at corn picking time.  It was one for all and all for one.

Going to town, usually once a month, for groceries and a penny for candy! The grocery man usually let you choose one for yourself alone along with your penny's worth of candy from his jars of candy on display. Once in a while bananas or oranges could be bought, but they were seldom in stock. The pretty material for a new dress was a special delight.

The six-mile ride to Keeline or the seven-mile ride to Lost Springs was rough, hot, bumpy and tiring, but the luxury of the back of the wagon was nice for sleeping going home for the children.   There was sure to be a stomachache that night. A favorite treat for one of the Harris children to be brought home was a nickel tin box of "Perfecto's Wafers". They called them par­ fee-toes.

There was a time of being snowed in and completely isolated.  They couldn't even make the quarter-mile trip to C.J.  Adair's. So Mr. Adair sent old Shep, his collie dog, over to the Harris place each day with a note and returned with one pinned to     his collar. That lasted for a month. The food dwindled to where there was nothing in the house but bread and water gravy. They were told this many times later when they complained  about the food.

Finally, men on horseback broke trails to the neighbors, went into town and brought back essential food. Then a wagon went and brought more for all concerned.

Many said these were the happiest days of their lives -- no kerosene, wood under drifts, no mail and almost no food  They said back in those homestead days, "Thank God for jack rabbits, sage hens, the porkies, not the quills", 'Manna from Heaven'.

"Nigger Jim" had a good homestead to the north. He was black and didn't mind the name. He helped when and where help was needed. He brought candy and gifts, (many of which he made himself) for all the homesteaders' children.  It was believed by the children that he paid the Raleigh men who came monthly and would leave candy or gum for them.  Jim was a kindly bachelor, whom everyone respected and liked and could be depended upon to be the first to break a snowbound road, bring wood or much needed groceries.  Many will remember him singing along the road and bringing a bit of cheer into their lives. The early homesteaders never knew him by any name other than "Nigger Jim".  He was goodhearted and would loan his farming equipment to neighbors.

One day it began to rain and hail. The Harris family sat on the beds in their new home, with pillows over their heads while hail hit them and rain pelted them and water became knee deep on the floor; there was no roof left.  It was scary and they were not safe until they waded across a tribu­tary of Lance Creek in knee high hail as large as baseballs to grandma's house after it had let up.     The hot bread baked from the dough the hail kneaded was delicious for supper.  It seemed the Harris home was the worst damaged and it was two days before they could go home.

Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Harris and family moved to Keeline in 1915 and to Douglas in 1916.They moved to Lusk in 1934, to Scottsbluff and then to Torrington in 1939.

Both are interred in the Torrington cemetery.

They sold their land to Hardy Lee and it is now owned by Floyd Engebretsen.

Elmer Harris bought hides, furs, and wool, etc., for many years in Douglas, Lusk and Torrington.

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