ADAMS (Adems; after 1727 he used the spelling Adames), JOSEPH, Hudson’s Bay Company employee; b. c. 1700; d. 1737.
One of several children born to William, a labourer, and Katherine Adams, Joseph was baptized 4 May 1700 in Woodford parish, Essex. On 1 June 1705, he was fitted out by the parish and bound to serve the HBC until he was 24. Assuming that he was baptized shortly after birth, it would appear that Adams was sent to Albany at the tender age of five years. There he was educated by the chief factors and learned the Cree language; he was fitted out with new clothes each year according to the terms of his indenture. Adams soon proved to be a good apprentice and a trustworthy servant. There was considerable correspondence between London and Albany concerning his age and the expiry date of his indenture. In 1714 Anthony Beale, HBC governor, estimated that Adams was 18 years old; either Adams was big for his age or Beale hoped that by deliberately over-estimating Adams’ age the time of his indenture would be lessened. Finally in 1722, upon the recommendation of Thomas McCliesh*, who succeeded Henry Kelsey as governor for the HBC overseas, Adams was entertained at £16 per annum retroactive to 11 Sept. 1721 because for the 1721–22 season he had wintered as trader on the East Main. For reasons of health he spent the 1723–24 season in England.
Adams acted as deputy to Joseph Myatt from 1727–28 until Myatt’s death on 9 June 1730, whereupon Adams took over command. With William Bevan he did a survey of Moose River in July 1728 and located the site of the original Moose Factory The London committee had intended that Adams supervise the establishment of a factory at Moose in 1730–31, but Myatt’s death necessitated Adams’ staying at Albany. He sent Thomas Render and John Jewer to build the post, although he had reservations about their capabilities. In October 1731 his reservations proved accurate and he had to visit Moose because the men refused to work under Render.
Adams was supposed to be recalled in 1735 and again in 1736, and was to be replaced by Thomas McCliesh, but on both occasions McCliesh upon arrival in the bay was “sore afflicted with ailments” and had to return to England. The winter of 1735–36 was a particularly busy one for Adams; in January 1736 he heard that Moose factory had been destroyed by fire on 26 Dec. 1735, and later he wrote to the committee: “we have strained ourselves to the utmost to assist them.”
During his long tenure as governor, Adams carried out considerable rebuilding of Albany Factory to make it more defensible. He failed to decrease the consumption of brandy by company servants, a trend that had started in the 1720s and continued throughout the 1730s. The London committee felt that the loss of five Albany servants by drowning and the destruction of Moose resulted from excessive drinking. A sharp reduction in the Albany fur returns was caused by the establishment of Moose Factory, by the competition of Pierre Gaultier* de La Vérendrye’s posts, and also by the anonymous coureurs de bois who seemed to have established temporary posts on both the Moose and Albany rivers.
Adams died on 29 Sept. 1737, shortly after his return to England with his three-year-old half-breed daughter, Mary. His will, which was proved on 12 Jan. 1738, listed bequests to his sister Mary and to his executors, Captains George Spurrell* and Christopher Middleton*; the greater part of his estate was left in trust for the benefit of his infant daughter.
HBC Arch. A.6/3 (letters outward, 1705, 1713); A.6/4 (letters outward, 1718–19, 1720, 1722, 1724, 1726); A.6/5 (letters outward, 1727, 1729–37); B.3/a/5–6, 9–11, 14–25 (Albany journals between 1713 and 1737). HBRS, XXV (Davies and Johnson).