The George Adams family came to Ohio in 1808 from Virginia. George Adams’ father, George Beal Adams, was a Virginia plantation owner with over five hundred acres of fertile hill country in both Faquier and Loudon Counties.
When the father of George B. Adams, John, passed away, George, then in his early twenties, inherited the estate and became the head of the plantation. George was uncomfortable with this lifestyle for one reason, slavery: George had served in the Revolutionary War where he was exposed to the idea that all men were created equally. This philosophy was in stark contrast to the slave economy of Virginia and the south. George believed that to hold another man in bondage was a sin against God. George was married and had a family of seven by this time, including George Willison Adams, his youngest.
George made the decision to leave Virginia and start a new life where he would be free from the slave holding curse of his ancestors. He sold the plantation and freed his slaves. The money from the sale of the plantation went to purchase a tract of land in Ohio from a Philadelphia company with holdings in this state. Ohio had recently joined the Union as a State (1803) after being demarcated out of the old “Northwest Territory.” The new State’s lawmakers had ratified their constitution in March, 1803, and within that document Ohio was to be forever free from slavery and involuntary servitude. This echoed an earlier Congressional Law requiring the “Northwest Territory” to be likewise free. The land which George purchased was in that area known as the “Military Grant Lands.” This was a large tract of land in Central Ohio which had been given to Revolutionary War Veterans in payment for their services in that war. The early Congress lacked money with which to pay these men and so “granted” them land in the Ohio Territory as payment. Most of these former soldiers had no interest in going west and settling the frontier and so sold these land tracts to large companies, most of them located in the then U. S. Capitol of Philadelphia. These companies sold the land to pioneers who did want to go west.
One of the most notable of these Revolutionary War Veterans was Jonathan Cass, originally from New Hampshire. He was granted a large tract of land near Dresden and did in fact move here. He built a mansion in the valley very near the area where Prospect Place would later be constructed which he named “River Dale.” This mansion will return to the story at a later point in the possession of another resident of the area.
In addition to purchasing land George also bought all the things needed for the trip west, including wagons and provisions. By the time he was done George was left with little of the money he had in the beginning. The family set out for Ohio in the summer of 1807 and arrived in the spring of 1808. We can only imagine the things they would have experienced on their trip across the Cumberland Road, what we now call U. S. Route 40 or the “National Road.” They were surely challenged with fording many streams and rivers and may have even encountered some not-so-friendly Native Americans. Finally they did reach their “Promised Land” and settled on the eastern side of the Muskingum River near the village of Dresden.
Dresden is an interesting word, its roots are derived from a Slavic word meaning “forest home.” Dresden, Ohio, of that time would most definitely have appeared to spring forth from the middle of the forest. During the 19 th century Dresden became a prosperous community of merchants on one of the most important trade routes of the time. The Ohio and Erie Canal was built just north of town in the 1830's and brought to Dresden a market place that reached the far corners of the world. George Willison and his brother Edward Adams were young men when these events were unfolding. In 1826 George Beal Adams, the visionary who sought to free himself and his family from the evil of slave ownership and move west for freedom, died along with his wife Anna Turner Adams. His 150 acres passed to George W. and Edward.
Faquier County, Virginia.
The Virginia home of George B. Adams
The gravestone of George B. Adams
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History of Prospect Place