ROBERT W. ADAM – No name in Western Massachusetts represents more faithful service to the people or more honorable activities in a position of large trust than does that of the late Robert W. Adam, of Pittsfield, who served as treasurer of the Berkshire County Savings Bank for a period of forty-six years. This man of brilliant mentality and devoted spirit was one of the most accessible men of his time, always meeting rich or poor alike with the cordiality of the true brother of mankind, while at the same time his courtly manner and distinguished presence marked him as a prince among men.
Born in that rugged section of Connecticut, which might well be called the lower Berkshires and highly educated in the institutions of his native New England, Mr. Adam became a distinguished lawyer, then after some sixteen years of practice in that profession, entered the world of finance. Thus in two outstanding realms of vital importance to the world, he distinguished himself as a man of ability and strength and his name reflects honor upon the city of which he was so many years a resident.
Robert W. Adam was born in North Canaan, Connecticut, September 28, 1825, and died at his home in Pittsfield, June 11, 1911. His elementary studies were covered in the local schools and he covered the liberal arts course at Williams College, from which he was graduated in 1845. Coming to Pittsfield within the year, he took up the study of law under the distinguished preceptorship of Messrs. Rockwell & Colt, who as a leading early firm of lawyers trained many young men for the bar. Admitted in 1849, Mr. Adam began practice in Pittsfield immediately and soon gained a wide and influential clientele. Many opportunities were offered him to bear a leading part in public affairs, but prominence of this nature never appealed to him, although when public service became a duty, he ably and gladly bore a part. He served at one time as a representative to the General Court and in the local public service, he did excellent and important work, as president of the Board of Aldermen. His outstanding service to his time, however, was his tenure of office of treasurer of the Berkshire County Savings Bank, to which office he was elected in 1865. In this position of honor and large responsibility, Mr. Adams became one of the most influential men of this county and his wise administration of the affairs of the institution counted largely for its growth and prosperity. It was said that while he served in this office “tae business of the bank increased thirteen fold.” He was interested in various branches of community endeavor: professional, civic, benevolent and commercial. He was a stockholder in the Agricultural National Bank, also the Berkshire Mutual Fire Insurance Company and other concerns, including as well the Pittsfield Coal Gas Company. It was to his duties as treasurer of the Berkshire County Savings Bank, however, that Mr. Adam devoted the best years of his life and his most arduous labors.
This institution was founded in February of 1846 and throughout its history has faced the local park. It was founded and established on the south side of the park, on the present site of the Berkshire Athenaeum. About twenty years later the institution was removed to the building then occupied as a town hall and to the room more recently used as the office of the city clerk. A further removal placed the bank in a building of the Berkshire Life Insurance Company, on the west side of the park, where it remained for nearly thirty years. The present simple, yet dignified building, six stories in height, was ready for occupancy, and on September 1 of that year the bank first occupied its own building. Its growth and importance has carried it to leading rank, not only in this section, but in the State. “The Pittsfield Journal” for Saturday, July 1, 1911, which comprised the 150th anniversary edition, celebrating the founding of the city of Pittsfield, said of this institution: Its depositors include more than one person out of every six in the county; its deposits nearly equal in amount the combined deposits of the other seven banks in Pittsfield; its millions are at the disposal of him who wishes to borrow the smallest sum to enable him to own his home and of him whose needs are many hundredfold greater; its grey-covered passbooks are to be found in the household of every wellregulated family for miles about.
The Berkshire County Savings Bank is sixty-five years old, nearly the allotted span of human life. In all these years, it has had but two treasurers, surely an honorable record. James Warriner was chosen to that office at the outset, and filled it for nearly twenty years. His portrait, showing his fine Puritan features above his dress of the olden time, looks down upon the thousands who come and go before it in the office of the bank. No depositor in the bank can remember when he was not accustomed to see at his desk the familiar face of Robert W. Adam, chosen to be treasurer in August, 1865. Of late illness has laid her heavy hand upon him; but his fellow trustees were not willing that there should be any break in his long continued, faithful service in the interests of every depositor, young or old, near or remote. And no break did come until his death on June 18th.
The personality which bore so strong an influence on the progress of the city of Pittsfield in and through this institution was most fittingly and most happily told in Boltwood’s “History of Pittsfield,” published in 1916 as follows:
Conscientious in the performance of professional duty, he did not allow it to possess him completely. Mr. Adam was of the sort that loves a trout brook, a stretch of hilly woodland, a winding country road. He was an affectionate and constant comrade of worthy books and the yield of his own diffident pen was charming and felicitious. His wit was proverbial in Pittsfield. He was a master of the art of amiable banter, and his humor would sparkle and shine suddenly from behind a screen of grave courtliness. In business transactions, in public or in social life, and in his church, Mr. Adam’s obvious desire was not only to see the right thing done, but also to see the right thing done amicably, and to meet him was to be conscious of a serene and sunny influence.
Robert W. Adam married, in 1852, Sarah P. Brewster, and they were the parents of one son, William L., who has served as treasurer of the institution since the death of his honored father.