John Lynch Adair was born in Georgia, and left there with the general removal of the Cherokees in 1839, while a small boy. His father was Thomas Benjamin Adair, a descendant of a brother of General James Adair, the Indian historian. His mother was Rachel Lynch, from whom he derives his Cherokee blood. His parents died while he was a mere child, and he was consigned to the keeping of his aunt, Mrs. Maria Thompson, afterward Cunningham by marriage, and to the guardianship of two of his uncles, Joseph M. Lynch and James Allen Thompson, the latter by marriage. He had one sister, who died in the great removal West. He began his education in a Moravian missionary school, under the supervision of a Mr. Vogler, a Moravian minister. At this school he learned more how to endure pain than from the speller and catechism, as he was daily whipped for idleness and disposition to mischief. The boy was quick, active and swift of foot, and fond of rough and tumble exercises and coon hunting with the “niggers” at night, of whom his uncles and aunts had hundreds. That there might be a chance for his reformation, he was taken from his old associations and put in the family of Rev. Cephas Washbourne, who had formerly been a missionary at Dwight Mission, in the Cherokee Nation, and then living near Bentonville, Arkansas. Here he took on more of Yankee habits and speech than knowledge of common school studies, so much so, that he was often taken for one of that peculiar distinction. In the family of this excellent divine and scholar, Mr. Adair resided for about three years, when he was sent to Ozark Institute, near Fayetteville, Arkansas, while Mr. R. W. Mecklin, or “Uncle Bob” as he was called by the boys, was preceptor. At this school were a score or more of Cherokee boys, and to it many yet living can ascribe any distinction they may have achieved. Here the subject of this sketch first began to make any noted progress in his studies. Language was his favorite study, and in the Latin he became a rather proficient scholar, and in the Greek to a small extent. In 1849, when the gold excitement in California was at its highest, and his guardians had refused to send him to college when he wished to complete his studies, because, as they believed, he had education enough to be a doctor, he and a cousin of his, by the name of William Buffington, concluded to try their fortunes in the gold fields of California. His guardians and uncles and aunts, not being loath to such an undertaking, and believing there would soon be a return of two boys thoroughly disgusted with rambling, an ox-wagon and a team of four yoke of cattle were procured, with a lame negro to drive them, and with enough provision to have gone on an Arctic exploration. In about four years they returned, with a good deal of experience, but with very little gold. After his return, in 1853, Mr. Adair married Miss Jeffries, of Springfield, Missouri, and entered upon the duties of an “affectionate husband and an indulgent father.” The character of his life up to the beginning of the War of the Rebellion was entirely private, his occupation being principally farming. Casting his fortunes with the South, he raised a company of home guards, and was commissioned captain. He was never in any considerable battle but one, and that was at old Fort Wayne, near Maysville, Arkansas, in 1862. As a scout he was in many skirmishes and hand-to-hand fights, where differences were decided in a few minutes. After the Confederate armies had been driven South, and General Stand Watie, of the Cherokee regiments, had been stationed as an advance guard south of the Arkansas River, Captain Adair disbanded his company, which, in fragments, made its way through the enemy’s lines to General Watie’s command. He served through the entire war, and after the surrender returned to the Cherokee Nation in 1868, with his family, from Bellview, Texas, where he had moved them in 1863. On his arrival in his own country he settled at Tahlequah, the capital town of the Cherokee Nation. He reached that place with a helpless and hungry family, and seventy-five cents in his pocket. He did various kinds of work to support himself and family, and was finally relieved from drudgery by being appointed, first, auditor; next, clerk of the Cherokee Senate; executive councilor under Chief Downing; commissioner to re-survey the boundary lines between his nation and the States of Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas, as far west as the Arkansas River; delegate to Washington City in 1876, in 1880 and 1889; was twice member of the board of education; was assistant executive secretary under Chief Bushyhead, and secretary under Chief Mayes; was editor of the Cherokee Advocate, the official organ of the Cherokee Nation; was editor of the Indian Cheiftain, published at Vinita, and is now editor of the World, published at the same place. Mr. Adair is a gentleman of refinement and learning, and a poet of no ordinary ability, having contributed several gems to the collections of “American Poems,” now in circulation.
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JOY RETURNETH WITH THE MORNING –JOHN L. ADAIR, SR. A great storm had blown out the stars, And the winds, rushing from their caves, Lashed the sea into mountain waves; And the ship, under bending spars, In utter darkness plowed the deep. Unto Him whom the winds obeyed On Gallilee, I humbly prayed That in his keeping I might sleep.
In a haven, calm and bright With tropic sunshine, where the scent Of orange blooms made redolent The breeze that was so soft and light That scarcely there a wavelet broke Upon the bosom of the bay, When next morn’ our good ship lay To glad consciousness I ‘woke.
So may it be, Lord of all, When into darkness sinks my sun, And my stars go out, one by one, To such calm slumber may I fall. And that which only faith had been, Awake to find a truth to be, Where no white sails go out to sea, But are forever coming in. HEC DIES –JOHN L. ADAIR, SR. To him whose hopes are far away, To where life’s sunset scene discloses First of spring flowers and roses, Of summer next, and winter snows Further on, knows or thinks he knows That far this scene beyond is a day.
That to behold it, as we may, Its but little more than a dream, And of events, this turbid stream Beginning, ah where? and ending, Ah where? and forever wending Is not a real scene to day.
That we’ll fall to sleep, as we say, And, weary, would have it night While the sun is yet warm and bright; Will wake from sleep to find That all we saw and left behind Was nothing but a dream that day.
Wonder how long we slept that way, Think we’ve been dreaming, nothing more And to those who had woke before From sleep, will wish to tell our dreams, Of the unaccountable scenes, We beheld as we slept that day.
That our loved we’ll find as we pray, Who had grown weary and had slept, And in their dreams had laughed and wept O’er scenes that were so real That nothing could be ideal Of what they saw and felt that day.
Believe we were dreaming, some way, When we thought it was more than sleep It was so cold and calm and deep In which they lay, and sorrow’s tears We’ll think were strange, as were the fears, That made sad our dreaming that day.
That the gleams from the far away We sometimes have of better things Like strange birds upon helpless wings, Blown from some isle in tropic climes Are memories of other times, As we’ll find when we wake that day.