Figure 1. Adams monument. Hollenback Cemetery, Wilkes-Barre, PA. Photo: author.


BORN OCT. 13, 1913 NYC, NY


Adams, a professor of German and Spanish at the University of South Carolina, is probably responsible for his epitaph containing an allusion to Don Quixote. One deeply suspects that he was responsible for the nine-paragraph obituary posted at find a grave dot com, which must be read to be believed; it is a very aggressive example of someone flexing on the strength of his family history. One gets a vivid impression of the traditional American upper class.

[1] Stephen Bull Adams, 88, died Tuesday, April 16, 2002. … 

[2] Stephen Bull Adams was born in New York, N.Y., on October 13, 1913. His father was the late Dr. Edward Clarkson Leverett Adams (1876-1946, a veteran of the Spanish American War and WW I) of Columbia, S.C., a descendent of General Sir John Leverett, Governor of Massachusetts in the 1600s, whose son was a president of Harvard University; General Stephen Bull of Charleston, who helped plan the old city of Savannah; and Joel Adams, a prominent Lower Richland planter in the 1700s. Dr. Adams was known for his books of stories of Lower Richland County written in the Gullah dialect. Professor Adams’ mother, Amanda Mary Smith Adams (1877-1952), originally from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., was a descendant of Reverend John Rogers, the first Protestant ecclesiastic to be burned at the stake (1555) by Queen Mary (Bloody Mary) of England. She also was a descendant of Major Mathias Hollenback of Luzerne County, Pa., a Revolutionary War hero, a patriot, and a survivor of the Wyoming Valley Massacre. Major Hollenback, a partner of John Jacob Astor, had land and trading posts in north central Pennsylvania, which made possible during the French Revolution a refuge (known as “Azilum” and located in a horseshoe bend of the Susquehanna River) for many of the French nobility who aided our Revolutionary War effort, including the great French statesman, Prince Talleyrand. Her grandfather was Augustus Charles Laning, an industrialist and mayor of Wilkes-Barre during the mid 1800s. Her father, George Cotton Smith, was a partner in the Bradner Smith Company, now the oldest Chicago company still doing business under its original name. Her sister was Sarah Porter Smith Boylston whose home, known as the Boylston House (and Gardens), is now part of the South Carolina Governor’s Mansion Complex. 

[3] Professor Adams attended Bon Aire School, Columbia, S.C.; St. George’s School, Newport, R.I.; Hun School, Princeton, N.J.; Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H. (Class of 1938, letter in track); Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania (while working on his Master of Business thesis in Mexico, he had dinner with Leon Trotsky just days before Trotsky’s assassination in 1940); and Centaire University, Cannes, France, in 1948. Mr. Adams was a professor at the University of Illinois and at Tulane University. He was Professor Emeritus of the University of South Carolina, where he taught German and Spanish. 

[4] Professor Adams served in the U.S. Army during WW II and with the Military Government in Germany after the war in Lichtenfels, Bayreuth, and elsewhere. He was a close personal friend of the late Princess Pilar von Bayern (the last royal resident of Nymphenberg Palace in Munich); of the late Countess Haiga von Arco; and of the late Dr. Ernst Franz Sedgwick Hanfstaengl of Munich, Germany. The Countess and Dr. Hanfstaengl visited him in Columbia in later years on separate occasions. Dr. Hanfstaengl was a former Chief of the German Foreign Press, whose book Unheard Witness was published in seven languages. His son Egon Hanfstengl served in U.S. Army Military Intelligence in WW II and later operated the family’s most venerable Hanfstaengl Art Firm in Munich, which had branches in London and New York. 

[5] Professor Adams was a member of the Columbia Cotillion Club, Pine Tree Hunt Club, Flamenco Club, Phi Gamma, Delta Fraternity, Dartmouth Alumni Association, Yale Club, Allard Owners Club, Aston Martin Owners Club, and the Palmetto Club. He was a racing automobile enthusiast who had owned a 1952 Cadillac Allard racing car, a 1969 Aston Martin DBS and a 1979 Aston Martin Volante. He was a great animal lover who raised several Old English Mastiffs, his favorite breed (Sancho, Tweetsie – all 230-plus pounds of him – Sepp, Sedgwick, and Plato); Rottweilers (Hugo and Egor); and Pugs (Ching and Poppie). 

[6] Professor Adams was first married to the late Sara Richardson Adams. She was a descendant of Judge Alfred Proctor Aldrich of ante-bellum South Carolina. Her father was Alfred Aldrich Richardson (1881-1961), who was instrumental in starting the South Carolina Wildlife Department in 1913 and served as its director 1913-1959. He was a descendant of Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, who helped lead a Scottish rebellion against the King of England in the 1740s (he was captured at the Battle of Culloden and later became the last man to be beheaded at the Tower of London). Mr. Richardson’s mother, Sarah Aldrich Richardson was a 14-year-old schoolgirl at the Ursuline Convent in Columbia in February 1865 and was present when General Sherman promised the Mother Superior that the Convent would not be burned (it was burned, however, along with most of the rest of Columbia). Her account of the burning of Columbia is in the United States Congressional Record. Mrs. Richardson later served as State Regent for the Daughters of the American Revolution 1901-1906. Mrs. Adams’ mother, the late Annie Sweet Ferris Richardson, was a descendant of Major John Berrien of Georgia, a Revolutionary War officer in the Continental Army (and for many years head of the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Georgia) and General William Parker White, CSA, of White Hall, Isle of Hope, Savannah, Ga. Mrs. Adams’ uncle, the late William Darius Ferris of Atlanta, was a 1901 graduate of Georgia Tech and for a time was its oldest living graduate. Mrs. Adams was a President of The Assembly, President of the Palmetto Garden Club, President of the Columbia Garden Club, and President of the Pine Tree Hunt Club. She and Professor Adams were world travelers and lived in Mexico, Germany and France, before returning home to Columbia in 1956 from New Orleans with their son, Stephen. Professor and Mrs. Adams were official guests of the Dominican Republic in 1961 to witness their first five elections in 38 years. 

[7] Sara Adams planned and personally supervised the conversion of the historic mill by the waterfall at Adams Pond (a mill site for more than 250 years) to the family home in 1957, which she named Millstones. Columbians will long remember Millstones for its many grand occasions. She also was an animal lover who raised several Pekingese dogs (Chu Chu, Chula, Mimi, and General Beauregard). 

[8] Professor Adams was predeceased by his brother Dr. George Cotton Smith Adams, Phi Beta Kappa, Professor Emeritus of Wofford College. 

[9] Surviving are his second wife, Melinda Prescott Adams; his son by Sara Richardson Adams, Stephen Bull Richardson Adams, of Columbia; nephews, Charles Edward Adams and George Holaday Adams (now living in Thailand) of Spartanburg; a stepson, Colonel Alfred Aldrich Richardson Simson, formerly of Columbia and now of Newport, R.I.; and stepson, Curt Forstman, of New York, N.Y.

Pushing aside all the ancestors’ (admittedly interesting) activities such as being beheaded and burnt at the stake, Adams himself led a peripatetic life. In honor of those wanderings, tacitly claimed by him as Quixotic, he applied to himself the words of Don Quixote I.IV.46:

Viéndose, pues, don Quijote libre y desembarazado de tantas pendencias, así de su escudero como suyas, le pareció que sería bien seguir su comenzado viaje y dar fin a aquella grande aventura para que había sido llamado y escogido.

“Don Quixote, now finding himself freed, and clear of so many quarrels both of his squire’s and his own, thought it was high time to pursue his voyage and put an end to that grand adventure, whereunto he had been called and elected.”

The symbolism of the passage is clear enough: the ‘voyage’ is into the afterlife, the ‘grand adventure’ Adams’ life.

Published by gsb03632

A college professor living in Scranton, PA

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  1. Wow! I have had a Dalmatian named Lady Bell Black Splatter, a wire-haired fox terrier named Duffy, a bichon frisé named Max, and currently a pit bull mix named Toby.


    1. There’s a graveyard downhill from Dumbarton Oaks where the Blisses buried their dogs and put up tombstones: “Oaks Chistie” and names like that. All of you genteel dog breeders!


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