Robert Lee Adams
b. 5 December 1869, d. 16 September 1956
- Father: James H. Adams b. circa 1805, d. 19 April 1873
- Mother: Nancy E. Greene b. circa 1833, d. circa 1883
- Robert Lee Adams was born on 5 December 1869 in Montevallo, Shelby County, Alabama.
- James H. Adams and Nancy E. Greene appeared in the US federal census of 1 June 1870 in Montevallo PO, Shelby County, Alabama, living not far from his daughter Josephine Brown.. Other members of the household included Robert Lee Adams, James B. Garrett and Mary Elizabeth Garrett.
- Nancy E. Greene appeared in the US federal census of 1 June 1880 in Montevallo, Shelby County, Alabama, living next to Nancy's daughter Mary Elizabeth Nelson.. Other members of the household included Robert Lee Adams.
- He married Ophelia Jane Foreman, daughter of Arthur Leonidas Foreman and Mary Eugenia Halliday, on 4 June 1890 in Auburn, Lee County, Alabama, with W. G. Ross officiating.
- Robert Lee Adams and Ophelia Jane Foreman appeared in the US federal census of 1 June 1900 in Gadsden, Etowah County, Alabama, at Forest Avenue. Other members of the household included Robert Lee Adams Jr., James Garrett Adams and Mary Foreman.
- He was a telegraph operator, according to the 1900 census.
- Robert Lee Adams and Ophelia Jane Foreman appeared in the US federal census of 15 April 1910 in Loachapoka, Lee County, Alabama, at Loachapoka & Auburn Road. Other members of the household included Robert Lee Adams Jr., James Garrett Adams, Mary Elizabeth Adams, Arthur Foreman Adams, Sarah Bellenger Adams, Richard Halliday Adams, Josephine Ophelia Adams and Arthur Leonidas Foreman.
- He was a farm operator, according to the 1910 census.
- Robert Lee Adams and Ophelia Jane Foreman appeared in the US federal census of 1 January 1920 in Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, at 705 Capitol Avenue. Other members of the household included Robert Lee Adams Jr., Arthur Foreman Adams, Sarah Bellenger Adams, Richard Halliday Adams and Josephine Ophelia Adams.
- He was a lumber dealer, according to the 1920 census.
- Robert Lee Adams and Ophelia Jane Foreman appeared in the US federal census of 1 April 1930 in Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, at 743 Argonne Avenue. Other members of the household included Robert Lee Adams Jr., Sarah Bellenger Adams, Richard Halliday Adams and Josephine Ophelia Adams.
- He was employed as an operator by a telegraph company, according to the 1930 census.
- Robert Lee Adams became a widower at the 26 May 1946 death of his wife Ophelia Jane Foreman.
- Robert Lee Adams died on 16 September 1956 at age 86 in Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia.
- The following appeared on 18 September 1956 in The Birmingham News: (Atlanta) Robert L. Adams Sr., son of a pioneer Alabama family and one of the early developers of telephone service in that state died at his home Sunday. He was 87.
A native of Montevallo, Ala., he was a son of James Adams, one of the original settlers of Selma, Ala.
He went to work for the Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Co. in Gadsden, Ala., in 1892 and left that organization to form his own phone system in Northeastern Alabama. He sold out to Southern Bell in 1906 and in 1915 moved to Atlanta where he has made his home since.
- "Pioneering Highlights in the Telephone Field Before and at the Turn of the Century" was dictated in 1949 by Robert Lee Adams to his son Arthur Foreman Adams:
I was a six year old boy on the train with my mother (Nancy Elizabeth Greene) enroute from our hometown Montevallo, Ala. to Selma, to visit my brother. The train had stopped at Randolph, and my mother was talking to an old friend who had just returned from the Centennial at Philadelphia. He was telling her of a fellow he had seen there named Bell, who had a contraption you could hear a person's voice talking over half a mile away.
As a ten year old boy I talked over and saw the actual operation of the Selma, Ala. exchange in 1880.
The Western Union Telegraph Co. and the Southern Bell were closely allied in those days - both companies occupying the same office. The switchboard was flat on top of a table and not straight up like the present ones.
I learned telegraphy during my tenth year, and when I was sixteen I became manager of the Western Union at Stanton, Alabama.
John D. Easterlin, Supt of Southern Bell Telephone Co. in Atlanta, was advertising in a telegraph journal that the Bell Co. would rent telephones. I figured on building a short two mile line out to a mill. I ordered two phones and when I received them they looked like "yo-yo" paddles.
I found myself skipping around from one telegraph job to another until I was twenty years old. I married Ophelia Foreman, of Auburn, Ala., daughter of a famous Civil War surgeon. We were together fifty-six years. She is waiting for me now on the other side.
In the year 1892, I find myself Western Union Manager at Tuscaloosa, Ala. I was promoted from there to Bessemer, Ala. as manager. From Bessemer I was promoted to Gadsden, Ala., as both Manager of the Southern Bell and Western Union in 1894. Both companies occupied the same office which was a little room 12 feet wide, eight feet high and thirty-five feet in length, built of corrugated tin. I held these two positions for thirteen years.
Next door to this office was a vacant lot adjacent to the beautiful Printup Hotel. I bought this lot and built the Adams Office Building, a three story structure, and moved in the Telephone and Telegraph Companies as my tenants.
At the same time I took over at Gadsden a young man named Gardner Nicholls, only son of a Boston, Mass. millionaire, came down from his home. He came into my office and wired his father of his arrival. He spent about a week looking around - no one knowing his business, then one morning the old town went wild - he had selected Alabama City, a suburb of Gadsden, as a location to build the great Dwight Cotton Mills for his father. The mills and several hundred fine homes were completed within two years.
Young Nicholls and I, both being new arrivals in Gadsden, became fast friends. He spent his evenings with me in my home and office, and we planned many things together for the city and among them were "rural" telephone lines to buy cotton over for their mills. He was accidentally killed in the mills a short time later. He was a lover of the South and its people. His parents had me come to Boston to visit them.
Returning from my visit to Mr. and Mrs. Nichols in Boston, I stopped over in New York City and called on Mr. C. H. Wilson, President of the Bell Telephone Co. I talked over my plans about building long distance lines and exchanges in the North Alabama territory not already covered by the Southern Bell Co. I found Mr. Wilson a very fine man. He carried me out to his home as his guest and made my visit most pleasant. Mr. Wilson told me that "other telephone companies are fighting us in the South," and said, "I will be very glad to see you develop this new territory, as the Southern Bell cannot do so at this time."
My first line was from Gadsden, to Walnut Grove, Ala., my next line was from Gadsden to Birmingham, Ala., then to Boaz, Albertville and Guntersville, then a line from Gadsden to Alexander City, Ala. through Talladega and Sylacauga, Ala.
I built the first telephone exchanges at Piedmont, Sylacauga, Alexander City and Albertville, Ala. I built and owned nearly 300 miles of long distance lines at that early period, including one from Gadsden to Oxford and An niston. In the interest of my further telephone development, I visited and prospected in Mexico and in Panama. The exchange at Montereigh (Monterey) Mexico was in the city market, and the operators were all men. I secured a 60 day option on buying the exchanges at Panama City and Colon, and a line connecting the two cities. I offered this option to the President of the American Bell Co. at Boston. He wrote me that he had arranged for Mr. W. T. Gentry, President of the Southern Bell in Atlanta, and one of my closest friends, to visit Mexico and look into the matter. He said in one of his letters to me, "We have great faith in his (Mr. Gentry's) judgment." Mr. Gentry immediately made reservations to visit Mexico, but was taken suddenly very ill, and during this time the option expired and the trip was never made.
My lines and telephone property were all later sold to the Southern Bell Telephone Co. in Atlanta in 1903.
As a matter of historic interest, I owned the first automobile in Gadsden, Ala., and one of the first in the State of Alabama. It was a Stanley Steamer.
Signed R. L. Adams, 6-8-49
Thanks to his granddaughter Mary Frances Adams Penechar for sharing this treasure.
- Robert Lee Adams wrote in his diary:
Oct 23 around 12:50 Pm 1952. In my room at 980 Rupley Drive and a beautiful day. Thinking of my long life and God's goodness to me. I will be 83 years old month after next, Dec 5, 1952. Was born at Montevallo Ala Dec 5, 1869 about 7 am. My first recollection is of my father James Adams who died when I was 9 years of age. He was a confederate veteran. As a boy of 7 years I picked cotton. When 10 I hung around the depot taking grips to town. I learned to be a telegraph operator. Ran on the train as a news agent. When 15 I took the job as night telegraph operator. When 18 I was train dispatcher at Selma Ala for the ETV&G Railway. Memory is a great gift. I bring to view scenes in my life just as it happened.
I left Selma and took a job with the Western Ry of Alabama at Montgomery Ala. From Montgomery I went to Columbus Ga as train dispatcher on the Central of Georgia RY. Looks like the good Lord had me in hand steering me to a life of happiness with the sweetest girl in the world. My wife. She was Ophelia Foreman of Auburn who had come up for dental work. We married at Auburn Ala at her mother's plantation about 4 miles in the country. It was June 4, 1890, about 8 pm by Rev Rice. Left on our honeymoon the next evening for Rome Ga where I was a train dispatcher for ETValley Ry. We stopped at my sister's home, Mrs Ed Nelson, in Rome GA. The RR transferred me to Selma Alabama. From Selma we moved to Paduca Ky with C&O Ry. My mother died at Montevallo Ala. I quit railroading and took a position at Tuscaloosa, AL as manager of Western Union Tel Co. Promoted from there.
Thanks to his granddaughter Mary Frances Adams Penechar for sharing this treasure.
- Last Edited: 24 Dec 2011
Family: Ophelia Jane Foreman b. 28 February 1870, d. 20 May 1946
- Robert Lee Adams Jr. b. 28 August 1892, d. 16 August 1964
- Gardner Howard Adams b. circa December 1896, d. 18 June 1898
- James Garrett Adams b. 28 September 1898, d. 11 January 1974
- Mary Elizabeth Adams b. 21 March 1901, d. 15 February 1997
- Arthur Foreman Adams+ b. 28 September 1903, d. 11 March 1979
- Sarah Bellenger Adams b. 23 January 1906, d. 21 January 1990
- Richard Halliday Adams b. 25 October 1907, d. 25 May 1983
- Josephine Ophelia Adams b. 27 October 1909, d. 28 November 1990