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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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ADAMS, Shubael Pratt

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Family History: http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=buchroeder&id=I576324235

Photo courtesy: Linwood Legacies.
ADAMS, Shubael Pratt "Charcoal." (Medfield, MA, Feb. 5, 1817-Dubuque, IA, Mar. 14, 1894). At the age of eighteen, Adams moved to Waltham, Massachusetts to learn to become a machinist. In 1842 he moved to Lowell, Massachusetts to practice his trade and study medicine. He graduated from medical school in 1845 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, but returned to Lowell to study law and represented his county in the state legislature for several years. (1)

In 1857 Adams, educated as a physician and attorney, moved to Dubuque. (2) In 1860 he was appointed Provost Marshal of the Third Congressional District with the rank of captain of cavalry. (3) Adams practiced law with Platt SMITH in the firm of Smith, McKinley, Poore and Adams considered at the time the leading law firm in northeastern Iowa. He later worked with DeWitt C. Cram until 1862.

A strong abolitionist, Adams used his caustic sense of humor in speeches to win supporters for his anti-slavery stand prior to the CIVIL WAR. Adams' favorite story concerned a charcoal peddler who, unaware that the load of charcoal had fallen off his wagon, would continue to yell, "Charcoal, Charcoal!" and thereby deceive the public into thinking he had something to offer. Adams so often applied this story to what he called the "no issues" of the Democratic Party that he was given the nickname "Charcoal Adams." Early in 1862 Adams was mentioned as a Republican candidate for Congress. When he refused to make certain pledges, the nomination was given to William B. ALLISON. He later left the party to join the Greenback Movement. (3)

Following the war and before returning to Dubuque, Adams was appointed in 1866 to a commission that established a reservation for members of the Chippewa tribe two hundred miles north of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Returning to Dubuque, Adams served as counsel for the CHICAGO, DUBUQUE AND MINNESOTA RAILROAD and CHICAGO, CLINTON AND DUBUQUE RAILROAD. (4) For nearly twenty years, Adams championed efforts to end the liquor trade in Dubuque and made many speeches in favor of a PROHIBITION amendment in 1882.



1. "Suddenly Summoned," Dubuque Daily Herald, March 15, 1894, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=_OG5zn83XeQC&dat=18940315&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

2. "Notable Dubuque County Lawyers of Past Years," Telegraph Herald, Feb. 11, 1917, p. 17. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=qwheAAAAIBAJ&sjid=518NAAAAIBAJ&pg=2788,1478831&dq=dubuque+central+improvement+company&hl=en

3. "Suddenly Summoned."

4. Ibid.

5. Goodspeed, Weston Arthur, History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Goodspeed Historical Association, 1911, p. 773

Shubael Pratt Adams. Online: http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/adams8.html

"Shubael Pratt Adams," Linwood Legacies. Online: http://www.linwoodlegacies.org/shubael-pratt-adams.html