Finding Your Folks: 'The Bishop of Heard County'

Judy Fowler Kilgore's picture

I found another little genealogy treasure at the Hogansville auction last month. It’s a book on the life and times of the Rev. Dr. James Clyde Adams, a Methodist minister who served his last years in Heard county and contributed many wonderful things to the development and progress of that county beginning in the 1930s.

The book, “The Bishop of Heard County,” written by Dora Byron, then (1955) the news editor in the Public Relations office at Emory University in Atlanta, consists of 120 pages with a few hand-drawn illustrations, but has no index. Dora met Dr. Adams when he was given an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Emory in 1951.

This is a wonderful, personal account of the life and times of Dr. Adams and I would like to get the book back to a family member where it belongs. This may be difficult since Dr. Adams and his wife had only one daughter who married but died young and left a daughter of her own, Sara Nell Brown. Sara Nell later married a minister herself but his name is not given. She was raised by her grandparents in Heard County.

I also did a little research on Dr. Adams’ ancestors and have included it here. I only found one file on Rootsweb which has them back to South Carolina. However, it has nothing on the family of Dr. Adams or his parents, just names, dates and census information. It has more on his father’s and grandfather’s families.

The file does have sources, including the census information, so it is a little more credible than those with just names and dates.

James Clyde Adams was born in Butler (Taylor County), Ga. May 28, 1881, the sixth son of the Rev. J.T. and Sarah (Grace) Adams. He tipped the scales at 13 pounds at birth and grew into a very large man, six feet and 250 pounds when this book was written. His brothers were Wynn, Charlie, Otis, Perry and Oscar, and he had a younger sister, Mattie Lou, born when Clyde was five.

His grandmother and grandfather, Rebecca and Jesse Adams (both born in South Carolina), also lived with the family, along with his aunt Mattie (census), and, “there were seldom less than 10 people at the dinner table,” according to the book.

Clyde grew up in Taylor County, a member of a churchgoing, farming family since his father not only was a Methodist minister but also managed a 150-acre farm. The elder Adams never went more than 10 miles from home in his life but was remembered as a very respected man and from a fine family. Clyde attended school there and took various jobs over the years in Texas, Florida and Georgia. But after a difficult school teaching position in Talbotton, he made up his mind that God was calling him to preach. He was granted a license on June 18, 1902 and he enrolled at Emory College at Oxford, where he participated as a member of the debate team and played football.

It was in Newton County that he met Miss Moselle Weldon, a country school teacher, and they were married Dec. 14, 1905 at the home of her parents. Their announcement appeared in the Dec. 17, 1905, issue of the Atlanta Journal. Out-of-town guests were listed as “Miss Mattie Lou Adams of Butler, Miss Susie Weldon of Athens, Mr. H.B. Landrum of Fairburn, Mr. L.P. Neal of Senoia, and Mr. Fort McWhorter of Lavonia.” The couple’s future address was given as 30 Park Street, Atlanta.”

On Oct. 7, 1906, the couple’s first and only child was born, a daughter, Sara Clyde. The birth took such a toll on Moselle that she remained almost an invalid for many months.

Clyde Adams was admitted to the North Georgia Conference in 1906, assumed duties as pastor of several churches in the Porterdale charge, and continued his studies at Emory, graduating in 1907. An uncle, W.F. Grace, was the only member of his family present, since Clyde didn’t know until the last minute whether he would graduate or not.

He served many churches in the North Georgia conference, including the Thomson charge and an assignment at a church in Bishop, near Athens. The wording in the announcement, “J.C. Adams, Bishop,” caused people to begin calling him “Bishop Adams.”

Adams was instrumental in starting or carrying on many programs within the church — Sunday schools, scouting, church building, youth work — and served many more churches in the Atlanta area. In the 1930s, he decided to go back to the country and took on the job of preaching in Heard County.

Sara Clyde had graduated from Wesleyan and became a teacher. She married the Rev. John K. Brown, a minister, and gave birth to a daughter, Sara Nell. But tragedy struck five years after the baby’s birth when Sara Clyde died in 1941 of a heart attack in her sleep. She and her husband were living in Blue Ridge at the time of her death.

Dr. Adams’ accomplishments in Heard County were monumental and he succeeded in taking the little rural, post-depression county into modern times with programs people had never even dreamed of. There is a monument to his work, erected in 1947, in front of the Salem Methodist Church in Franklin. He retired in 1953.

There is so much more information that I don’t have room to include. The book is absolutely wonderful.

If you are a family member of Dr. Adams’, I’d like to give you this book. Just write to me and convince me you’re the one to have it. There will be no charge, not even postage. Merry Christmas.

Although time does not permit me to do personal research for others (unless the family connects to my own), I welcome all letters and e-mails about genealogy and info on south metro Atlanta families. Send them to The Citizen, P.O. Drawer 1719, Fayetteville, GA 30214; e-mail or Any letters and/or e-mails I receive are subject to being used in the column.

Until next week, happy hunting!

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