Jasper Lewis Adams (27 October 1879–31 January 1973), Upper Mattaponi chief, was born in King William County, the only child of Millard Adams and Catherine Wala Forten Adams. His mother died when he was two years old. His father then remarried and had two more sons and one daughter before dying when Adams was twelve years old. Adams attended a one-room Indian school for a short time before it closed because there were too few pupils to keep it open. His father and stepmother taught him all they could, but his formal education stopped early and he was essentially self-educated.

On 14 November 1900 Adams married Mollie Wade Holmes. They had six sons and six daughters. He worked as a farmer and hunted and fished in his spare time. In later years he became a truck driver and a salesman and held a variety of temporary jobs. He did not retire until he was eighty years old.

For most of his adult life Adams was a leader of the Upper Mattaponi community known during his youth as the Adamstown tribe. With links to the Mattaponi and the Pamunkey who occupied two historic reservations southeast of Adamstown, the Upper Mattaponi had never held reservation lands but lived on their own property or, like many other Tidewater Virginians, rented farmland or worked on timber farms. Adams assisted in the purchase of the property on which the Upper Mattaponi constructed the Sharon Indian School in 1919. He also helped build Indian View Baptist Church in King William County in 1942, served as its senior deacon for more than thirty years, and became a trustee of the church and its cemetery. On 4 July 1923 the Adamstown tribe officially organized itself as the Upper Mattaponi and appointed Adams its chief. He held the office until his death almost fifty years later. A year after he died, his son Andrew Washington Adams was elected chief of the Upper Mattaponi.

Adams lived to be ninety-three years old and had a very large family. His wife and nine of his twelve children were living at the time of his death, and he then had thirty-six grandchildren, fifty-one great-grandchildren, and three great-great-grandchildren. Jasper Lewis Adams died in King William County on 31 January 1973 and was buried in the churchyard at Indian View Baptist Church.


Sources Consulted:
The contributor is a daughter of Adams; photograph in Upper Mattaponi Tribal Spring Festival & Pow-Wow, May 27, 1989 (1989); obituaries in Richmond News Leader, 2 Feb. 1973, and Richmond Times-Dispatch, 3 Feb. 1973.

Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by Eunice A. Adams.

How to cite this page:
Eunice A. Adams,"Jasper Lewis Adams (1879–1973)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 1999 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.php?b=Adams_Jasper_Lewis, accessed [today's date]).


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