Wednesday, March 7, 2012

John Hicks Adams

John Hicks Adams (1820–1878), Soldier, 49er, Santa Clara County Sheriff, (February 6, 1864–1870, 1871–1875), Deputy United States Marshal for the Arizona Territory 1878.

John started his political career by running for and winning the office of County Supervisor for Gilroy and Almaden Township in the September election of 1861. In 1863, John ran for Sheriff, beating William Aram by more than 500 votes. With the passing Sheriff Kennedy on February 6, 1864, the Board of Supervisors appointed Adams (who would have been sworn in as Sheriff in March) to finish out Kennedy's term.

Soon afterward, a band of Confederate partisan rangers, known as Captain Ingram's Partisan Rangers from the San Jose area robbed two stage coaches in the Bullion Bend Robbery near Placerville. During the pursuit Deputy Sheriff Staples of El Dorado County was gunned down when he surprised them at a rooming house the next day. Information filtered to Sheriff Adams that the Confederates were holed up in a shack near Almaden. Sheriff Adams and a posse of Deputies surrounded the shack, and demanded their surrender. The robbers failed to obey the order and tried to escape. A shoot-out ensued, like one in a western movie. All of the Confederates were either captured or killed in the volley of shots. Sheriff Adams was wounded when a bullet struck his pocket watch and glanced into his ribs.

Later that year and the next Adams pursued another gang of "partisan rangers", the Mason Henry Gang who had rapidly degenerated into a vicious gang of outlaws, committing robberies, thefts and murders in the southern San Joaquin Valley, Santa Cruz County, Monterey County and Santa Clara County preying on stagecoaches, ranchers and others especially if they were known Union men in the vicinity. Adams pursued the gang with the help of two companies of Native California Volunteer Cavalry from Camp Low during the summer of 1865. But no one could locate their hideout at Loma Prieta. In June, 1865, a posse of nine soldiers and five citizens led by Sheriff Adams searched the area around the Panoche Valley in what is now southern San Benito County in search of the gang after receiving a reliable tip that they were planning a raid on the ranches there. However a system of spies set up by the secessionists had warned the band of their approach, when Sheriff Adams arrived at Panoche, Mason and Henry were already retreating towards Corralitos.[4] Despite some encounters they were not caught but Adams pursuit made it so hot for them they soon left for Southern California. There Henry was killed by the Sheriff in San Bernardino County in September 1865 and Mason by a bounty hunter near Fort Tejon in 1866.

While in office Adams acquired a good reputation as a lawman and ran successfully for re-election in 1865 and 1867. He became the first Sheriff in Santa Clara County to be elected to three successive terms. Retiring for a couple of years in 1870, he again ran for re-election in 1871 and 1873, winning both terms. Although he didn't personally capture the highwayman Tiburcio Vasquez, he was a good detective and it was his information that led to Vasquez's arrest and capture in Los Angeles, Vasquez was hung before a large crowd of men, women and children in the yard of the Santa Clara County Jail. In 1875 Adams lost an election and finished his last term in March 1876

No comments: