John Hicks Adams was born in Illinois in 1820 to John Quincy Adams and his wife. "J.H." as he was known, attended college at Shurtleff College, in Upper Alton, Illinois. In 1841 John married Matilda Pomeroy and started a family that eventually would grow to eight children.
John's father would become the sheriff in Edwardsville, Illinois, and young John was deputized, getting his first taste of being a lawman.
When the Mexican-American War broke out J.H. helped raise a company of soldiers and was elected a first lieutenant. He would act as a quartermaster during a portion of the new unit's march to the Mexican-American border and did such a fine job overseeing a 120 wagon train of supplies traveling from Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fe, in what would become the New Mexico Territory, he was promoted to the rank of Captain. The 5th Regiment of Illinois Volunteers had so much sickness among the ranks during the march to New Mexico, they were never sent any further south of the border.
After the war, J.H. made it back home just in time to hear of the gold strike in California. Gold fever set in and he left his wife and family once again, this time to seek his fortune out west. J.H. stayed in the gold country mining, until September 1851, when he finally realized he wasn't going to be one of the lucky ones. He returned home in late 1851 and less than a year later, in the spring of 1852, he again started for California, but this time with his family. They settled in Georgetown for a period of time and then, in 1853, they moved to a farm near Gilroy, California.
Being civic minded, J.H. became a county supervisor in 1861 and then was elected Santa Clara County Sheriff in 1863. He would hold the position through two more terms and then quit for a couple of years. Evidently he was very popular as the county sheriff and won two more terms serving from 1871-1875.
J.H. still had the gold fever and in 1878 he left his family in California and went to find gold in Arizona. Once again he didn't strike it rich and once again he became a lawman. He was serving as a Deputy United States Marshal for the Arizona Territory when he and another lawman were ambushed by five Mexican bandits. His remains showed a gunshot wound but his cause of death was attributed to a severe beating. The bandits were caught in Mexico but the Mexican government refused extradition and turned them loose. J.H. died on September 2, 1878 at 58 years of age. His remains were shipped back to California where he was buried in San Jose, Santa Clara County, California.
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