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David Adams Papers

Identifier: A0007

Scope and Contents

This collection includes personal letters to David's wife, Elizabeth, business correspondence, receipts, lists, and diaries. A man of limited education, David wrote poorly, spelled phonetically, and rarely used punctuation.


  • 1828-1869


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, quote from, or reproduce material in this collection, please contact the Archives Reference Desk at Material in this collection is in the public domain.

Biographical Sketch

David Adams was born in 1799, possibly in Alabama, and arrived in St. Louis in the late 1820s where he opened a “tipling house,” or saloon, with his brother James. In 1827, David married Elizabeth Vachard (born 1809), daughter of Mary and Charles Vachard. Always active in the fur trade, David joined Capt. Bonneville’s expedition west in 1832. He continued to be active in the plains fur trade, eventually opening a trading post from Fort Platte with his partner John Sibille around 1843. In 1848, David agreed to lead a party west to the California gold mines. In 1851, he became the executor for the estate of Charles Vachard, the father of his wife, Elizabeth. All business ventures were financially unsuccessful and he returned home penniless and in debt. In 1853, David became the toll gate keeper for Gate #1 on Natural Bridge Road and in 1857 he opened a blacksmith shop with Joseph Hughes. The “Duncan’s Island Trial” began in 1857, as David Adams tried to reclaim land from the city of St. Louis that he believed belonged to him, but a quit claim deed in 1858 shows that he sold his rights to that land for $5. Although he became a successful guide and trapper, he ended up spending his later years in St. Louis impoverished, and died in 1874.


0.55 Cubic Feet ( (1 box, 1 volume))

Language of Materials




The collection is arranged chronologically in Box 1. The original David Adams diary, diary fragments, and accounts are filed in Box 2.

Physical and Technical Requirements

There are no physical or technical restrictions.

Donor Information

Collection was purchased from Mrs. Lamiza B. Lambert in 1956.

Existence and Location of Copies

David Adams' diary, diary fragments, and accounts relating to his fur trade expeditions in the early 1840s have been transcribed and published in: The David Adams Journals, Charles E. Hanson, Jr., ed., 1994. A copy of the book is available at the Archives Reference Desk.

Existence and Location of Copies

Box 1 of the David Adams Papers was digitized by Danie Klein in 2017 and Katherine Litschgi in 2018. The images may be viewed online by clicking the links beside each item in the inventory.

Related Materials

See also the Vachard Family Papers (A1673) for papers of Charles Vachard, father of Elizabeth Vachard Adams.

Processing Information

Processed by Christine Vanover, April 1998 (revised July 1999).


Inventory of David Adams Papers
EAD by Jaime Bourassa using ArchivesSpace
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Missouri Historical Society Library and Research Center Repository

225 S. Skinker Blvd.
St. Louis MO 63105 United States