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James Adams collection

 Collection — Container: 12.0004 - Box 1
Identifier: 12.0004

Content Description

This collection relates to James Adams who served as an infantryman with the 26th “Yankee” Division and later the 87th Infantry regiment, part of General George Patton’s 3rd Army. The collection contains letters and postcards from James Adams to family, mostly his mother.


  • Event: Majority of material found within 1943-1945
  • Other: 2020-03-02


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to all researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to quote, publish, broadcast or otherwise reproduce from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Associate Dean for Special Collections & Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Florida State University Libraries as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

Biographical / Historical

James Adams was born August 1, 1925, the third child of Jacob Adams (1889-1941) and Clara Adams, near Jordan (1893-1965). The parents of both Jacob and Clara immigrated from Germany before the U.S. Civil War. Clara’s father, John Jordan (1847-1916), served in the Minnesota 8th Infantry in 1864-65. Following the war, John homesteaded a 360-acre farm in rural Hennepin County (Minneapolis is the county seat) and served as the first clerk of court in Plymouth Township, immediately west of Minneapolis. The farm on which Jacob was born was adjacent to that of John Jordan. Both Jacob Adams and Clara Jordan attended a German-speaking rural Catholic school, though Jacob completed just two grades and Clara six. Jacob and Clara were second cousins and required approval of the Catholic Church to marry. Jacob and Clara, who were married November 12, 1918 in the rural Catholic Church of Holy Name in Medina Township, Minnesota, had six children: Marianne (1919 -); Agnes (1922-1993); James (1925-2001); Rita (1926 -); John (1928-2006) and William (1935 -).

Following their marriage, Jacob and Clara moved several miles north to the small village of Hamel, where they purchased a two-story Colonial Revival house, built in 1911, situated about midway along the town’s only street. To serve the surrounding farms, mainly dairy, Hamel, a railroad section settlement, offered two saloons, a hardware store, three small grocery stores, four gas pumps, a blacksmith shop, a Roman Catholic church, a one-room school, and an American Legion community building. Jacob Adams was a carpenter. In 1925, 1926 and 1927, he traveled in the winters to Florida to practice his trade during the season when construction in Minnesota was suspended. The first year he brought the family with him. Rita was born in Winter Haven. Jacob supervised construction of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Wales, Florida. The building, converted into an art museum in the 1980s, remains standing today. In 1933, Jacob managed construction of the Church of St. Anne in Hamel, built next door to the family house. The large brick Gothic-styled church remains the town’s largest edifice.

The population of Hamel in 1940 was about 140. Jim, with other children who lived in a radius of about one mile, attended the one-room school, located about 100 yards west of the Adams home. The students, grades 1 through 8, numbered some 30 annually. The same woman, Miss Clara Mahlke, taught there from about 1934 through 1958, when the school was closed and consolidated in a larger district. The high school that Jim and other Hamel children attended was located in Wayzata, about 5 miles south of Hamel. In the years that Jim attended Wayzata H.S., students had to find their own transportation. Not until 1947 did the district began bus service. The death of Jacob from cancer at the age of 51 in October 1941 left Clara with six children and no income. Marianne married in January 1942. The next oldest sibling, Agnes, was then 19 and the youngest, William but 6.

Probably for economic reasons, Jim dropped out of high school after his junior year, 1943. He enlisted in a Civilian Conservation Camp in Michigan, where he remained until entering military service in December 1943. He took basic training at Camp Wheeler, Georgia, and additional training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He returned to Hamel on brief leave in July 1944 before returning to duty at Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi. In early October 1944, Jim transferred to Fort Meade, Maryland, and then to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, for overseas processing. His troop ship sailed from New York Harbor about October 20, 1944.

The troop ship docked in England and Jim immediately transferred to a barge that crossed the channel to France. He was assigned to a replacement depot and quickly assigned to the 26th “Yankee” Division. The division was engaged in the Ardennes campaign, and Jim was one of the unfortunate many arriving soldiers at the time who were assigned as replacements to units where they had no acquaintances. Though trained in radio at Fort Benning, Jim became an infantryman, carrying a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). He was in combat from the time he arrived in France to mid-December, when, suffering from severe trench foot, he was evacuated to a hospital in England. He remained hospitalized until March 1945, when he was re-assigned to the 87th Infantry regiment, part of George Patton’s 3rd Army. The war’s end in May 1945 found Jim in Austria, where he spent the remainder of the year guarding German war prisoners.

In March 1946, Jim was discharged and returned to Hamel. He worked for the next six years as a carpenter. In February 1951, Jim married Marilyn Sheridan, literally a next door neighbor, one year younger then he, a girl he had known from childhood. Jim and Marilyn had four children, two boys and two girls. In 1951, following the wedding, Jim purchased a farm milk pick-up route, engaged in the task of collecting milk at scattered farms and delivering it to a creamery for processing. It is a difficult industry, requiring service 365 days a year, traveling country roads and long dirt driveways in weather of all sorts. In 1956, the industry replaced milk cans with bulk tankers, which made the process of collecting the milk far less arduous. Jim kept his route for 15 years. In 1965, despite the fact that he had not completed high school, Jim earned a degree through the GED process and qualified to enroll at the University of Minnesota. In three years he completed a B.A. degree in education, majoring in physics and chemistry. Following graduation, he began teaching at a high school in a Minneapolis suburb, about 20 miles from the house in Hamel that he had built for his family in 1961. He continued teaching at the same school for 20 years, before retiring in 1989.

Jim died of an aneurism on April 11, 2001, two months after his and Marilyn’s 50th wedding anniversary. Jim spoke little of his time in Europe. He earned the Combat Infantryman Badge and several oak leak clusters, though his time in combat was limited by his hospital stay. He was extremely fortunate in having been evacuated to the hospital in mid-December, for, I believe, his unit was severely mauled in the Battle of the Bulge, which began only a few days or less after his departure. He returned from Europe a very quiet man, extremely sober in temperament and habits, and he remained so until the end of his days. Two of his children, his eldest, Jamie (born 1955), and Jordan (born 1963), were career military service. His eldest son, Sheridan (born 1961), spent three years in the Marines and tragically died in a car accident in 2003. Marilyn died in 2009.


.5 Linear Feet (1 half box)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Check file with the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience.

Custodial History

Transferred from the Institute on World War II and the Human Experience to FSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives in July 2022.

James Adams collection
Daniel Robert Parkulo
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the FSU Special Collections & Archives Repository

116 Honors Way
PO Box 3062047
Tallahassee FL 32306-2047 US