Odebolt, Iowa - Adams Ranch

The Adams Ranch

(Fairview Farm)

Please visit the Fairview Farm Photo Gallery

William Phipps Adams

(Source:  “As Time Goes By”, Odebolt, Iowa 1877-1977,
 The Odebolt Chronicle,  May, 1977,  pp. 110-112)

William Phipps Adams was 33 years old when he took over the ranch.  He was a shrewd businessman, who loved the land.  He was married to Nettie Moore in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, December 17, 1884.  They went to Wahpeton, North Dakota shortly after their wedding.  It was on this farm owned by his father that he launched his career as a farmer at the age of 21.  They remained there until 1893.  They moved to Wheaton, Illinois.  He tried staying in an office in Chicago but the lure of the farm soon brought him back.  He started looking for land in Iowa in 1894 and it was in 1896 that the Adamses took possession of Wheeler Ranch and set about building it into the outstanding farm in Iowa.

The land was farmed with mules with 140 sections of four-foot harrows moving a mile together covering 62 acres.  There were 76 wagons of men husking corn for 60 days, 27 mule teams, four abreast.  The men averaged 60 bushels of corn a day.  The Ranch had their own elevators, both on the farm and in Odebolt.  There were 50 acres of corn of which 250 acres went to feed the mules.

Not only were there 12 sections of land fenced with cement posts, but shade trees lined every roadway around every section.  The early plantings were cottonwood trees and in later years these were replaced with American Elm trees.  The cottonwoods were sold to a box factory.  In 1966 the Dutch Elm disease moved into this area and by 1976 not a tree remained standing along the ranch roads.  The giant shade trees at one time made tunnels of green across every road.Sheep on the road

W. P. Adams purchased sheep for Fairview Farm with from 10,000 to 100,000 grazing the land.  The sheep barns from the Adams farm in North Dakota were brought here on boxcars.  Some of the original sheep barns were later used to house cattle.

The farm procedure was so well organized by Adams that he won the admiration of many observers for his advanced methods at a time when big farms were out of the ordinary.  In plowing season, working at one time, were 18 gang plows and 17 single plows, 18 manure spreaders and 80 farm wagons.  During the busy season 150 men were employed and during the slack season 45.  No women were employed except on the household staffs of the families.

The ranch contained a bunk house for the men; a kitchen and dining hall; commissary; a blacksmith shop; mule barn; several homes for married men and their families; a large garage with chauffeur’s quarters above; and the palatial home of the Adamses.  The ranch had its own ice house and kept milk cows to provide butter and milk for the tables.

With the advent of tractors and other farm machinery Adams continued to farm with mules in conjunction with the machines.

In 1918 W. P. Adams built the First National Bank in Odebolt and continued to operate it until the depression of the 1930’s.  The bank building was later purchased by the Board of Directors of the Odebolt State Bank and is in operation today [1977] in Odebolt’s Centennial year. [Note:  It is in operation in 2001.]

After fires in 1905 and 1919, a complete fire fighting system was set up on the ranch.  December 11, 1905 the cookhouse burned but the other buildings were saved.  September 10, 1919 the mule barn and cattle barn burned along with the grain elevator, water tower and blacksmith shop - - a $100,000 loss.

Adams took these setbacks in stride and continued operating one of the most successful farms in the country.  At his death it was noted that the Adams ranch never had a mortgage on it and it was never in the red.

The Adamses were ardent travelers.  They had a fine home in Miami Beach, Florida, where they spent their winters.  At one time he nearly lost his life when a ship, the Vestris, went down off the Virginia Capes in November 1928.  He died in Miami Beach, Florida at the age of 74, March 25, 1937.

Before his death he had sealed more than 300,000 bushels of corn under the AAA, getting a loan of $135,594 from the Federal government, believed to be the largest corn sealing loan ever made in the United States.  Besides being president of the First National Bank in Odebolt he was a director of the International Harvester Company.  

Robert Brooks Adams

(Source:  “As Time Goes By”, Odebolt, Iowa 1877-1977, 
The Odebolt Chronicle May, 1977, p. 112)

After his [W. P. Adams’] death in 1937 the Adams Ranch came under the hand of Robert Brooks Adams, 50.  His brother, John Quincy Adams, two years older, chose the real estate world of Chicago to the Agricultural life of Iowa, although the farm was operated by Adams Brothers & Co.

Robert [and] his wife, the former Jessie Helsell of Odebolt, had three children, William Phipps II, Robert Jr. and Barbara.  After their marriage a fine home was built for them on the ranch near the home of his parents.

He followed his father’s methods of operating the ranch.  He was quite different from his father, who at one time offered to pave the streets of Odebolt if the name was changed to Adamsville.  They refused and he dumped manure on the streets so his mules wouldn’t slip when hauling grain to the elevator in town on icy streets.

Robert, in turn, donated land and $5,000 to start a drive for the first swimming pool in Odebolt.

He became deeply interested in breeding, selling and showing saddle horses and was a director of the American Horse Breeders Association.  He was also one of the organizers of the Iowa Horse Breeders Futurity.  He built a stable and training track on the ranch for his horses.  A fire in 1945 destroyed the mule barn and mules, ending the use of mules on the ranch.

He was Iowa Director of the Office of Price Administration during World War II.  He died June 27, 1956 at age 69 in an Omaha hospital following a heart attack.

Click for Robert B. Adams obituary (.jpg)


William Phipps Adams II

(Source:  “As Time Goes By”, Odebolt, Iowa 1877-1977,
The Odebolt Chronicle May, 1977, p. 113)

Robert Adams left the ranch to his oldest son, William Phipps Adams II in a trust called the William P. Adams Land Trust.  He was 46 and his younger brother, Robert Brooks Jr. was 43 and physically handicapped.  The other child, Barbara, was married and lived in eastern Iowa.

A month after “Bill” took over management he sold all the horses and had his grandmother’s house torn down as she had requested and every trace wiped away.  He introduced Hereford cattle on a sizeable scale and built up a herd of registered stock.  He was elected president of The American Hereford Association.

Ross Rector of North Carolina came to the ranch at the age of 19 in 1916 and was one of the foremen for 44 years.  Shortly after he retired and was farming for himself, he was killed in a corn picker accident in 1960 at the age of 66.

In 1963 he [Bill Adams] arranged to sell the Adams Ranch to Charles E. Lakin, 41, of Emerson, Iowa.  The entire farm, consisting of 6,510 acres, went for $2,500,000.

“Bill” Adams acquired a large cattle ranch straddling the Nebraska-South Dakota border northwest of Valentine, Neb.  The land had been owned by the St. Francis Mission for 77 years and the sale had to be approved by the Vatican.

“Bill” Adams had three daughters and put sentiment aside, knowing he could not hand the farm as his father and grandfather had done.  The last of the Adams family left Sac County and for the first time in 67 years the land went to a stranger.
        (Transcribed by B. Ekse)

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