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History of the St Andrew's Society of the State of New York
Biographies: William McAdam

Eleventh President

The ancestors of the Eleventh President on his paternal side sprang from the clan of the McGregors. When this clan was outlawed under James II of Scotland (1430-1460) Adam, a grandson of the chief, Gregor McGregor, settled in the lowlands and changed his name to McAdam. His grandson, Andrew, obtained from James VI in 1569 a charter of the lands of Waterhead, in the parish of Carsphairn, Kircudbrightshire, Scotland, and a later descendant, Gilbert McAdam, was a zealous covenantor and killed by the Royalists about 1685 while attending a prayer-meeting at Kirkmichael in Ayrshire. The father of William McAdam was third in descent from the covenantor.

William McAdam was the son of James McAdam and Margaret Reid, and was probably born at Ayr about 1725. He died on the 1st October, 1779, in New York City. He came to America early in life and engaged in a general trading and mercantile business, and in 1766 his warehouse was located on Smith Street, near the New Dutch Church, where he advertised for sale, “Iron-bound Butts & Puncheons, genuine Batavia Arrack in Bottles, Frontinjack, Priniack & Madeira, etc.”

He was a founder and an original member of the Chamber of Commerce at its organization on the 5th April, 1768, and was elected Treasurer on the 2d May, 1774, and Vice-President on the 2d May, 1775.

At the commencement of the agitation which ultimately led to the Revolutionary War, he was one of a New York Committee of Correspondence of fifty-one gentlemen “to correspond with the neighboring colonies on this important crisis” and his name as such appears in the minutes of this committee on the 19th May, 1774.

During the Revolutionary War he was in sympathy with the Crown and was present as Vice-President at a Special Meeting of the Chamber of Commerce held the 21st June, 1779. to consider and take steps to regulate the revival of trade in the Port of New York. This was the first meeting of the Chamber since May, 1775.

At the triumph of the patriotic cause, however, his property was confiscated and he was practically ruined. While in the height of this commercial career he brought up his nephew. John Loudon

McAdam, the son of his brother, James McAdam, one of the founders of the first bank in Ayr in 1763. This nephew later became the celebrated Scottish Engineer and the inventor of the McAdam System of Road Building, to whom Parliament voted a grant of £6,000 in 1825 and offered knighthood.

There is reason to believe that in spite of his heavy losses, Mr. McAdam took up his business career with renewed energy upon the termination of the struggle for independence, and that he was on the road to success and a second fortune at his untimely death.

The New York Gazette & Weekly Mercury, issue of the 4th October, 1779, contains the following notice:

"Friday last departed this life in the 54th year of his age, Mr. William McAdam of this City, Merchant, a Gentleman, whose death is universally lamented.”

A few further facts may be learned from his will, dated the 20th September, 1766, and recorded in the New York County Surrogate’s Office on the 2d October, 1779, in which he calls himself ‘‘of the City of New York, North America,” and gives to his brothers, James McAdam and Gilbert McAdam of Ayrshire, North Britain, each £10 Sterling: leaving his beloved wife, Ann McAdam, all the rest of his estate, real and personal. The witnesses to his will were Gols Banyar, Peter Middleton and John McDowell.

That his estate must have been of some value is indicated by the fact that in 1799 the name of Ann McAdam, his widow, appears in a list of houses and lots valued at two thousand dollars or over. The provisions of the will of Ann McAdam, his widow, dated the 7th April, 1826, and recorded in the New York County Surrogate’s Office on the 5th April, 1S28, also disposes of a considerable fortune. In this instrument, she mentions John Loud in McAdam of Bristol in Great Britain, merchant; nephew, William Shaw, now in Great Britain, and Richard Varick; nieces, Maria Cochran, wife of Alexander Forrester Cochran; Ann Elting, wife of Peter Elting; Maria Gilbert, wife of Garet Gilbert; and Janet Wilkes; relatives, Jane Dodge, wife of Henry S. Dodge, counsellor-at-law; Ann Codman, wife of Charles R. Codman of Boston. Legacies were also left to various charitable and religious associations, and the testatrix names as executors her nephew, Richard Varick, Charles Wilkes, and niece, Janet Wilkes.

Mr. McAdam was elected a member of Saint Andrew’s Society in 1761; served as an Assistant from 1765-1766; as Vice-President from 1771-1772; and as President from 1772-1773.

He married on the 12th December, 1764, Ann Dey, the daughter of Dirck and Jane Dey, but left no living issue.

No portrait of William McAdam can be traced, although the descendants of his brother, James McAdam, and the present head of the family have been located and communicated with.

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