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Adams Township was created January 5, 1870, from Richland Township. It was named for a pioneer family by the name of Adams. As nearly as can be determined this family came into the area in the early 1770's. In 1772 Samuel Adams and an Indian killed each other in an encounter while the members of the Adams family were in flight to Bedford to escape Indian raids. Both men were buried side by side at a place near what is now known as Cole's Crossroads in Richland Township.
Perhaps the best known landmark of Adams Township is the site of the South Fork Dam. This was constructed on South Fork Creek in 1840 to help supply water for the Pennsylvania Canal. It was completed in 1852, and was reportedly the world's largest earthen dam. It covered 420 acres and held 480 million cubic feet of water. With the completion of the Pennsylvania Railroad the canal system was doomed. The railroad bought the entire system, including the dam, in 1857. For some years it remained unused until it was sold in 1879 to Benjamin F. Rupp, who organized the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club. Repairs were made to the dam wall, but in doing so the discharge pipes were covered over.
Membership in the club was limited to sixty persons, and as those who were members were wealthy it was regarded as a millionaire's club. Each member and his family were entitled to a two weeks' stay. A clubhouse accommodating 200 persons was built in addition to several cottages. Two steam yachts, four sailboats, and fifty canoes and rowboats were docked along the banks. The lake and surrounding forests offered spprting opportunities to nimrod and fishermen. Members called the dam "Conemaugh Lake." Among those who relaxed at the lake site were Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, Philander C. Knox, and Andrew Mellon.
On the afternoon of May 31, 1889, the dam burst as a result of exceptionally heavy rains, and there were released approximately 4,500,000,000 gallons of water which rushed down the course of South Fork Creek and on through the Conemaugh Valley to cause the disastrous Johnstown Flood of 1889.
In the early days of Adams Township lumbering was a profitable pursuit. An early community was Sidman, originally called Lovett for one of the first settlers, but as there was a similarity to the name of Loretto, it was decided to change the name to Sidman. This was done to honor a local minister by that name.
By the turn of the century mining of bituminous coal was prominent in such communities as Beaverdale, Dunlo, and St. Michael. A railroad extended through the township from South Fork to Windber.
Farming constitutes another pursuit of this township with the communities of Elton and Salix, formerly Adamsburg, serving as trading centers. As many of the early settlers were German descent, the Germanic characteristics of thrift and diligence have been applied on many of the farms of this township.
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