Skip to main content

Adair family papers

Call Number: RH MS 996


This collection includes the papers of Asa and Emma Adair of Ellis, Ellis County, and Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas, their children and extended families from 1848-1985. Composed primarily of correspondence, there are also photographs, legal documents, University of Kansas and Bowersock Theatre programs, and other printed material.


  • Creation: 1848 - 1985


Conditions Governing Access

No access restricions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

History of the Adair Family, 1844-1985

Asa Rogers Adair (1845 or 1846-1923 or 1932), son of James Adair II of Ireland and Jane Anna Swart of Virginia, was raised in Giles County, Virginia, and served in the Confederate army the last year of the war. In the 1870s, he went into the cattle business in Texas and drove cattle to Utah, Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado. In 1879, he began mining in the Custer and Chaffee Counties of Colorado and owned several lodes.

Emma May Keyser Adair (1865-1952) grew up in Pennsylvania and Ellis, Kansas, and lived in Lawrence and Topeka, Kansas.

Asa and Emma Adair were married in December 1888 in Ellis, Ellis County, Kansas, and had 6 children:

Hugh Rogers Adair (1889-1971) graduated from the University of Kansas Law School. He was a partner in the law firm of Lobel and Adair in Helena, Montana, and later became Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court. He married Jeannie Janes in 1935.

William Wallace Adair (1892-1984) attended the University of Kansas Pharmacy School and worked in Lawrence, Kansas drugstores. He married Marguerite Jeanette Kaufmann and they had 3 daughters: Dorothy Jane, Betty Lou (Whitney-donor of this collection) and Virginia Lee.

Ruth May Adair Dyer (1895-1986) graduated from the University of Kansas Law School in 1921 and was the only woman in her class. She worked for the law firm of her brother, Hugh, in Helena, Montana. She later served as secretary for then-Senator Harry S. Truman in Washington, D.C. She married Rowland Sears Howes Dyer. A life member of the KU Alumni Association, she was a member of the Gold Medal Club. She maintained a 50-year membership in the Delta Delta Delta social sorority and was a member of Phi Alpha Delta law fraternity.

Albert Sidney Adair (1898-1982) enrolled in engineering classes at the University of Kansas. He married Genevieve Squires.

Laura Ellen Adair (1902-1987) graduated from the University of Kansas in 1923. She married Walter Mildren Cox.

John Mathus Adair (1907-1907).

Emma Adair’s father was Henry Kiser (d. 1867), a Civil War veteran who died after the war of wounds suffered in the war. Emma's mother, Susan Bucher Cump Kiser (1844 or 1848- 1922), then moved her three daughters, Sadie, Emma and Laura, from Pennsylvannia to Ellis County, Kansas where she managed a bakery. It was with the move to Kansas that the last name changed spelling from Kiser to Keyser.

William Adair of Lurich, Virginia (1844-1928) was Asa Adair’s brother.

Maneleaus (Manelius?) Chapman Adair (1863-1900) was Asa Adair's brother.


5.5 Linear Feet (16 document cases + 2 oversize boxes, 1 envelope)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The papers of the Adair family include the correspondence of the Asa and Emma Adair family members with each other and extended family members.

Most of Asa Adair's letters dating from 1884-1915 are to his wife and children during his travels in Colorado and other parts of the West as he handled his concerns in the cattle and mining businesses.

Emma Adair's correspondence includes a series of letters from a boyfriend, J. A. Detrich, whom she left in Pennsylvania, as well as letters from extended family members.

Ruth Adair Dyers' papers include memorabilia from her time at the University of Kansas, her correspondence file that she shared with her husband, Rowland Dyer, and letters she received from political figures of the time. There are also club yearbooks, sorority certificates and documentation from the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The collection also includes correspondence, photographs and personal papers of the other children of Asa and Emma Adair: Hugh Rogers Adair, William (Bill) Wallace Adair, Albert (Bert) Sidney Adair, and Laura Ellen Adair Cox.

Of the extended family members, there is a practice writing and arithmetic book of Henry Kiser from 1848-1861 as well as a copy of a letter he wrote while camping near Washington, D.C. during the Civil War. The Keyser women (Emma's mother and her sisters, Sadie and Laura) correspond with each other. William Adair in Lurich, Virginia, (Asa Adair's brother) wrote often to the Adair family.

The Adair family legal and financial documents include land purchases in the 1880s by Asa and his brother Manelaeus Adair, financial and lawsuit documents of William Adair 1925-1966, family land ownership papers and Emma Adair's will and death certificate.

The printed materials include some cookbook pamphlets, Bowersock and other theater programs, song books and Lawrence High School yearbooks from 1914 and 1919. The oversize material is shelved at RH MS Q253.

The photographs are shelved at RH MS-P 996 and include late nineteenth century images of Susan Keyser, her daughters and her bakery as well as wedding photographs of Asa and Emma Adair and Laura and John Olson. There are some early twentieth century photographs of Lawrence, Kansas, drugstores with their soda fountains. Most of the photographs are snapshots of family groups and individuals. There is a series of photographs showing the damage from an earthquake in Helena, Montana, in October 1935. Many photographs were identified. Those that were not identified are included at the end with an attempt to broadly date them. There are also 3 scrapbooks with friend and family photographs attached. Oversize photographs are shelved at RH MS-P 996 (f).

For further information, see the Series List and the Collection Description below.

Series List

The Adair Family Papers date from 1848 to 1985 and are arranged in eight series. Where possible, material is organized in chronological order. The one exception is Ruth and Rowland Dyers'letter box correspondence which remains in its original alphabetical order.

The Adair Family Papers date from 1848 to 1985 and are arranged in eight series.

Where possible, material is organized in chronological order. The one exception is Ruth and Rowland Dyers'letter box correspondence which remains in its original alphabetical order.

Asa Rogers Adair papers, 1884-1915 Subseries: Correspondence, business transactions, personal papers.

Emma May Keyser Adair papers, 1883-1948 Subseries: Correspondence, personal papers.

Ruth Adair Dyer papers, 1894-1984 Subseries: Educational papers and correspondence, personal papers.

Other Adair family members papers, 1897-1982 Subseries: Hugh Rogers Adair, William Wallace Adair, Albert Sidney Adair, Laura Ellen Adair Cox.

Kiser/Keyser and Adair extended family members papers, 1848-1942 Subseries: Henry Kiser; Susan Bucher Cump Keyser; Sadie Keyser; Laura Keyser Olson; William Adair of Lurich, Virginia; William Arthur Chapman.

Legal and financial documents, 1885-1966

Printed materials, 1907-1941

Photographs, 1888-1985

Physical Location

RH MS 996

Physical Location

RH MS-P 996

Physical Location

RH MS-P 996(f)

Physical Location

RH MS Q253

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts, Betty Adair Whitney; 1989, 2002

Related Materials

Dyer, Ruth Adair, Ruth Adair Dyer papers, 1865-1957, RH MS 745, Kansas Collection, Spencer Research Library

Guide to the Adair family Collection
Adair family papers
Finding aid prepared by mab, 2007; revised by, cl 2010; revised by skt, 2010; Finding aid encoded by mab, 2007; revised by skt, 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Adair Family Collection, Kansas Collection, RH MS 996, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States