Pueblo County, Colorado
Alva Blanchard ADAMS

Contributed by Jean Griesan

Alva Blanchard Adams

Alva Blanchard Adams was born in Del Norte, Rio Grande County, Colorado on October 29, 1875. He was the son of Alva Adams and Ella (Nye) Adams, the only child to live past infancy to this couple. Alva’s father, Alva, ran a successful hardware business in southern Colorado, and was, even at the time of Alva Blanchard Adams’ birth, entering into the world of politics. The Adams family had moved to Alamosa by 1880, and on to Pueblo by 1882. When Alva B. Adams was 12, his father was elected to be governor of Colorado. Alva Adams Sr. served as governor from 1887 to 1889, 1897 to 1899, and for several months in 1905. He was enormously popular with the people. Clearly public service was in young Alva B. Adams’ blood.

Alva B. Adams attended the common schools of southern Colorado, wherever he lived at the time. He went on to attend Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Phillips Academy was a very exclusive, private high school, and was one of the oldest and finest schools in the United States. Many sons of dignitaries attended there including the nephews of George Washington. Alva graduated from Phillips in 1893. He went on to Yale University, graduating from there in 1896. Alva B. attended Columbia Law School, graduating with a law degree in 1899. He was admitted to the bar in Colorado in 1899, and commenced practice as an attorney in Pueblo, Colorado.

Alva B. married Yorke Clida Moses on August 10, 1904 in Pueblo County. However, the marriage was short-lived. Less than a year later, young Clida died shortly after an operation at the age of 27. Her obituary follows:

“Mrs. Alva B. Adams Passes Away Suddenly – Young Wife of Gov. Adams’ Son Answers Summons – Death is Shock to Community.
After an illness lasting little more than a week, Mrs. Clida Moses Adams, wife of Alva B. Adams, passed away yesterday morning at 8:15 o’clock. The funeral services will be held from the home of Gov. Alva Adams, corner Broadway and Evans avenues, at 3 o’clock this afternoon. The services will be conducted by Rev. A. E. Holt and Rev. R. W. Gammon. The music will be in charge of Mrs. H. W. Harris. Interment will be made in Riverview cemetery. The pallbearers are W. V. Hodges and James Benedict of Denver, M. C. Slayden, T. G. Hurford, M. G. Saunders, Dwight C. Meigs and Thomas A. Duke.
Mrs. Alva B. Adams, Formerly Miss Clida Moses, was born in Great Bend, Kan., March 2, 1878. In 1882, when four years of age, she came with her parents to Pueblo. Her early education was received in the public schools of district No. 20. Following her graduating from Central high school in 1896, Miss Moses spent two years as a student at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs. After leaving college, she taught in Fort Lupton and Pueblo schools until June 1904. On August 10, 1904, she was married to Alva B. Adams, son of Gov Alva Adams.
Last summer previous to her marriage, Mrs. Adams suffered a severe attack of typhoid fever. During the past year she has been in ill health as the result of sickness. On June 25, 1905, Mrs. Adams was taken ill. A consultation of three physicians last Sunday resulted in a decision that an operation was imperative. The patient was removed to the hospital that evening and Monday morning the operation was performed. So weak was her condition that Mrs. Adams failed to recover from the effects of the operation, and death came at 8:15 yesterday morning.
During her life in Pueblo, the deceased was known among a large circle of friends for her cheerful and lovable disposition. Her amiable ways made her a social favorite, and her demise is mourned by a large acquaintance. Of recent years Mrs. Adams has been active in club circles in Pueblo and at the time of her death was president of the Fortnightly club and also a member of Wednesday Morning club.
The deceased is survived by her husband, Alva B. Adams, her mother and a sister, Mrs. Fred Briggs. The funeral will be held this afternoon in charge of McMahon & Collier. Pueblo Chieftain, July 5, 1905

Alva B. Adams married a second time to Elizabeth L. Matty on October 25, 1909 in Denver County, Colorado. Elizabeth was born on May 4, 1889 in Colorado, but both of her parents were from France. Alva and Elizabeth had the following children: Ella Adams, born on November 14, 1910; Elizabeth Adams, born about 1914; Alva B. Adams Jr., born on October 21, 1915; and William H. Adams, born on May 3, 1919. During this period of time, Alva and his family always made their home with Alva’s parents. They were a prosperous family, and typically had several servants that lived with them.

Adams became a county attorney for Pueblo County in 1909. He was a member of the charter convention of Pueblo in 1911. Also in 1911, he ceased being a county attorney and became the city attorney of Pueblo, serving in that capacity until 1915. He also served as a regent for the State University of Colorado in 1911 and 1912. In addition to his Pueblo law practice, Adams was for a time president of the Pueblo Savings and Trust Company, vice president of the Western National Bank, and a director of the Standard Fire Brick Company.

During World War I, Alva was called into service. He served as a major in the Judge Advocate General’s Department from 1918 to 1919.

In May of 1923, Alva was appointed as a Democrat to the United States Senate to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Senator Samuel D. Nicholson. Alva served from May 17, 1923 through November 30, 1924. He ran for office again in 1924 for the other senate seat, but was unsuccessful. He returned home to Pueblo and resumed his law practice. Alva was very involved in the Pueblo community. He was a member of the Freemasons, the Shriners, and the Elks Club.

Adams was elected to the United States Senate in 1932, and then reelected in 1938. In March 1933, he served as chairman of the Committee on Irrigation and Reclamation, a position he filled until his death. He also served on the Committee on Public Lands and Surveys.

During these years in office, water shortages became an issue in Colorado. People began to seriously consider the idea of boring a tunnel through the Continental Divide in northern Colorado to carry water from the Colorado River east and north to the Front Range of Colorado to provide water for irrigation. Adams worked hard to get Congress to fund and construct this project, called the “Colorado-Big Thompson Project.” After years of planning, excavation from the East Portal of the project began on June 23, 1940, just southwest of Estes Park, Colorado. Work went on simultaneously from each side of the tunnel. Excavation crews spent four years, from 1940 to 1944, drilling the tunnel. Work stopped twice because of wartime demands on labor and materials. When the two crews met on June 10, 1944, they were off by less than the width of a penny. During the next three years, the tunnel was lined with concrete and readied for water deliveries.

Alva suffered a heart attack on November 26, 1941. Initially, the effects were not severe, and he seemed to be recovering fairly well. However, the next day, the doctors ordered a full rest for six to eight weeks, as they had diagnosed coronary thrombosis. He took a turn for the worse a few days later. Alva B. Adams died on December 1, 1941 in Washington, D. C., due to a heart attack. He was 66 years old. He died just days before Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese. Alva’s body was returned home to Pueblo accompanied by a huge entourage of 25 members of congress as well as his family. It was one of the biggest congressional delegations that had ever accompanied the body of one of their deceased members. Alva Adams was laid to rest in Roselawn Cemetery in Pueblo. The following is a copy of Alva’s obituary.

“Senator Alva Blanchard Adams. Masonic burial services Thursday 2:30 p.m. at the family home, 102 West Orman. Body will lie in state between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the residence.
Pueblo Chieftain, Pueblo, Pueblo County, Colorado, December 3, 1941

As meager as that was for an obituary, the newspapers were full of articles about the unexpected death of Senator Adams.

“Funeral Train Leaves Today – Delegation of 25 To Bring Adams Home; Rites Thursday.
Washington, Dec. 1 (AP) – The body of Sen. Alva B. Adams (D, Colo.), who died in Washington early today, five days after a heart attack, will be taken home to Pueblo, Colo., tomorrow evening in the company of 25 members of congress. It will be one of the largest congressional delegations ever to accompany the body of a deceased member.
Adams, 66, was chairman of the public lands committee and of the deficiency appropriations committee. In private life, he was a banker and an attorney.”
Johnson said Adams’ body would be taken to Colorado in a special car, in which members of the immediate family would ride, on the train bearing the delegation. The senator’s death was unexpected by even his close friends. He had suffered the heart attack last Tuesday night, but the next day made a brief visit to his office. Later that day he was ordered to bed by his physicians, who diagnosed his trouble as coronary thrombosis after consultation.
A complete rest of six weeks to two months was ordered. Sunday night the senator’s condition took a turn for the worse, and he died at 3:30 a.m. today.

Wallace, Ickes Pay Tribute
Vice President Wallace and Secretary Ickes were among many who expressed sympathy to the family and paid tribute to Adams.
Ickes said in a statement tonight that he felt Adams “literally died in harness,” never sparing himself. He added he had a feeling of personal affection for the senator, and had relied on him for wise counsel in matters affecting the interior department, not only in Colorado but in the whole west.
While the nation will feel his loss,” Ickes stated, “it will be particularly acute in the west, which he knew and loved and whose interests he always had at heart. As chairman of the public lands and surveys committee of the senate and member of the irrigation and reclamation committee, he made a substantial contribution to the up-building of the west. He was concerned not only about the development, but about the conservation of our natural resources.”
Father and Uncle Prominent
Senator Adams was the son and nephew of prominent men in the history of Colorado government.
His father, Alva Adams, who died November 1, 1922, was twice governor of Colorado, his uncle, William H. (Billy) Adams, 80, served three terms as the state’s chief executive after nearly 40 years in the Colorado legislature.
The uncle, who retired from public life in 1933 to take up residence at Alamosa, Colo., said the death of the senator “is a profound shock to me.”
“We knew Alva had suffered a heart attack last week, but we had been assured it was not serious. Alva had been the healthiest member of our family. The death of Alva is a great loss to us. We had been very proud of him.”
Senator Adams was born at Del Norte, Colo., October 29, 1875. He was educated in Colorado public schools and at Phillips Andover academy, Andover, Mass., Yale and Columbia universities. He received his bachelor of philosophy degree from Yale in 1895 and bachelor of laws degree from Columbia in 1899.
Practiced Law at Pueblo.
He returned to Colorado that same year and began practicing law at Pueblo. He was Pueblo county attorney from 1901 to 1910 and was city attorney for four years beginning in 1911.
He was appointed to the senate in 1923 on the death of Sen. Samuel Nicholson, and was elected to six-year terms in 1932 and 1938. Adams became Colorado’s senior senator in January 1937, when the late Sen. T. P. Costigan retired because of illness.
In addition to his Pueblo law practice, Adams was for a time president of the Pueblo Savings and Trust company, vice president of the Western National bank, and a director of the Standard Fire Brick company.
He was a major in the judge advocate’s general’s department during the World war.
At his bedside when death came were Mrs. Adams, the former Elizabeth Matty of Denver, whom he married October 25, 1909; a son, Alva B., and a daughter, Mrs. Joseph A. Uhl. Also surviving are another son, William H. and another daughter, Mrs. James W. Booth.
Hoped to Return to Law.
Senator Adams had remarked often to friends that he hoped to return to his Pueblo law practice at the end of his senate term.
In 1939 he commented that “politically, I have a commission that’s still good for five years and I trust the good Lord will help me say goodbye to office-holding when that runs out.”
Adams was the third Colorado congressman to die in office in the past two years. Rep. Edward T. Taylor, dean (?) of congress in point of years, died last September; Rep. John A. Martin died December 23, 1939.
In addition to being chairman of the public lands and surveys and deficiency appropriations committee, he was a member of the rules, banking and currency, and irrigation and reclamation committee

Excerpts from “Funeral Train Leaves Today – Delegation of 25 To Bring Adams Home; Rites Thursday,” Colorado Springs Gazette, Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Colorado, December 2, 1941
“Carr Pays Tribute To Senator Adams.
Tribute to the character and ability of Senator Adams, and praise of his long work in congress were not confined today to men of his own political faith. Governor Carr, a republican, said that Senator Adams was “above partisanship” in times of national crisis.
The chief executive was visibly shocked and moved at word of Senator Adams death in Washington. He had often expressed admiration regarding the manner in which Senator Adams had conducted his office.
“The people of Colorado mourn the passing of a real statesman,” he said. “Alva B. Adams symbolized everything that was fine and big, as a public servant, the needs of his country and his people were always uppermost in his thoughts. It will be a long time before we see his likes again.”
Lieut. Gov. John C. Vivian, at Montrose today, added that “the state and nation have lost a valuable statesman.”
Labor Mourns Friend.
“Colorado and the nation have suffered an irreparable loss in the untimely passing of our senior United States senator,” Frank Hatterly, district president of the United Mine Workers and state CIO leader, declared.
“The senator was one of the most outstanding, able, fearless and constructive statesmen of his time. He cannot be replaced.
“Labor mourns the loss of a true friend and a champion of its cause.”

Byron Rogers, democratic state chairman for Colorado said: “The untimely death of Alva B. Adams removes from the civil and political life of Colorado one of its outstanding leaders. Senator Adams’ known devotion to his friends and his utterly sincere desire to study all problems to the benefit of Colorado made his an outstanding leader.”

Excerpts from “Carr Pays Tribute to Senator Adams,” Colorado Springs Gazette, Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Colorado, December 2, 1941

The grand irrigation tunnel from the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, 13.1 miles long, was named the Alva B. Adams Tunnel after the senator who worked so hard for approval and construction of this project. The first water from the Colorado River flowed east on June 23, 1947 through the Alva B. Adams Tunnel under the Continental Divide.

Elizabeth, Alva’s wife, lived for over 40 years after Alva died. She always remained in Pueblo. Elizabeth died on August 18, 1983. She was buried in Roselawn Cemetery next to Senator Adams.

Mrs. Alva B. Adams Sr., passed away at her home, 412 Dittmer Ave., Aug. 18, 1983. Wife of the late U.S. Senator Alva B. Adams, who passed away Dec. 1, 1941. Mother of William H. Adams, Pueblo. Predeceased by her other children; Mrs. Ella Uhl, Mrs. Elizabeth Berger, and Alva B. Adams Jr. Grandmother of Joseph Uhl Jr., Alva Uhl, John Uhl, Elizabeth Booth, Jim Berger, Bart Berger, Rhett Adams, Alva Adams, William Adams Jr., Charlotte Adams, Eleanor Adams and Jane Fulk. Also survived by numerous great-grandchildren. Mrs. Adams was married to Sen. Adams Oct. 25, 1909, in Denver and had been a resident of Pueblo since that time. Private family services were conducted Saturday by Father Fred Johnson. Committal was in Roselawn cemetery next to Sen. Adams.
Pueblo Chieftain, Pueblo County, Colorado, August 21, 1983


1. Federal census records from 1880 from Conejos County, Colorado.
2. Federal census records from 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930 from Pueblo County, Colorado.
3. “Adams, Alva Blanchard (1875 – 1941),” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, provided online at http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=A000028.
4. “Adams, Alva Blanchard (1875 – 1941),” biography from the Political Graveyard, provided online at http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/adams1.html.
5. “Alva B. Adams,” biography from Wikipedia, provided online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alva_Blanchard_Adams.
6. “Phillips Academy,” Reference.com Online Encyclopedia, provided online at http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Phillips_Academy.
7. “Colorado Marriages, 1858 – 1939,” an index compiled by the Denver Public Library in conjunction with the Colorado Genealogical Society in 2004.
8. “East Portal,” information about the Alva B. Adams Tunnel, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District website, provided online at http://www.ncwcd.org/project_features/East_Portal1.asp.
9. “Alva B. Adams Tunnel,” The Columbia Gazetteer of North America, published by the Columbia University Press in 2000, provided online at http://www.bartleby.com/69/74/A03974.html.
10. “Colorado’s Historical Newspaper Collection,” provided online by the Colorado State Library and the Colorado Historical Society at http://www.cdpheritage.org/collection/chnc.cfm.
11. Burial records from Roselawn Cemetery, Pueblo, Pueblo County, Colorado, provided online at www.roselawnpueblo.com/genealogy/.
12. “Mrs. Alva B. Adams Passes Away Suddenly,” Pueblo Chieftain, Pueblo, Pueblo County, Colorado, July 5, 1905.
13. Obituary for Alva B. Adams, Pueblo Chieftain, Pueblo, Pueblo County, Colorado, December 3, 1941.
14. Excerpts from “Funeral Train Leaves Today – Delegation of 25 To Bring Adams Home; Rites Thursday,” Colorado Springs Gazette, Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Colorado, December 2, 1941.
16. Excerpts from “Carr Pays Tribute to Senator Adams,” Colorado Springs Gazette, Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Colorado, December 2, 1941.
17. Obituary for Mrs. Alva B. Adams Sr. (Elizabeth Matty Adams), Pueblo Chieftain, Pueblo, Pueblo County, Colorado, August 21, 1983.
18. Biography of Alva Adams by Jason Brockman from the Colorado Department of Personnel & Administration, Colorado State Archives, Biographies of Governors, from website: http://www.colorado.gov/dpa/doit/archives/govs/adams.html.
19. “Statesman Dies in Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan,” Pueblo Chieftain, November 2, 1922.
20. “Alva Adams Was Born in Wisconsin, Came to Colorado When of Age For Benefit of Brother’s Health,” Pueblo Chieftain, November 2, 1922.

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