Despite being the son of a wealthy slave owner, George Adams focused on making his fortune in a new way: without using slavery.
Adams was uncomfortable with the idea of slavery. Upon inheriting a Virginia plantation, Adams sold the land, freed the slaves and moved to Ohio. He used the money from the Virginia plantation to buy a swath of land on the Eastern side of the Muskingum River in a village known as Dresden. His son would later become a conductor for the Underground Railroad.
Adams died in 1826, and the land was passed to his son, George W. Adams.
Adams told his second wife Mary that he would ‘build her a castle,’ and Prospect Place was born.
A sprawling 29-room mansion, Prospect Place was completed in 1856 far quicker than anyone thought imaginable. The house cost $50,000 to build, which is equivalent to just over $1.5 million today.
The house had to be rebuilt, however, when it was set on fire by George Blackburn, a notorious criminal of the time. Blackburn worked as a bricklayer on the project and bragged that he burned the mansion down to create more work for himself.
Blackburn was sent to the Columbus Penitentiary, the mansion was rebuilt, and life carried on. A brick in the basement was reused from the original house and is still blackened from the flames.
Adams was an intelligent businessman. His mills helped found two towns, Trinway and Adams Mills, and helped the village of Dresden along. He was one of the largest stockholders and landowners in Ohio, owning more than 250 acres of land at his death.
After his death in 1879, his family had to collect papers in order to get his estate together. They found some papers were missing, but they knew Adams had taken them into Zanesville a few days before his death. Putting two-and-two together, the family realized they had buried Adams with the papers.
Some friends of Adams agreed to dig up his body – after receiving permission – and found the papers right where they thought they would be: in his breast pocket.
It was after recovering these papers that it was discovered Adams owned around 13,000 head of sheep at his death. His estate as a whole was worth $14 million at the time of his death. His wife Mary received $7 million and moved to Zanesville (where she was originally from) and built a home there. The home still stands at the corner of Maple Ave. and Adair Ave. and is now home to Webb Financial Group.
The rest of Adams estate was divided between his seven children. Each child got $1 million.
Prospect Place was inherited by Adams’s daughter Anna (Adams) Cox and her husband William Cox.
Cox was nowhere near the businessman his father-in-law was. Cox blew through his wife’s inheritance as well as his own. When money was getting tight, Cox actually accused his foster son of stealing a thousand dollars from him. Shortly after, Cox and that thousand dollars disappeared, never to be officially seen again. It is speculated that he ran to California where he lived until he perished in the 1906 earthquake, but this is not confirmed.
Prospect Place stayed in the Cox family until 1969. After being sold, it sat empty until it was bought by Dave Longaberger in 1988. Today it is the ‘Historic Prospect Place Estate’ or the ‘G.W. Adams Educational Center.’ The estate is open for tours on the weekends from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.