William Adger, minister born
*The birth of William Adger in 1856 is celebrated on this date. He was an African American minister.
He was born in Philadelphia, the son of Robert Adger and Mary Morong Adger. His father had been born and raised as a slave in South Carolina. According to the United States censuses from 1850 to 1880, when Robert and Mary Adger arrived in Pennsylvania about 1848, they already had eight children; another five, including William was the second youngest. In 1850, Robert was working as a baker. Just ten years later, the 1860 census shows that Robert Adger kept a china store and had real estate valued at five thousand dollars as well as personal property worth about half that. The 1870 and 1880 censuses listed him as a furniture dealer; in 1870 his wealth was estimated at twelve thousand dollars of real estate and six thousand dollars of personal property. Clearly, Robert Adger managed to build a successful life for himself and his family.
Together, his parents made sure all thirteen of their children were educated. The censuses indicate that all children started school at age five and continued until at least the age of fourteen, often beyond that. In 1860, eight of the twelve children listed in the census were attending school; the youngest student was William and the eldest was seventeen-year old Daniel. The daughters in the family would become dressmakers and milliners after they finished school. At least three of the sons followed their father into the furniture business, as a cabinetmaker, an upholsterer and a furniture salesman; another two sons are known to have worked in the post office.
Young William was the only one to attend college. William Adger graduated first, in 1875, from the Institute for Colored Youth (forerunner of Cheyney University), where he served as the secretary. In 1879, he enrolled in the College of the University of Pennsylvania. When was he awarded his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1883, Adger became the first African American graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. While a Penn student, he lived in his father's home at 833 South Street, along with his parents, two unmarried sisters, and an unmarried brother (the upholsterer). His brother Robert, Jr. (a store keeper like his father) also lived in the house with his wife and four young children. William was also a student in the Divinity School of the Episcopal Church, Philadelphia.
He planned to become a minister at the time of his early death in 1855. According to the October 20, 1885 issue of University Magazine, he died at the family home of hip disease. Burial was at the Church of the Crucifixion on Bainbridge Street near Eighth Street, where one of his brothers was the organist. William Adger had been a member of the Fraternal Association primarily made up of former residents of South Carolina.
University of Pennsylvania
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