Adair, John George (unknown–1885)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 14, 2021

John George Adair, Panhandle cattleman, was an English aristocrat of Scots-Irish descent who owned vast estates in England and Ireland. He was educated and trained for the diplomatic service but entered the world of finance instead. In 1866 he made his first visit to the United States and established a brokerage firm in New York City for the purpose of placing British loans in America at higher interest rates than those in Britain. The following year, at a ball given in honor of Congressman J. C. Hughes, he met Mrs. Cornelia Wadsworth Ritchie, whom he married in 1869 (see ADAIR, CORNELIA W.).

Over the next several years the couple divided their time between Ireland and America. In the fall of 1874 they went on a buffalo hunt along the South Platte River in Nebraska and northeastern Colorado, accompanied by a military escort from Sydney Barracks under Col. Richard Irving Dodge. Adair killed no buffalo but accidentally shot his horse and almost killed himself. Nevertheless, he liked the opportunities the West had to offer and in 1875 moved his brokerage business to Denver, Colorado. The firm made a loan to Charles Goodnight in March 1876, and Adair sought him out when he decided to enter the cattle business. They entered into a partnership on June 18, 1877, in which Adair furnished the money and Goodnight the herd for the JA Ranch in Palo Duro Canyon. The Adairs accompanied the Goodnight party from Pueblo, Colorado, to the ranch headquarters in Armstrong County and stayed just long enough to inspect the range, help tally the cattle, and hunt game before departing for their estate near Rathdair. Adair's conventional, and sometimes arrogant, British mannerisms were received poorly by the cowboys; even Goodnight later admitted that his partner's overbearing attitude was irritating. However, when the original agreement expired in 1882, the ranch showed a profit of $512,000, and the owners renewed the partnership for five more years.

In the spring of 1885 Adair made his third and final trip to the JA, accompanied by his personal valet. He died on his return trip at St. Louis, on May 14, 1885. His body was shipped to Rathdair for burial on his estate. His wife maintained the partnership with Goodnight until it expired in 1887.

Cornelia Adair, My Diary: August 30 to November 5, 1874 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1965). Harley True Burton, A History of the JA Ranch (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1928; rpt., New York: Argonaut, 1966). Willie Newbury Lewis, Between Sun and Sod (Clarendon, Texas: Clarendon Press, 1938; rev. ed., College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1976).

  • Peoples
  • English
  • Business
  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranchers and Cattlemen

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

H. Allen Anderson, “Adair, John George,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 20, 2022,

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April 14, 2021