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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:
Wells

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[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 117-121 of Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, edited by Cuyler Reynolds (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 929.1 R45. Some of the formatting of the original, especially in lists of descendants, may have been altered slightly for ease of reading.]

The family name of Wells, or Welles, is derived from the Norman-French "val," a vale or valley, and its plural, "vals," is from the Latin "vallis." It first occurs with the prefix "de" in the ablative plural, "de vallibus," meaning "from the valleys," subsequently as de Welles, and finally as Welles or Wells. When members of the family first came to America the form Welles almost prevailed; but the most common form at the present time is Wells. The Wells Arms — Shield: Or, a lion, rampant, double-queued, sable, armed and langued gules. Crest: a demi-lion, double-queued, of the shield. Motto: Semper paratus. (Always ready.)

The origin of the Wells family is in the House of Vaux, of the ancient province of Neustria. In the year 911, Charles III. of France ceded to Rollo, the Norwegian viking, who at the head of a band of Scandinavian pirates had captured Rouen on the Seine, the larger part of this province, which was thereafter called Normandy. As early as the year 794, the House of Vaux occupied a prominent position and had intermarried with many of Europe's reigning families.

The earliest record found of the English branch of the House of Vaux, in which the Wells family had its origin, is that of Harold de Vaux, Lord of Vaux in Normandy, who having conferred his seignory upon the Abby of the Holy Trinity, founded at Caen in the department of Calvados, France, by Queen Matilda, came into England about the year 1120, with his sons, Hubert, Ranulf and Robert, and settled in Cumberland county in the lake and valley region of northwestern England. The sons thereupon took the name of de Vallibus, signifying "From the Valleys," indicative of their dwelling in that region.

Robert de Vallibus, a lineal descendant of Hubert de Vallibus, the eldest son of Harold de Vaux, is designated in the English records of 1145 as Robert de Welles, and his descendants bore this name as Lords de Welles of Rayne Hall, Essex county, England. About the year 1194, Adam, a grandson of Robert holding the Manor of Welles, near Alford, Lincolnshire, is on record as Adam de Welles. He died without issue, and was succeeded in his manor by his brother, William, and he by his son William and grandson Adam. The latter, Adam de Welles, was summoned to parliament, February 6, 1299, as first Baron Welles. He was constable of Rockingham Castle and warden of the forest. King Edward I. of England granted to him, in 1299, a coat-of-armor. His successors in the barony are as follows: 2nd, Robert, son of Adam, 1311; 3rd, Adam, brother of Robert, 1320; 4th, John, son of Adam II., 1345; 5th, John, son of John and a distinguished soldier in France and Scotland, 1361; 6th, Leo, grandson of John II., killed in 1461, at Towton Field; 7th, Richard, son of Leo, 1469; 8th, Robert, son of Richard, who died without issue; 9th, Richard Hastings, brother-in-law of Robert, 1483.

It is an easier matter to trace a line in the British nobility, descending as it does through the eldest son or those succeeding to the title, than to perfect a genealogy of one of the younger sons who does not achieve in that manner an entry upon the records. The younger sons intermarried with and became a part of the middle class, and the outcome was God-fearing, liberty-loving people, from whom many of the Puritans and early emigrants to America descended, The Wells family is one of the oldest in England, dating back for eight hundred years and from different offshoots of this old English family all the various branches of the Wells family in America are descended.

(I) William Wells, the progenitor in America of the branch of the family noted in this sketch, according to a family tradition, was born in 1755, in or near Londonderry, England, which is a small market town, formerly called Newton, in the parish of Burneston, in the North Riding of Yorkshire. Diligent search of the records there, however, at the instance of the family's chronicler, has failed to show the connection between the families living there at this time and those in this country, nor does this circumstance prove the tradition untrue. Another tradition, coming very direct, has it that William Wells came to America when a young man, accompanying some English troops previous to the revolution, but when hostilities broke out he was found fighting for the cause of liberty.

The Pension Bureau records show that he enlisted from Chesterfield, Massachusetts, for a term of five years, as a private in a company commanded by Captain William Watson, in Colonel Bonney's regiment, and that he served about three years during the first enlistment. He participated in the battles of Bunker Hill, White Plains, Bennington, Fort Miller, at Saratoga, when General Burgoyne surrendered, and was wounded in the head at the battle of White Plains, supposed mortally; but recovered by having his head trepanned. He was made lieutenant, to take the place of his superior killed in the battle of Bemis Heights in 1777, and continued as such until his return home in 1778. He served in 1780 for five months and thirteen days in Lieutenant Benjamin Pike's company, with the troops sent from Massachusetts to reinforce the continental army under General Washington; also enlisted, August 10, 1781, in Captain Ebenezer Strong's company, Colonel Barnabas Sears' Hampshire county regiment; marched to Albany, August 17, 1781; served at Saratoga and in defense of the northern frontier, and received an honorable discharge November 20, 1781.

Not long after the close of the revolution, he and his family removed to Pownal, Vermont, settling in the southern part of the town, near the Massachusetts line, which property, owned in 1910 by Marcus A. Dunn, was known as the Wells Farm. Record of deeds filed at Pownal, show that William Wells, yeoman, purchased fifty acres March 9, 1797, from Enos Briggs, yeoman, paying $133.33, and he sold the same property, August 27, 1798, for $300, to James Hall, of Pownal, and on the latter paper he signed himself "William Welles." He removed with his family in 1798 to Hampton, Washington county, New York, where he cleared land and built a log house in what was at that time a sparsely settled section of the country. In the war of 1812, when the county was threatened by invasion by the British, by way of Lake Champlain, although aged three-score years, he shouldered his musket and enlisted September 2, 1814, in Essex county, New York, Captain Augustus Cleaveland's company in the Ninth Regiment, New York militia, and when discharged, September 9, 1814, was sixty-five miles from his home. He died in Hampton, New York, February 5, 1825, and was buried there.

William Wells married Eleanor Hickey, undoubtedly in the year 1778, for the records of Chesterfield, Hampshire county, Massachusetts, under date of November 9, 1778, show their intention of marriage. Both were then residents of that town. She was of Scotch-Irish descent, and was born about 1760 in the north of Ireland, and is said to have come to America when about fifteen years old. After her husband's death, she removed from Hampton, New York, to Pownal, Vermont, to reside with her oldest daughter, Betsey, who had married Zadock Pratt of that place in 1798 and she died there, April 3, 1838, as is shown upon her tombstone in the old Lovat burial-ground at Pownal. Children:

  1. Stephen, born in Massachusetts, about 1780.
  2. Betsey, born in Massachusetts, in 1782; died, Pownal, Vermont, June 5, 1845; married, Pownal, 1798, Zadock Pratt; twelve children.
  3. William, born in Pownal, Vermont, September 18, 1784; see forward.
  4. Calvin, born, Pownal, Vermont, 1785, died, Painesville, Ohio, November 9, 1871; married, May 7, 1814, Betsey E. Parks; seven children.
  5. Polly, born, Pownal, Vermont, March 11, 1787; died, Lansingburg, New York, September 3, 1837; married, North Granville, New York, December 24, 1809, Reuben Doty; nine 1819 [sic].
  6. George, born Pownal, Vermont; 1788, died Hampton, New York, October 12, 1819.
  7. George, born, Pownal, Vermont, May 11, 1793, died, Whitehall, New York, May 17, 1859; married, Hampton, New York, 1816, Hester Doolittle; eleven children.
  8. Joseph, born, Pownal, 1795, drowned in canal near Syracuse, New York, April 11, 1817.
  9. Nancy Ann, born Pownal, September 28, 1797, died, Mexico, New York, January 28, 1876; married, Hampton, New York, about 1815, John M. Eddy; four children.

(II) William (2), son of William (1) and Eleanor (Hickey) Wells, was born in Pownal, Vermont, September 18, 1784. He removed with his father's family in 1798 to Hampton, New York, and there helped clear up a tract of farm land and erect thereon a log house, on what in 1910 was known as the Melvin farm in Hampton Hollow. He was a soldier in the war of 1812, enlisting at Granville, Washington county, New York, in Captain Martin Lee's company of riflemen, Colonel Pliny Adams' One Hundred and Fifty-fourth regiment, New York militia, his service commencing on September 11, 1814. The soldiers in his company were discharged, and he returned seventy-five miles to his home, directly after the battle of Plattsburgh. In 1837 he removed to a farm in the eastern part of Whitehall, New York, on the road from the Methodist Episcopal brick church to Poultney, Vermont, and subsequently purchasing the farm adjoining on the west, removed to it and died there, January 26, 1873. He married, at Hampton, New York, November 7, 1806, Lucinda Streator, born in Becket, Berkshire county, Massachusetts, June 21, 1789, daughter of John and Elizabeth (Kibbee) Streator. John Streator was born in Woodstock, Connecticut, November 19, 1761; married, March 16, 1784; died, Hampton, New York, July 10, 1813. His wife was born in Monson, Massachusetts, July 27, 1763; died Windham, Portage county, Ohio, January 5, 1867. Children, born in Hampton, New York:

  1. Lucina, June 19, 1808, died May 31, 1871; married, December 10, 1829, Edward R. Norton; six children.
  2. Eleanor, February 9, 1812, died, Wethersfield, New York, December 6, 1859; married, Granville, New York, Benjamin Rice; five children.
  3. William Chauncey, October 18, 1816, died, Broadalbin, Fulton county, New York, November 26, 1889; married, in 1848, Mary A. Potter; four children.
  4. Betsey, September 27, 1821, died in Lemont, Illinois, May 5, 1868; married, Rutland, Vermont, April 10, 1848, Reuben Smith; two children.
  5. Electa, June 11, 1823, died, Whitehall, New York, June 6, 1866; married Smith Benjamin, of Dresden, Washington county, New York; two children.
  6. Luther, September 25, 1825, died Wethersfield, Wyoming county, New York, July 2, 1847.
  7. Marcia Ann, August 12, 1827, died, Danby, Vermont, December 13, 1866; married, Danby, March 27, 1857, Ebenezer A. Smith; no children.
  8. Julia, July 24, 1829; living in Clarendon, Vermont, in 1910; married, Danby, Vermont, March 27, 1857, Daniel P. Eddy; six children.
  9. Lester, November 7, 1831; see forward.

(III) Lester, son of William (2) and Lucinda (Streator) Wells, was born in Hampton, New York, November 7, 1831. He lived for several years in Fair Haven, Vermont, and later in Hydeville, Vermont, where he was engaged in the marble business, and removed in 1867 to the Wells homestead, located in the eastern part of Whitehall, New York, where he resided until 1907, when he and his family removed to the adjoining town of Hampton, and they were living there in 1910. He is a retired farmer. He married, at Fair Haven, Vermont, December 15, 1859, Fanny B. Welch, born February 14, 1839, daughter of John M. and Julia (Hawes) Welch. Children:

  1. Ida Lucinda, born Fair Haven, Vermont, May 31, 1861; married, Whitehall, New York, September 19, 1883, Francis N. Hall, born Whitehall, August 31, 1861, son of John A. and Ellen (Martin) Hall; children:
    1. Eunice Velma, born Whitehall, February 22, 1892;
    2. Gordon Lester, born Whitehall, October 18, 1895;
    3. Harold Francis, born Whitehall, July 26, 1899.
  2. Willis Emmet, born, Fair Haven, Vermont, March 22, 1863; married, Fair Haven, July 12, 1892, Eunice J., born in West Haven, Vermont, September 18, 1868, daughter of John and Eunice L. (Needham) Moore; children:
    1. Willis Whittler, born Whitehall, July 30, 1894;
    2. Gertrude Eunice, born at Keene, New Hampshire, April 5, 1899.
  3. Wallace Herbert, born in Hydeville, town of Castleton, Vermont, August 25, 1865; married (first), Whitehall, New York, January 4, 1888, Cora, born in Whitehall, July 17, 1865, died there, September 4, 1897, daughter of William J. and Lucinda (Parks) White; child: Grace Anna Wells, born Rutland, Vermont, July 13, 1890. Wallace Herbert Wells married (second) Mrs. Bertie L. Ewing, and they were living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1910.
  4. Cora Addie, born in Whitehall, New York, May 15, 1867; married, in Whitehall, February 12, 1889, Charles J. Inman, born in Hampton, New York, June 3, 1869, son of Charles J. and Jane B. (Mallary) Inman, and in 1910 he was manager of the Standard Oil Company, Springfield, Massachusetts; child: Ida Hilma Inman, born in Hampton, New York, March 19, 1891, student at Mt. Holyoke college in 1910.
  5. Rollin Albert, born in Whitehall, New York, April 20, 1869; married, in Poultney, Vermont, 1888, Alena S., daughter of Wallace and Mary (Spaulding) Herrick; children:
    1. Frances E., born in Keene, New Hampshire, December 3, 1888 died, Fairhaven, Massachusetts, July 22, 1905.
    2. Marion, born in Fairhaven, Massachusetts, October 20, 1892.
  6. Frederick Howard, born in Whitehall, New York, September 28, 1870; see forward.
  7. Effie Viola, born in Whitehall, New York, March 29, 1872, died there, December 4, 1899.
  8. Lester, born in Whitehall, New York, November 27, 1877, died, Joplin, Missouri, October 16, 1900.

(IV) Frederick Howard, son of Lester and Fanny B. (Welch) Wells, was born in Whitehall, New York, September 28, 1870. He was educated in the public schools of his native place, and later entered the Albany Business College, from which he graduated in 1891. In 1889-90 he was a teacher in the public schools of Whitehall. He entered the office of D. McDonald & Company, gas meter manufacturers, Albany, New York, in 1891, as bookkeeper and cashier, and occupied the position of office manger there in 1910. He was a member of the board of directors of the Albany Young Men's Christian Association from 1904 to 1909, and recording secretary in 1908-09. He is a member of the Albany Club; of the Albany Chamber of Commerce; the Philip Livingston Chapter, Sons of the Revolution, curator of the Chapter in 1908; the Society of Colonial Wars; Society of the War of 1812; member of Wadsworth Lodge, No. 417, Free and Accepted Masons, and of the official board of Trinity Methodist Episcopal church. He is the author of his family genealogy, entitled William Wells and His Descendants, 1755-1909, published in Albany, New York in 1909. He married, in Albany, New York, June 21, 1899, Elizabeth, born in Albany, September 24, 1873, daughter of William Henry and Annie (Beatty) McBurney. Children, born in Albany, New York:

  1. Ruth Edna Wells, July 9, 1900;
  2. Howard Lester Wells, August 6, 1902;
  3. William Henry Wells, June 17, 1906.

(The McBurney Line)

The ancestry of Mrs. Frederick Howard Wells, nee Elizabeth McBurney, extends through a direct line leading to the McBurneys of Scotland, "Covenanters," who left that country for the north of Ireland at the time of the persecution previous to the revolution of 1688. She was the daughter of William Henry and Annie (Beatty) McBurney, who were married, Albany, July 24, 1872, by Rev. Samuel F. Morrow, D. D. They also had another child, Ruth Craig McBurney, born in Albany, New York, January 25, 1876; graduate of the New York State Normal College in 1897, instructor in public schools of Schenectady, New York, in 1910. William Henry McBurney was born in Albany, September 27, 1845, conducting the business of a grocer and commission merchant in 1910, and was residing at No. 433 Washington avenue, Albany. His wife died, Albany, January 10, 1880, and he married, Albany, November 10, 1897, Mrs. Louisa Beeney Meeker. He was the son of James McBurney, who married, Albany, August 11, 1836, Elizabeth Hutchinson, born 1810, died, Albany, May 7, 1895.

James McBurney was born in 1803, died, Albany, New York, March 11, 1847, son of Alexander and Eleanor (McElroy) McBurney, who came from the north of Ireland with their family and settled in Delaware county, New York, about 1807.

Alexander McBurney, father of James McBurney, was born in 1759, died in Kortright, Delaware county, New York, February 18, 1823. His wife, Eleanor McElroy, was born in 1769, and died at the same place, June 29, 1839.

Annie Beatty, mother of Mrs. Frederick Howard Wells, was born in Hindoostan, India, July 24, 1844, died in Albany, New York, January 10, 1880.

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