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U N 1 V L R S 1 T Y


ttUwils Historical Sumei




History and Representative Men


Supervising Editor


Chairman of Advisory Board

Assisted by the Following Board of Advisory Editors










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f 77, 3VV


History of

Ouincy and Adams County

Edward "Wells. A life of peculiar power and significance in enriching
the business and civic development of Quincy from pioneer times was that
of the late Edward Wells, manufacturer, business man and banker. Some of
the steadying qualities of his enterprise and character are felt even today in
the city. There is no need of apology for telling briefly the story of this Quincy
citizen, since it is in truth a vital part of Quincy 's history.

It is from Thomas Wells that the Quincy branch of the family is descended.
Thomas was born in Essex County, England, in 1605, and in 1635, at the age
of thirty, set sail from Ipswich, England, and landing in Massachusetts joined
the little colony at Agawam, which the colonists soon named Ipswich. Thomas
Wells took his freeman's oath May 17, 1637, and soon built his substantial
frame dwelling which was still standing as late as 1850. Besides his growing
interests as a property holder he was a stalwart member of the noted Ipswich
Church and was also magistrate and physician. Many of the early records
referred to him as distinguished in different capacities. He died October 26,

Samuel Williams Wells, father of Edward Wells of Quincy, was born at
Newbury June 12, 1774. During his life he was chiefly distinguished for his
rare scholarship and ability as a teacher. He died June 30, 1851, at the age
of seventy-seven.

Edward Wells was born at Newbury March 23, 1813, and was named for his
maternal grandfather, Edward Swasej' Wells. He acquired a strong distaste
for double Christian names, and in Quincy was always known simply as Edward
Wells. The following story of his life is largely made up of quotations from
his published biography.

In childhood Edward Wells gave evidence of the push, energy and cour-
age which led him in early manhood to leave the beaten way of men and go
out across the mountains to make a name, place and home for himself on the
eoirfines of civilization. At the age of fourteen he .sought and obtained employ-
ment with a rope maker in his native town, who perceiving in him the promise
of unusual business ability endeavored to retain his services, when at the end
of the year he gave notice of his intention to withdraw, bj- offers of immediate
promotion and eventually a share in the business. But the lad wanted a larger
field for the exercise of his powers than a rope walk in an old town that had
ceased to grow.

Influenced by these considerations, young Edward Wells packed his modest
box, said good-bye to his employer and home friends, and on the top of the
sta^e coach that plied semi-weekly between his native town and Boston made
his first trip to that famous city. On India Wharf he found a cooper by the
name of Lang, who, attracted doubtless by the lad's business-like manner,
agreed to take him as apprentice till the time of his majority. Then followed
seven busy years, in the course of which the lad not only acquired a knowledge
pf his craft and satisfied the master whom he was bound to serve, but by




working overtime as the opportunity offered earned $100, which, bit by bit,
as it was gathered, he sacredly set aside to give him a start in business when
the days of his service sliould be over.

In the last days of his service the young apprentice belonged to the city
fire department and the Mechanic's Liljrary Association, and whether sitting
in solemn conclave witli the members of the latter organization or taking his
turn at the old hand engine in the smoke of a city fire, was cquallj' willing,
energetic and helpful.

After the terms of his indenture were fulfilled he worked at his trade,
boarding somewhere on Fort Hill, waiting the opportunit.y to invest the savings
of his years of apprenticeship. In April, 1834, he writes to a sister, "I shall
remain here but six months longer unless there is some gi-eat change in the
prospects that are before me." No change for the better seems to have taken
place, for in October of the same year we find him, equipped with a new stock
of clothing and tools, purchased with part of his savings, the remainder of
the $100 in his pocket, and the blessings of his father and home friends in
his heart, cutting himself adrift from the moorings of familiar scenes and
launching out into the unknovni "West.

In October, 1833, Capt. Nathaniel Pease, a man of great energy and
enterprise, w'ho had been trading in Cleveland, Ohio, and other points on the
lakes, made his way to the little town of Quincy in Adams County, Illinois,
bought 300 hogs, had them slaughtered and packed and carried them oft' to
sell in other places. Succeeding in this venture and deciding that Quincy was
well located and destined to gi'ow, he determined to return with his family and
settle there permanently. His home was in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In
the spring when his plans for emigration were nearly perfected young Edward
Wells met him, heard his story, and concluded to join his party which was to
start in the fall.

Thus it is we find him on a mild October day saying good-bj-e to friends,
and boarding the train for Providence and the West. At that time, as the
railway system was in its infancy, connections were uncertain and accommo-
dations limited. * * * They journeyed from Boston to Providence by
rail, from Providence to Amboy by boat, and then by rail from Amboy to
Philadelphia, from Philadelphia to Baltimore, and from Baltimore over the
mountains to the Ohio River. Down this stream they voyaged by steamer,
frequently delayed by low water, and helped over the sandbars, where they
grounded, by men who worked day after day in the water for the low wage
of 3 shillings. The.y passed at times through a noiseless woodland solitude and
boundless prairies level and lonely as the sea. The boat was run by no sched-
ule. It stopped anywhere to let ]iassengers off, at a creek, a cabin or a young
busy town. It tied up wherever it was convenient to wait for wood to be cut
and loaded or repairs to be made. Waiting for repairs seems in fact to have
absorbed a great deal of the time of those early steamboat trips. Finally they
reached the Mississippi and boarded an upward-bound steamer for the last
stage of their journey.

Quincy at that time contained only about 500 inhabitants. There were
some half dozen very respectable frame houses, a good many log cabins, a
log courthouse and jail, several smaller frame houses, two small brick dwellings
and a frame tavern. An infant town indeed, but its location on the Slissis-
sippi in a region unsurpassed for fertility and productiveness, with an unlim-
ited supply of building stone in its bluffs and timber on the islands and margin
of the river, gave promise not only of rapid but continuous growth.

Into, this town incorporated but four months previously entered young
Edward" Wells, wearied with a thirty- four days' journey, slightly homesick,
destitute of money except for a single silver dollar, but well fiirnished with
Yankee ingenuity, pluck, energy- and determination to succeed. Like his Puri-
tan ancestor he stepped into a new world, consecrated to the task of helping to


redeem it from the wilderness and make it blossom with all the beauty of

Failing to find work at liis trade he took hold of any honorable employ-
ment that presented itself. I have heard him say that having a thorough
knowledge of but one trade he had worked at all. He learned by observation
what he did not discover by a fine mechanical sense that was his in no common
measure. That first winter was uncommonly mild, a contrast to the cold and
storm of the New England Coast, until the "iSth of January, when a cold
•wave passed over lUlinois and Kentucky that pulled the mercury down to
32° below zero, killed or injured nearly all the fruit trees, and brought death
to large numbers of horses, cattle and hogs.

In the spring of 1835 Edward Wells formed a partnership in the cooper
business with James D. Morgan, a friend who had followed him from Boston.
* * * Mr. Morgan having a wife and child took up his abode in a log cabin,
but the younger member of the firm lived in the shop, his modest housekeeping
arrangments hidden by a curtain from the business end of the establishment.
To coopering he applied himself with characteristic energv' for a few years.
His work brought him into relations with the pork packers, and seeing in
their business a wider opportunity for the accumulation of wealth he discon-
tinued his partnership with IMr. ]\Iorgau and began to pack and ship pork.
In 1839 he was one of four pork packers who packed 5,000 hogs, in 1840 one
of four who packed 4,000, in 1842, one of four who packed 7,000, in 1843 one
of four who packed 20,000. and in 1846 one of four who packed 10,000. After-
wards he engaged in business on a more extensive scale and laid the founda-
tions of a fortune to which he added by judicious operations in real estate in

Though possessed in a remarkable degree of the business instincts which
detect success or failure at the outset, his judgment was not always infallible
in those early years of his business career. Twice, through the failures of
other men, he lost everything he had 'accumulated, and twice with undaunted
courage he began to build anew. It was perhaps while waiting an opportunity
to start a place in his chosen career that he went into the solitude of the Des
Moines Kiver to trade with the Indians, made trips to New Orleans to dispose
of produce, and even served as mate on a Mississippi steamboat. He was
never at a loss for employment of some kind. In a letter written in 1839 to
his father he refers to the growth of the city: "Quincy is still improving.
If we keep on a few years longer we shall have a place larger than Xewbury-
port. There has been a; great deal of emigi-ation to this country this year.
We now have six dii¥erent religious denominations, Congregational, Baptist,
Methodist, Episcopal, Unitarian and Catholic. So you see there are plenty of
chances to go to church if a person is so disposed." About this time Edward
Wells united with a few others in founding the Unitarian Church, of which
Rev. George Moore was the first settled minister. Edward Wells continued
for more than fifty years not only a regular attendant but a stay and support,
giving with bounteous hand in response to all calls for help. Nor did he
waiver when in the last years of his life the financial burden of the church
rested largely on his shoulders.

With his advent into the town Edward Wells joined the volunteer fire
department, which he served as chief for one term. Old "No. 1," which was
purchased some time between 1837 and 1840 for the sum of $1,125, felt his
hand in those early famous fires on Hampshire Street and "under the hill"
as well as in less noted blazes.

From the time of his majority he gave himself with diligence to the study
of the political situation, allying himself in turn with the whig and republican
parties. In the log cabin campaign of 1840 he was a delegate to county con-
ventions that endorsed the nomination of "Tippecanoe and Tyler too."

Though successful in multiplying into a fortune the silver dollar which


constituted his capital when he disembarked at Quincy in 1834, his energies
were not all given to personal gain. He was a leading spirit in all projects
for the advancement of the city of his adoption, which he saw develop from
a town of 500 inhabitants into a large and flourishing center of trade. For
many years he was greatly interested in procuring railroad connections, and
became personally acquainted with the prominent railroad men of the countiy.
He succeeded in getting the Pennsjivania Central to agree to come to Quiney;
but before the purpose could crystallize into action success became failure
through the secret sale of the Quincy and Warsaw Road, with which the con-
nection was to be made. Still he did not lose heart nor did he become discour-
aged when negotiations for connections with the Baltimore & Ohio roads came
to naught ; but spurred by failure and broadened by contact with men of wider
experience, took up the work again with a zeal that compelled success. He was
the originator and principal factor in the passing of the bill through Congress
for the building of the railroad bridge across the Mississippi River at Quincy
in 1864, spending weeks in Washington while engaged in this work. In the
drafting of this bill he insisted on a clause which was original with him, that
all roads should have right of way over the approaches to bridges and thus
prevented for all time excessive tollage or monopoly. He was at one time
president of the Quincy & Warsaw Railroad Company, and was on terms of
intimacy and influence with J. L. Joy of the Wabash Railway for many years.

Though all his life intensely interested in the political affairs of city, state
and nation, the subject of this sketch resolutely refused political office. One
term as alderman from the Third Ward is his meager record. His counsel was
sought by men who held office as well as by men who walked the quiet paths
of private life. He was well acquainted with Lincoln, Douglas, 0. H. Brown-
ning, W. A. Richardson, Richard Yates, John A. Logan, General Sherman
and many others of world wide reputation. He had large influence in both
state and national capitals, which was used effectively but quietly, and without
making himself so pi'omineut as to antagonize others. He sought no reward,
remaining silent while others appropriated credit that belonged to him. From
the formation of the party he was an uncompromising republican, as he had
been for years a subscriber to the principles on which it was founded. In war
time he was intensely loyal, sending two substitutes to the field and spending
money freely in the cause. Director of the First National Bank of Quincy
for a long period, his wise counsels, founded on his accurate knowledge of the
finances of that institution, made it a paying bank as long as he was in office.
He was a stockholder in the Quincy Gas Works, the Newcomb Hotel Company,
Quincy Savings Bank, Library Association, director of the Vandiver Corn
Planter Compan.v, which he helped to organize, and officially connected with
many other business, improvement and charity organizations of the city.

Edward Wells did not fail to keep up close associations with his old New-
England home. He journeyed back to Newbui'yport in 1840, and again in
1848 and his third and fourth visits were made in the summers of 1856 and
1858. From 1858 Edward Wells journeyed eastward every summer with the
exception of two until his death in 1892, his party increasing to sixteen and
eighteen as children were given to his married sons and daughters. The heated
term was passed at some resort on the Massachusetts or New Hampshire Coast,
and the month of September in Boston, where his youngest sister had removed
with her family in 1859 ; while some portion of the holiday was invariably
spent in the birthtown of his mother, which was always regarded by her wan-
dering son with affectionate interest. These annual returns to the sea were
the only occasion of recreation in the life of a very busy man : for though he
retired from active business when he was but little over fifty years old, his
transactions in real estate and his interest in corporations and institutions
called for ever increasing mental activity.

On May 16, 1892, Edward Wells suddenly passed away. On the day pre-


ceding, a Sunday, he attended church apparently in his usual health and spirits.
The Quincy AVliig said editorially at the time: "Mr. Wells was a man of
fine presence, kindly manners, and so active and interested in the details of
the world's life that although he had nearly touched four score years he never
impressed one as an old man. He was active in his church, the Unitarian, of
which in this city he was a pioneer member, active in politics, attending even
the primary meetings of his party, the republican, as regularly as when it came
into existence, keenly alive to everything that affected the credit, the good
name or the prosperity of the city in which he had lived so long, and main-
taining his social interests to a degree that made him a congenial companion
to young and old alike. He was a man of unblemished integrity, a prudent
and sagacious adviser, a firm and faithful friend, and his life contact with men
in these relations will make him widely missed, but nowhere will he be so sorely
missed as in the home which was, after all, the chief object of his affection and
devotion. ' '

ilarch 19, 1836, at Quiney, Edward Wells married Mary Babson Evans.
Her father, Capt. Robert Evans, was born near Germantown, Pennsylvania,
in 1784, had migrated from Boston to Adams County in 1835, and died at the
home of Edward Wells in Quiney in 1866. As a youth he ran away from home
to become a sailor and was a vessel master and captain of a privateer during
the War of 1812 and had many strenuous adventures, ending with his capture
and imprisonment at Dartmoor Prison in England to the close of the war.

April 11, 1813, before making this final cruise. Captain Evans married
Betsey Babson Haven, a widow. She was born at Gloucester, Massachusetts,
and died at Quiney in 1855. The Babsons were among the first settlers of
Gloucester. Captain and Betsey Evans had four children, George, Mary B.,
James L. and Harriett. Mary was born at Gloucester March 3, 1819. After
the War of 1812 Captain Evans was engaged in the West India trade for some
years, and in 1835 joined the tide of emigration that brought him to the banks
of the Mississippi. He first bought a farm near Bloomfield, twelve miles from
Quiney, but was soon discouraged by the loneliness of the place and the home-
sickness of his family and removed to Quiney. Learning of the presence of
a Ma.ssachusetts family in that locality, Edward Wells rode out to call at their
country home. It was then he first saw young 'Slary Evans. She was barely
sixteen, slender, fair, with waving masses of soft dark hair, a dimpled smile
and a reticent manner. Captain Evans bought a house on the corner of Eighth
and Hampshire streets in Quiney, and there Edward Wells and Mary Evans
were married. After boarding for a time Mr. and Mrs. Wells had their first
independent home in a small house near the corner of Sixth Street and Broad-
way. Several years later they moved to a substantial brick house at 408 Jersey
Street and about 1860 moved to 421 Jersey Street, the home where he died.

His wife, Mary, survived him less than two years, passing away March
27, 1894. Her death also came suddenly, from heart disease. Of her the famil,y
biographer has written :

"Mary Wells was distinctively a home woman. To her immediate familj'
and a narrow circle of relatives and friends she gave herself with devotion.
She was interested in what was going on in the world and in her home nook
informed herself of affairs and gave utterance to very decided opinions con-
cerning them. Her charities, which were large, were dispensed without osten-
tation, as were those of her husband; and that she saw the woes and needs of
humanity even more clearly than he did was evidenced by the fact that she
frequently told him where to bestow his bounty. Too proud to disclose the need
of SA-mpathy, she hid personal loss and sorrow as well as personal gain and
joy under a quiet exterior, giving the careless observer the impression that
she lacked in sensibility. Only those who knew her best ever measured the
depths of her feelings. She was shy of thanks, but took delight in seeing her
gifts used and appreciated. She helped to build the structure of her hus-


band's prosperity by self denial and faithful administration of home affairs.
One of the organizers of the Unitarian Church in Qnincy, she was for nearly
sixty years quietly active in maintaining its interests and extending its influ-
ence. Her creed, like that of her church, was to be sincere and do good."

The children of Edward and ilarj- Wells were : Eliza Ann, born July 2,
1838, died April 29, 1839 ; Mary Eliza, born ilareh 22, 1840, died September
20, 1854; Edward, born December 21, 1841, died November 3, 1849; Harriet,
born February 28, 1844, died April 14, 1846; George, born August 22, 1846,
whose life record is told in other paragraphs; Frank, born March 28, 1849,
for thirty years a prominent business man of Chicago ; Ella, born November
10, 1852, mari'ied James Russell Smith, a leading figure in business and poli-
tics at Quincy for many years; and Kate, born June 22, 1857, who married
William Russell Loekwood.

George Wells, long prominent in iiuancial and business affairs at Quincy,
and associated with Major James Adams as mortgage bankers, is the oldest
living child of the late Edward Wells.

He was born August 22, 1846, at Quincy, on the site of the present armory.
He attended private schools in his native town to the age of thirteen, and was
then put in school at Kingston, Massachusetts. He has always led a very active
life and though now past the age of three score and ten has every appearance
of the man of fifty. At the age of sixteen he entered his father's pork packing
establishment and remained in that line of business until 1879. From 1869 to
1876, during the summer months he also manufactured canned goods and pickles.
From 1880 to 1886 Mr. Wells was in the grocery business, but in the latter
year formed his partnership with Ma.ior Adams under the name Wells & Adams,
mortgage bankers. About 1860 his father had bought the present Wells Build-
ing, which was erected in 1856 at the corner of Main and Fifth streets. This
building was subsequently remodeled by George Wells, and it is now his office

Mr. Wells inherits his father's interest in the republican party as well as his
aversion to holding political office. He is oiie of the prominent Masons of the
city, serving as Master of Quincy Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted ^lasons,
in 1888-89, and for a number of years was eminent commander of El Aksa
Commandery of Knights Templar. He has also served as a trustee of the
Anna Brown Home for the Aged and is a trustee and official for the Woodland
Home for the Friendless and Orphans. In 1909 Mr. Wells built a beautiful
home on Twentieth Street, where he has a spacious house surrounded by ample
gi-ounds, one of the homes that give dignity to a beautiful residential section.
Mr. Wells and all his family are members of the Unitarian Church.

August 29, 1869, at New York, George Wells married Sarah Jane Castle,
only daughter of Dr. Edward G. Castle of Quincy. Doctor Castle and wife
were both born at Carlisle, England, and came to Quincy in 1849. Doctor
Castle was a well educated and trained physician in English schools and institu-
tions, and was regarded as one of the foremost ph.ysicians and surgeons of the
city for many years. During the war he was busily engaged in local hospital
service. Doctpr Castle died in September, 1880, at the age of sixty-five. He
married Jane Carrick, who survived him about ten years. She was of a fine old
English family, her father, David Carrick, having been an English banker.

Mr. and Mrs. George Wells had eight children, four of whom are still living.
Edward Castle Wells, the oldest, born June 27, 1871, was educated in ilassa-
ehusetts from the age of fourteen, graduating from the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology in 1892 and receiving his degree in mechanical engineering before
his twenty-first birthday. For a number of years he was connected with the
firm of Wells & Adams, mortgage bankers at Quincy, biit in the fall of 1913
moved to Dayton, Ohio, and has since been head of the Piatt Iron Works of that






city. He married, October 17, 1S95, Mary Caroline Brookings, of Boston, and

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