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The Wells, or Welles, family, in England, is of very ancient origin, clearly traceable back, it is claimed, to the time of the Norman conquest. About 1635 several families of that name (which was then sometimes spelt Wells, but oftener Welles) emigrated from England to Massachusetts. Some of these families remained in the eastern part of that State, others went to Rhode Island, others to Hartford and other towns in Connecticut, and still others to Hatfield and Hadley, in the western part of Massachusetts. So that we find at a very early day — before 1660
persons bearing that name in many towns of New England. It is probable that (1) Thomas Wells of Ipswich was the earliest emigrant of that name who settled in this country. He came as early as 1635, and perhaps a year earlier. Savage, in his Genealogical Dictionary of New England, states that he came in 1635, on the “Susan and Ellen,” from London, with young Richard Saltonstall, when thirty years of age. Mr. D. W. Hoyt, of Providence, R. I., has published the genealogy of his third son, Thomas (N. E. Gen. Register, vol. 12, page 157), and I have endeavored in these pages to trace as well as I could, especially through the earlier generations, the descendants of his second son, John; and I hope some other person will do the same in regard to the descendants of his eldest son, Nathaniel.
The following interesting article is copied from the New England Genealogical Register, vol. 4, pages 11 and 12, and some of its erroneous statements are hereafter noticed :
Thomas Wells was one of the earliest English inhabitants of Ipswich. He took the Freeman's oath at Boston, May 7, 1637. He had a house lot granted to him in 1635, on the south side of the river, near where the Stone Bridge now is, and afterwards, in 1638, “planting lands” near 6 Heart-break Hill.” He probably came from Essex, England, having had relatives at Colchester, in that County, at the time of his decease in 1666. He married Abigail, a daughter of William Warner, sister of Daniel and John Warner, all of them people of consideration among the first settlers. He left three sons, Nathaniel, the eldest, John, and Thomas; and five daughters, Sarah Massie, of Salem, Abigail Tredwell, of Ipswich, Elizabeth, Hannah, and Lydia. The last named became Lydia Ropes before the decease of her mother in 1671. Nathaniel, the eldest son, with his wife Lydia, continued to reside in Ipswich until after the decease of his mother, who bequeaths to him the “flax now growing.” He was probably father of Nathaniel, who was born 1669, and died at Ipswich October 13, 1717, who was father of Capt. Nathaniel, who was born April 24, 1699, and died May 27, 1790. The Rev. Jonathan French, of North Hampton, in an article in the Genealogical Register, volume 1, page 43, states that the Rev. Nathaniel Wells, minister, of Deerfield, New Hampshire, was “ son of Deacon Nathaniel Wells, whose father was also Deacon Nathaniel Wells, who removed to Wells, Me., from Ipswich, Mass., and who was a son of Deacon Thomas Wells of Ipswich.” I suspect that there is an error here, and that the first Dea. Nathaniel Wells, of Wells, was son of John, second son of Thomas of Ipswich, who married Sarah, daughter of Francis Littlefield, and settled in Wells, which received its name from this family, having previously been called Preston. His father transferred to him, by a deed of gift, all his lands in that place, being about three hundred and fifty acres. To Thomas, the youngest son, the father, by his will, dated July 3, 1666, bequeaths two hundred and fifty pounds sterling, to be paid him “when he come to the age of 22 years, 4 months and 10 days.” By the same instrument, it appears that he was born “11th 11th mo., 1646,” or January 11, 1647, of the present style. Why this precise period was fixed on for the payment of the legacy does not appear. Is it possible that the good Deacon could have dabbled in astrology? He also provides for the contingency of his son's "goeing to the colledge," and bequeaths to him “all the books I bought for his use, and my phissic books, and the books called orthodox evangelist.” Two books which would probably come under the latter description, “ The Soul's Preparation for Christ,” and “Parkins upon the Creed,” he had given to his daughters.* From this bequest of “phissic books,” the inference is drawn that he was a physician.f The evidence is not quite conclusive, yet I know of no other. The books were appraised at £8 6s. 3d., a respectable medical library for those days. This was probably the Thomas Wells who, according to Farmer, was the first minister of Amesbury, ordained in 1672, and died July 10, 1734, aged eighty-six. If so, he was eighty-seven years and six months old at the time of his decease.
From the above, and from the will of (1) THOMAS WELLS' of Ipswich, our first ancestor in America (Appendix, pages 3 to 12), and other evidence, it appears that he married Abigail, the daughter of William Warner (but whether in England or this country I cannot state), and had children, viz. :
NATHANIEL, born died December 15, 1681. He
married, October 29, 1661, Lydia Thurlley, and had
ABIGAIL, born in 1662.
\ I Masterbro
aniel (2), his children are not numbered. (3) II. JOHN, born
—, died in Wells April 11, 1677(4) III. SARAH," born
married John Massie, of Salem. (5) IV. ABIGAIL,” born married, June 19, 1661, Nathaniel
Tredwell, of Salem. (6) V. THOMAS,” born January 11, 1647, died July 10, 1734. (7) VI. ELIZABETH, born married Burnam. (8) VII. HANNAH, born (9) VIII. LYDIA, born — married, March 25, 1669, John Ropes,
of Salem. The relative ages of the children I judge from the order in which
*Not correctly stated. See Appendix, pages 4 and 8.
fIn his will, and in several deeds, he is styled a " yeoman," from which I infer that he was not a physician.
C. K. W.
they are named in their father's will, and from other facts therein stated.
The first Dea. Nathaniel Wells, of Wells, was not the son or grandson of Dea. Thomas Wells, of Ipswich, as above stated, but the son of Thomas Wells, who was the son of John Wells, the second of Thomas Wells of Ipswich, as will hereafter appear. (See nurnber 20.)
I find no evidence that the Town of Wells received its name from the family. On the contrary, it was called Wells in Thomas Gorges' deed to the Rev. John Wheelwright, made in 1643, which was long before any person of that name had his residence there. It probably received its name froin the old town of Wells, in Norfolk County, England. We find in Wells no person of that name before 1657. On the 29th day of June, 1657, Thomas Wells of Ipswich purchased of William Symonds 200 acres of upland and 15 acres of meadow, having a dwelling - house standing upon the same." (Vol. 10, page 91, York Co. Registry.) About this time it is supposed John, second son of Thomas Wells of Ipswich, went to Wells. A few years later both his brothers, Nathaniel and Thomas, bought and sold lands in the town of Wells, as appears from the records of York County. These records afford strong evidence that his brother Thomas was the Rev. "Thomas Wells, minister, of Amesbury,” though the identity has been sometimes questioned. In a conveyance of land to him, made January 8, 1667, he is described therein as “ Thomas Wells, Jun', of Ipswich, Essex County, Mass."; and when, on the 9th of August, 1689, he conveyed the same land to Nicholas Cole, he is described in his deed of conveyance as
Thomas Wells, of Amesbury, minister.” The Probate Record of York County Court reads thus: “Nathall Wells of Ipswich, ad Tho: Wells of Amesbury, ad Saraih Sayer, late wife of John Wells, deceased, are hereby appoynted joint administrators to ye estate of the aforesaid John Wells.” On the 4th of December, 1677, the above order was annulled ; and on the 2d of July, 1678, the first order was reinstated and confirmed by an order of the said County Court, which contains the following recital: " Wras, there was an order of the County Court, 6 Noveb', '77, for the settling of John Wells, his estate, of
Wells, deceased, wřby Nathall Wells ad Thomas Wells, minister, of Amesbury, with Saraih, the relect of ye sayd John Wells, w appoynted joint administrators y'of; wch County Court order, upon some considerations by the Court of Assotiate, 4th Decebr, '77, was made null,” etc. (Appendix, p. 16.) The above appointment was made without notice, which could not have been done unless the persons appointed were next of kin, and entitled to the administration. Moreover, the first order of appointment above mentioned was reinstated and confirmed, at the instance of Nathaniel and Thomas Wells, on the 2d of July, 1678; and on that day Nathaniel “ renounceth administration of John Wells, his brother's estate, wch the Court accepts off.” This left the administration of the estate to Thomas Wells and Sarah Sayer. Now it is not at all likely that the minister of Amesbury would come to Wells to administer on an estate of £352 8s. 6d. unless he was a near relative of the decedent, and felt a deep interest in the maintenance and education of his children. Hence I think the records above referred to prove conclusively that Thomas Wells, minister, of Amesbury, was the third son of Thomas Wells of Ipswich.
JOHN WELLS (3) married Sarah Littlefield, who was the daughter of Francis Littlefield, of Wells, and was born Nov. 16, 1649. They were probably married about 1664 or 1665, and not as early as 1660, as stated by Savage in his N. E. Genealogical Dictionary. They were married some time before the 31st of July, 1666, as appears by the reference to her and her father, in his father's will of that date. He died the 11th of April, 1677, as appears by the inventory of his estate in the Probate record of the administration of his estate. " The old lot upon which he lived” was, at the time his estate was divided among his children,- April 3, 1702,- bounded on the northeast by land of Benjamin Curtis, and on the southwest by land then in possession of Mr. John Wheelwright, and was assigned to his son John as a part of his share of his father's estate.
He left four children, who were living at the time of the partition of his estate, on the 3d of April, 1702 (York Co. Registry, vol. 6, p.