Wells Family Genealogy

The study of my Family Tree

April 25, 2010 Memoir of Dorothy P. Wells Van Sickle April 25, 2010

Been a busy weekend.  Guess I missed posting for a couple of days but I’m back.   I visited with one of my cousins who gave me some new information.  She said that her dad told her that my Great Grandfather, John Kranz had two brothers named Stefan (Stephan) and Frederick.  So the Kranz name here in America may not have died out after all.  More investigation is needed to find these Kranz brothers.  I did a preliminary search on ancestry.com but seems like it won’t be an easy task.  She also told me that her brother has a son so there is another male Geoghan child to help carry on the name.  Yeah!  Happy news.

So today I thought I would share the memoir that my great-aunt Dorothy Pauline Wells Van Sickle wrote.  I remember Aunt Dot.  She lived in Rockaway, NJ and we used to go visit her pretty often.  We lived in Wading River, NY out on Long Island.   Dorothy passed away February 4, 1976, when I was about 5 and a half years old.   She was the last of her siblings to pass away. 

 Dorothy Pauline Wells Van Sickle
My Great Aunt, Sister of my Grandfather Elliott Wells, Daughter of William Rogers Wells & Pauline Stillman.  Here are two of my favorite pictures of Dorothy.

Things I Remember
By Dorothy Pauline Wells Van Sickle

Russell and Lydia Wells, parents of Jonathan, Thomas R., Randall and Silas, Jonathan and Thomas were mill owners of the Ashaway Woolen Mills, Bethel Mills, and Clark Falls Mills.
Wells property along the Ashawaug River and the land east of the river was donated to the Town for the Oak Grove Cemetery.  Therein lie the graves of Russell and Lydia.  The custodian of the cemetery has the Original Map (Clare Crandall) also, the grave of Jonathan and Martha Ann Rogers, his wife, who came from Quaker Hill, Conn. to work in the mill. 

They had 4 children:  Sylvia, Everett, Melissa, Mattie, Willie.   Jonathan was a kind considerate courageous man from my father’s point of view and judging from the strict way my father brought us up, yet tender and loving and full of care especially to the ill or competent.  Jonathan died in 1864, during the Civil War. 

Willie was 9 years old.  He told us how his father once gave him a cigar to smoke and let him try and it made him deathly sick.  He did not try again till he was a man.  The death of his father was the reason Martha could not carry on the business and sold the Ashaway mill to the Brigges.  The Clarks Falls mill was sold; the Bethel mill was kept till I was a little girl.  This, my father ran when he was of age.  Everett died at the age of 19.  The two girls Melissa and Mattie died young of Tuberculosis, also my grandfather and grandmother.  They lived in the old Red House (Greenman).  In 1855 my father (was) born there.   My grandfather had built this lovely Italian style home of 22 rooms with halls and pantries included and a cupola and a piazza that went all the way around.  It is a copy of a home in Groton.  The third floor had a mansard roof.  It sat on 4 acres, had a workshop under which was the woodshed of a wagon house and a corn crib within the 4 acres which were enclosed by a stone wall on the north, east and south and up to the driveway a big wooden gate.  There was a 2 ft. granite block to keep out huge rats from the (barn) and barnyard.  A 2 ft stone wall to which was attached a flat topped fence, 2 gates for the circle driveway that led to huge granite steps to the side porch both for the front door and back door with its own granite steps and walk the piazza at the kitchen door.  I remember the water closet (as my father always called it) between the workshop and the wagon house.  It was a 3 seater with a small seat at the right and a Sears, Roebuck catalog for reading for the youngsters, a tin roof the same as the piazza on top of which was a big house, the replica of the big house with doors for 4 families.  A five foot arch trellised to the W.C. over which ran a grape vine and hid the entrance.  Between the W.C. and the wagon house were lilacs and other garden perennials.  In the circle, were two Normandy spruces (carefully we’d climb to the top to be equal to the top of the house).  Here we had a hammock between the spruces.  We had an Arborvita at the back door and one wall and wagon gate, a Maple and wisteria around the back door on the side, and the tree at the corner the fence was a spruce also.  There were three elms in the front by the fence.  On either side of the front granite slab walk was a horse chestnut tree at the left from the front door and a sweet fringe tree. (The like of which I never saw except in the N.Y. Botanical Gardens).  Pear orchards at the side of the house, and apple orchard in back, –Baldwin, Red Astricans, Pound Sweetings, Russet, Johathans, Snow in the Spring, bowers of flowers and fragrance from the blossoms, asparagus in the spring, strawberries in June are some of the things I remember.

Jonathan was a Colonel in the Dorr Rebellion to get a vote for all rather then just the landlords.  He had a lot of tenement houses on Knight Street and up the Bethel Mill.  He was called Colonel Wells ever after.  He had the First National Bank in Ashaway and was head of it.  (He must have had too many irons in the fire; ran himself to death).  That left Martha with the mills to dispose of, except the Bethel Mill, 48 acres besides the 4 on which the house and buildings were built, the old Red House, cow barns, fields for corn, potatoes, pumpkins, hay in the south field, and wood lots, east to the top of the hill where the old Indian burial ground was (so they said, might have been early settlers).  The original tract granted by the King extended from Kingston to the Wellstown Bridge on the Ashawaug River. 

Back in the 17th century, Wells’ lived on either side of the river.  Uncle Randall and Uncle Silas both lived on the west side.  Jonathan and Silas’ son, Wallace, on the east side.  Bethel Mill was on the southwest, a row of tenements for the mill workers, west of the river.  I do not know how it got divided.  Ashaway is a nice little town with a Seventh Day Baptist Church a block from our house.  Martha was a Quaker, but helped support the church in every way and we all grew up in that church atmosphere, a rich inheritance.  Friday night, Prayer meeting. Sabbath School, Church services, (Junior) Christian Endeavor, Senior Christian Endeavor; 5 services.  At sundown we didn’t play or have a good time for the Sabbath began Friday at Sundown and ended Saturday at sundown.  We were never allowed to play games till after sundown.  We could take walks, or papa would take us for a ride in the surrey or in the sleigh.  My grandmother had a brougham in which she sat back with a head sized parasol (which we children loved to play Victoria with, an angle to make it turn to suit her fancy, fascinated us till we broke it after her death).  She had a special horse, Old Dan, that she hitched to a buggy.  I remember going with her on the stage coach (like the west) driven by “big old black Bill Johnson” who had size 14 shoes; he was so big I remember because I got my fingers pinched in a door.  We went to Westerly and got the train to New London to go up to Quaker Hill to visit her twin Uncle Williams, at her old house.
I remember going down stairs to visit with Grand Ma, to sew pieces of rags an inch wide together to make a ball for rag carpet.  We also played Parcheesi, checkers and backgammon.  Then I remember eating with her; apple sauce in thumbnail glass dishes and scurrying up the dark stairs of the front hall.  I remember sitting on the little step in the kitchen that led up into our back stair and the happy face of Uncle Williams coming in her back door.  Skip and I used to peer in her windows:  she scolded us for that saying it was not nice, come inside instead. (We had gone around the whole porch doing just that at every window, thinking it was smart).  I remember going to church with my grandmother, sitting in the front seat and her partaking of the wine from one big cup that every one put to his lips a day before the individual glasses that I drank from after I was baptized and joined the church).  My grandmother had pneumonia and Papa was with her day and night- a good son.  Papa shed tears at the funeral; they ran down his cheeks (the only time I saw my father cry, except at my mother’s funeral).  Martha was 77 when she passed away.  Papa used to take us to the woods and gather wild flowers and grasses, perennials that made lovely old fashioned bouquets which we put in the boys cart in latter days and went to put them on the graves.  In season, Papa carried flowers up to the cemetery every week, after Grandma died.
The house was light blue, with a piazza all the way around, a red tinned roof, a mansard shingled third floor, 10 dormers and the cupola a flight of stairs around against the cupola, where we could sit and look over hill and town, two chimneys at right and left and below on the second floor over the dinning room and kitchen and pantry was another chimney.  We kids loved to go up and even climb down on to the tin roof below by the mansard shingled dormer in back.  Father forbad us saying we would dent the tin roof and railing around the sides and back and we walked that.  In back a drop of 18 ft never phased us but must have scared our mother speechless.  The boys, Bill and Skip taught me to look ahead, not down on all the fence walks, house or yard.  Granite steps led down to the back yard and garden and to the entrance of the basement (besides from the kitchen door down inside).  The basement had a wooden floor, cupboards for preserves, a shelf along a raised section on which were 5 or 6 barrels for apple vinegar, more shelves with empty glass jars for preserves, a 6 foot wooden bath tub that was used by my grandfather, my Papa told me, and work bench and a sink. Beyond on the stone ledge was the furnace and closed off was a dirt floor where we kept potatoes, carrots, parsnips, barrels of apples, too, in the dark vegetable cellar.
To get to the house we had a stone flag walk or a flagstone walk to the two door entrance, using the right, the hall at the left, the music room with its two baby grands, (Mothers and grandmothers).  Grandmother’s was removed for we used to sing to the Knabe, Mama playing.  Papa singing baritone, grand roue, and the children joining in).  The music room had a marble fireplace and a black iron grill and protector, and a long black horse hair sofa and chairs with carved rosewood backs, a tip-top table and screen of three sections (paintings of Aunt Eleanor’s Hollyhocks, Thistles and Wild Flowers).  We practiced there, Orpha more than the rest.  She had the gift of music in her voice and fingers.

On either side of the fireplace was a picture of Jonathan and Martha.  On the north wall hung Mother’s Cala Lilly, later The Milkmaid painting.  The three windows were shaded by dark green shades and lace curtains.  The carpet was a pale green with pink roses in the center and around the border.  Between the window hung the mirror (that I have in the step down room).  My grandmother was laid out in that room.  When Florence and Elliot had it they made it into a Tea Room – -The Singing Kettle.

At the right of the hall was the sitting room, a mahogany square table in center, crystal lamps over head, rocking chairs at each window and between there were a marble top table, over which hung a square mirror hand painted wood and a diamond shaped mirror with pink roses.  Bank of mother’s chair, a radiator over which hung Mother’s painting of the H. O. Walkers Sheepwashing in Brittany.  Father’s desk beside the sewing room (this room had been my grandmother’s bedroom, where she died, when I was 7.)  A yellow plush reclining sofa under the mantle piece on which in the center was a clock with an iron horse on top and at either end a Dresden shepherd and shepherdess.  Over the mantle was mother’s painting of a robin’s nest with 3 eggs on an apple blossom branch.
The third door led into the dining room with six doors, two were cupboards, one by the radiator, a book cupboard, the one beyond the two windows under which was a couch, a two way cupboard for the dishes by which we could set the table.  The North room was a store room.  This was the bathroom for Jonathan and still contained a wash basin with a tank for water which ran into a commode, a forerunner of today’s toilet.  The kitchen was big.  A wood box at left, stove cupboards, shelf for lamps which had to be cleaned and filled daily, window , kitchen sink, door the pantry (as big as some present day kitchens).  Up stairs was a pump to save going after water.  The well was just outside the kitchen door.  This ran dry sometimes and we would have to cart water from the old Red house.  We lived up over Grandmother from the time Forest was born.  Everett and Sylvia were born there.  Father was Agent for the mill and for a time they lived in Plainfield, NJ.  Then when Orpha was born, they lived at High Bridge, NY (where Yankee Stadium now is).  Sylvia remembered that Mother was pushing the baby carriage with Everett and she hanging onto the sides with their Great Dane beside them, when an elephant from the Manhattan side broke loose from the circus and came charging toward the bridge.  They fled back across.  Bill was born here.  When the family came back to Ashaway they lived in the Liza Taylor house up stairs.  Grandmother must have taken pity on them for Forest was born in the upstairs apartment, so was I (Dorothy), Nat and Elliot.  After Jonathan moved into the new blue plastered house the old Red house was a boarding school for 2 years, then the Academy was built (now the parish house for the town).  The Academy lasted 12 years (Alan Palmeter was the principal – Father’s life long friend).  Then the town took it over for a Public School.  At the time of the Academy, Grandmother and Willie Rogers, Grandmother’s twin brother’s son, same age as Father. Grandmother’s twin named Williams Rogers (after his mother’s family related to Roger Williams).  Father’s full name was Williams after Uncle Williams, her twin.  John Holdredge, Rachel’s son lived there and went to school.  Rachel was Martha’s sister, I think.
Grandmother had a cottage in the Ashaway Beach at Quonacantaug and in Florida.  She sent Aunt Sylvia to a finishing school (Miss Garrots School for Girls in Boston).  At 18, Sylvia had a big church wedding to Elliot Salisbury, a dentist and who died of TB shortly after the marriage.  Sylvia lived to the age of 33, died in the fall, shortly after my father and mother were married, August 4, 1880.

My father was sent to New York DeRuyter Academy at the age of 14.  He had grown to his full height 6 ft and was very slim.  He was encouraged to run for exercise.  Grandmother was afraid of TB.  He ran each day, first to the gate and back then down the lane to the bars of the cow lane, then to the brook then to the top of the hill or woodland.  He strengthened his lungs.  I imagine he kept it up till he was thru school.  Then he was sent to Alfred University, a Sabbaterian College.  He was a good student.  He said he had geometrical problem, he worked and worked on, went to sleep, woke up with the whole thing solved correctly, got up and wrote it down.  He knew Pauline at Alfred but did not date her.  She was engaged to Charles White, who later went to Florida and committed suicide.

Mother went to places with her sister Amelia (who for 16 years was head of the Art Department at Alfred), Chicago, Washington, New York, Boston to study the masters and to copy their works as a technique.

Pauline and William

My mother did not meet my father at the World’s Fair – the centennial 1876 at Phila.  She went there with Aunt Amelia Stillman.  She was 22 then.  Father went to the Centennial with a group of young men about his age (22) by boat from Westerly R.I.  They had hired a boat to go by the Sound then thru the Raritan River and Canals to Philadelphia – a memorable jolly occasion.  Then when Aunt Amelia took Mother to Boston to copy great artists, they stopped on their way back to Ashaway:  William proposed and they were married in August 4, 1880.  Mother got her wedding clothes at New York, a lovely grey heavy silk with cream satin embroidered trimming and a long train.  She was a beauty always, tall, carried herself so like a queen, a real lady.

Mother’s family lived in a lovely old home in Alfred, New York.  It had a big kitchen with an exit onto a lovely garden above the brook a sloping hill in back on top of which was a sugar bush.  I think her father, Phineas Stillman must have owned the whole section ¼ mile above, for Uncle Albert Stillman lived up there and next to his place was an apple orchard.  Greenings were sent to us from it.  Mother owned that lot and Bill inherited it.  The only property he claimed and sold after mother’s death.  My mother’s father was Phineas, who married Orpha Crandall, her one sister married a Post of Post Toasties fame and Amanda Crandall who married a Prescott, Episcopal minister in Newport, R.I. when he died later married William C. Burdick, an old sweetheart who wife died.

The children of Phineas and Orpha were Amelia (talented artist), she taught art at Alfred for 16 years.

Albert who ran a farm, married Celestia, had two sons, Luin and Clarke.

Eleanor, who went to Kentucky and the age of 16 to teach, met a young Captain in the Northern Army, who escorted her with other to get North to Chicago, even hiding in the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky which was then during the Civil War used as an underground railroad.  Aunt was so offish with this Captain Allan Ellsworth who boarded in the same house with her that the lady of the house told her if she was not more polite to the man she could board somewhere else.  Uncle Ellsworth was a prisoner of war at Andersonville for two years.  This ruined his health yet Aunt Ella said he was such a wonderful man, never complaining.  They had been married during, had a military wedding with swords crossed under which the bride and groom walked from or to the alter in the Seventh Day Baptist church in Alfred.  He was a Colonel at the end of the war and she always called him Colonel Ellsworth.  I know more of her because she helped my family. 

Bill lived with her 1906-1912.  For two years she, Bill and Forest together, for Forest went to Alfred from 1910-1914, she wanted all the children to get a college education and was glad to help the two boys who in turn worked to help her.  She had me come my first year at Alfred, as Forest was there.  We washed and cleaned, did dishes, etc. to help us.  Then my junior year, she had me again as her health was better.  Sylvia came to help her as did Ella and Clark.  Sylvia had to quit as she had a breakdown.  I was living at the Senior House that year, got engaged and Aunt Ella gave a birthday party for me and showed she was better.  When she was sick in the Hornell Hospital, Mother insisted that I should go up and see her instead of coming home for Christmas.  She was 34 when she died.

The third daughter was Mary, who was a musician and taught music pupils.  Some over in Wellsville.  She married a widower Mr. Brown, a conductor on the Erie Railroad, had two children Mable, a teacher in New York City who often came to visit R.I.  She married and had a son Ezra Merrill who now lives near Boston.  And a son William Brown a tailor who inherited the old house and was a favorite of students.  They took him to NYC on a happy holiday.  He was so kind to so many there.

 Williams was a very courteous gentleman, a servant of the community. He worked at a business mens club held ever the post office. He took a painting mother’s “California Sunset” as part of the decoration. He was a man folks could lean on. When any man was sick, folks came to have him stay nights with men like old Elder Stillman, Art Bailey, whom both Pastor Clayton Burdick and Father attended and when Art was so weak Father Went outdoors and came back in and said to Pastor Burdick

“Put on your over­coat and we will open the windows wide and give him a good breath of air”  They did and Art began to breath naturally again. When old black Bill Johnson, who was lamp lighter for the town street lights, when kerosene used in the light, he spilled the kerosene which caught his clothes on tire and burned him critically, Papa felt so bad. Then when Lloyd Crandall was sick with Pneumonia, his wife Mary said if only they could have gotten Mr. Wells, she was sure Lloyd would have lived. Papa would have made a wonderful Doctor. He nursed all the members of our family when we were sick, except when we kids had measles, whooping cough, and mumps. All four of us younger ones were put in my mother’s room whore she looked after us. Mother was sick, she would not let Father out of her sight for long. Sylvia had the same qualities as Papa in looking after sick people and became a practical nurse for years.

 Papa was a commissioner of roads and had a set—to with Mr. Frank Hill who wanted to run the town of Hopkinton and father withdrew from politics and at the time he withdrew from the church, he was so mad at Mr. Hill who ran the church.  Father could not stand seeing him get up and pray and be so sanctimonious.  Papa taught us all to be good, honest, trustworthy, clean minded boys and girls.  He was very stern and very strict.  We had to mind quickly, cheerfully, say yes sir and no sir, yes mam and no mam thank you, please, excuse me, from the dining table.  Chi1dren should be seen and not heard at the meals. He said. He always served my mother first. When we had company the boys put on coats. When father was working in New York, we kissed him goodbye and hello. He always said in me “Be a good girl” to all of us. Mind your mother. Everybody respected him. To see him and mother walkup the street people remarked “What a handsome couple”.  They walked arm in arm so tall and straight.  Beautiful people indeed, inside and out.

 I was so blesses to be a product of such good people and to have five brothers and 2 sisters who were full of living kindness and high principals.  Father spanked us seldom but when we needed it.  If we fought, Forest or I or Nat and I, Father made us kiss and make up.  I’d feel like biting them sometimes but I obeyed Papa. I remember only three spankings, one was sliding down the mahogany bannister, one climbing up the drawers to the top of the bureau and scribbling on the marble top, one swinging on his office gate. I can see that it was not the banister, the top of the bureau or the gate, but the danger involved his worry.  He always prefaced a spanking with “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you”.  The first spanking for Skip was after he took Elliot up the street at the age of two, and we were all hunting for the baby frantically when Skip came back from the walk.  Father got his razor strap and whipped him with all of the rest of us, Mother, Nat, even Elliott and me crying, but Skip never made a sound, Papa said if any one of us over got whipped at School he would get another whipping when he got home. Bill got a thrashing once but no one ever let Papa know,. we were afraid of Papa but he was the most gentle, considerate, loving man who did all he could to take care of his family, he was affectionate and kind. People who worked for him at the Mill had such high Praise for him, losing out for himself in his generosity to others.  A wonderful man.

 Corrine and Pauline were twins, the youngest of the family and naturally the big girls did many things for them. The daguerreotypes of then at two in cute dresses low necked and long, then later at eleven like little women, long and very full made them look adorable.  Jeanne Wells Winder has these pictures. Jeanne also had the pictures of Pauline in her wedding gown. Mother was married at 25. Corrine went to Emerson School of Elocution at Boston. At 38 she married John Rudiger, a Civil Engineer who had been in South America for some years and had worked on the Holland Tunnel, and lived in Floral Park where my mother also owned property. As mother needed extra cash, Uncle Jack sold some acreage for her, the need to put electric lights (which Nat with the help of Ray Chester, an electrician) did from cellar to attic.

 Mother had a happy childhood and traveled to Chicago, Boston, New York and Washington, Philadelphia. Aunt Corrinne went around giving elocution programs until she was 33 and when she married. Mother said all the sisters were gifted but she, I think she did all things well. She gave to her family and to Father the best of her life. Her Ideals were so high and she entered activities at home at school, at church. She attended school programs when no other parents did, she was proud of everything her children did and when Allan lived with his grandparents, She went to school to attend some special that the teacher put on, or if Allan were to do a special thing.  She worked with a cultural group, when Sylvia was little, for Sylvia said she would sit on the top stair and listen to the music that was being played or sung.  Then we had our own musical evening with Mother at the piano, Papa singing baritone and all of us singing along such songs as Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep.  Papa would sing way down low, Listen to the mocking bird, Jerusalem, The lost Chord, Down where the cotton blossom grow.  So many old songs. 

 We would all play bid wist. When Papa came home from New York, we could smell his cigar as we came in the door from prayer meeting. Saturday night Papa would always play games with us like Blind Mans Bluff, some go, come Hide and Seek and then cards with the grown ups.  Mama was Sabbath School Superintendent, President of the Ladies Sewing Circle, who helped make money for the Seventh Day Church.  Mother saw to it that we all went to the Sabbath School Church Junior Christian Endeavor Senior Christian Endeavor and Friday night Prayer Meeting and on time.  Mother would go ahead with the children for Papa would be after.  Some Sabbath afternoons Papa would take us for a ride in the surrey or sleigh.  Some time when Church came first and Sabbath School second, papa would get the meal.  He made a ground hash and a tasty soup, which had a delicious flavor.  Always he served Mama first then we the children.

 Papa was an old fashioned gent1eman always; considerate of Mama. He and Mama would walk up the street arm in arm.  People said they were such a handsome couple.  We had to say yes sir and no sir and yes mam and no mam to older people.  We could not talk at the dining table.  Children were to be seen and not heard.  Excuse me before we could leave the table.  We often had company and if the company was a minister, we had gravy.  I often think how my mother had to plan, cook and organize a meal.  Home made cakes, pies, bread, puddings, vegetables, meats, baked beans, Friday nights and Brown Bread, Oyster stew Sabbath morning chickens or roasts.  We all were brought up to help with the dishes, cleaning, cooking, care of lamps care of rooms, but Mother was the organizer and did so quietly we fell in place.  Our favorite meal was Rhode Island Johnnycakes and dried beef gravy with new potatoes.

We were so blessed to have such wonderful parents, good, kind and loving.


Come visit my website at www.FamilyHistoryDetectives.net and let us help you trace your family tree!


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