Wells Family Genealogy

The study of my Family Tree

March 24, 2011 – Bethel Mill, Ashaway RI March 24, 2011

Yes, I know, it’s been some time since my last post.  I’m in the process of moving to a new apartment.  I’ve been working on genealogy projects pretty steady but not on my own family much.  I’ve had some clients from my genealogical research business ( www.FamilyHistoryDetectives.net ) and also been helping my friend Jim on his family tree.  It’s funny when you trace the family tree of one of your oldest friends and find out your 13th cousins!  Especially when I grew up in New York and he grew up in Kentucky, we both now live in Orlando and our common ancestry lived in England.

It would be untrue to say that I haven’t been working on my family history at all.  I’ve been working on the German side of the family.  Filling in the blanks of the family in Bavaria. 

Today when I logged into my blog, I had a post from someone in response to a post I did back at the end of 2010 about the Wells family and the Bethel Mill.  Kris from Ashaway had some nice details to add to my entry. Thanks Kris for the great information.   I love to get comments on my blog.  Lets me know someone out there is really reading all this stuff I write!  Here is what Kris had to say:

Hi Jennifer!

Your photographs show the factory property known long ago as Bethel (64 High St., Ashaway) around 1905.

The property, most recently the factory of the Thames River Tube Co., sold at auction this past year for a little over $170,000.

In your photos, the portion of the building to the left of the main factory was built about 1849 and was taken down sometime in the 1910s. The main factory building in the views is still there, though substantially altered, but the little office is long gone.

The newspaper article in your 12/30/10 posting includes the basic facts of the Bethel factory. Here are a few more details it. The property belonged to Thompson Wells in the late 18th century and was part of a larger farm that extended into the present day town of North Stonington. The tract included a dwelling house built by the Wells family that still stands on Anthony Road in North Stonington.

William Arnold of Cumberland and Westerly RI acquired a small portion of this tract (6 1/2 acres) and established a blacksmith shop along the Ashaway River in 1816. He may have raised a dam at the site about 1816. (The previous owner of the parcel, Joseph Dodge Jr., may have made some of these improvements even before that date., but they aren’t mentioned in the land evidence records.) William Arnold briefly manufactured scythes and perhaps other agricultural tools there but sold out to Zebulon Stillman in 1822. Stillman may have occupied the property even before 1820. He likely continued operating the blacksmith shop there and probably also manufactured wagons on the site (he produced 12 wagons in 1820). He sold the property to Jacob D. Babcock in 1829. Babcock raised up a new dam at this site (perhaps the first dam) in 1836 and apparently also built a small factory there, at which time the locale acquired the name of Bethel. Since he was already operating a machine shop and factory across from his house in Temperance Valley (the present day Ashaway mill seat), Babcock leased the property to other manufacturers in the 1840s (including Rowse Babcock III and John T. Knowles).

 The factory burned in 1848, and Jacob D. Babcock built a new factory there before 1850. By that date, the property included also two tenement houses, a dye house, a cloth shop, and a blacksmith shop. He leased the property in 1850 to the firm of Babcock & Stillman (Asher M. Babcock and Welcome Stillman). They operated a woolen factory at Bethel for the better part of the next two decades (Welcome Stillman alone in later years).

 You already know about the Wells’ involvement in the factory in the years following the Civil War. As I mentioned above, the portion of the building at left in your photos (with the clerestory monitor roof) is the 1849 factory. The larger building at right was likely built at the turn of the 20th century, when the Ashaway Manufacturing Co. acquired the plant. In the early and mid 20th century, the Bethel factory was operated by the Wolff Worsted Co. and the Stillwater Manufacturing Co. I have similar photos of the factory as you do but none pre-dating 1900.

–Kris, Ashaway RI


13 Responses to “March 24, 2011 – Bethel Mill, Ashaway RI”

  1. Kris VanDenBossche Says:

    Hi Jennifer!

    The Bethel factory burned down last Sunday night (30 October 2011). Here are a couple of links relating to the incident:



    –Kris, Ashaway RI

    • jgeoghan Says:

      Well that stinks!! I really wanted to see it before it well…burned down. I really wanted to take some comparison photos of it. Anyone out there have any recent pictures of it?? Thanks for the news Kris.

  2. Betty Hamilton Says:

    I am interested in Charlotte Coggeshall Wells. Great pictures of her grave stone at the North Burial Ground in Providence. My 3rd great grandfather is a Peter Palmer Wells last known in Brome, Canada. Seems no one can find a burial site or death notice for him So no known mother or father for him, either. I have been trying to connect him to a RI Wells family because he married Abigail Sweet (father, Iasiah Sweet b NK, RI- family goes back to John Sweet & Eliz Jeffries) and no known marriage date. The Sweets are well documented. I can only find Peter Palmer Wells in Brome, Canada.My Peter Palmer Wells seems to have been born in late 1700s and died between 1800 and 1840s.
    Another researcher has put Peter Palmer down as Palmer Wells, son of Thompson and Eliz? Palmer. I haven’t made this connection. Did this Palmer stay in RI? Did he marry again? Did he ever live in Brome, Canada?
    I live in N Attle., MA. Betty Hamilton betty 7538@yahoo.com

    • jgeoghan Says:

      Palmer Wells Sr. (1771-1810) is the son of Thompson Wells and Elizabeth Palmer. Palmer Wells Sr. married Charlotte Coggeshall and had two children that I know of. They were Thompson Wells born 1 Aug 1796 and Elisha Coggeshall Wells Sr born 14 Feb 1798. I have no Peter Palmer Wells in my database. I don’t even have any Peter Wells’ in my database. Not a common name in the family it would seem. There are several Wells’ families in the US. Perhaps Peter Palmer Wells is related to the Wells family that is up in Maine (Wells, Maine is named after them)

      • Betty Hamilton, North Attleboro, MA Says:

        Thanks, so this Palmer Wells died in 1810. Did he die in RI? I believe the person who connected my Peter Palmer Wells to Charlotte Coggeshall was wrong in doing so. The dates don’t work for me. Peter Palmer Wells probably died in Brome, Canada. His wife, Abigail Sweet died about 1835 in Canada. I have tried to connect PP Wells to a RI Wells family. I did this because the Sweet family came from NK, RI. The Amos Sweet family left RI for Stephentown, NY before the Rev War. I appreciate your info.

  3. Marilyn Davis Says:

    it still could be the same Palmer Wells, PP Wells, the oldest child of Palmer Wells with Abigail Sweet that I have was born in 1804, after Charlotte Coggeshall passed away, I found this record in Vermont Vital Records

    1760-1954, Olive Dixon (1886)

    About this collection
    name: Olive Dixon
    event: Death
    event date: 24 Aug 1886
    event place: , , Vermont, United States
    gender: Female
    age: 77
    estimated birth year: 1809
    father: Palmer
    mother: Abigail Sweet
    spouse’s father:
    spouse’s mother:
    film number: 540083
    digital folder number: 004357185
    image number: 04928

    also I have a record where Palmer Wells (not P.P.) signed his name as a witness along with John Cooey at the marriage of Sally (Sarah) Cooey & Benjamin Washer at the Duham Church of England in Dunham, Brome Missisquoi Co., Quebec. 2nd of May 1827.

  4. Marilyn Davis Says:

    another of Palmer’s children got married at the age of 58, once again the names are Palmer & Abigail

    Vermont, Vital Records, 1760-1954,” Palmer Wells in entry for Palmer Wells and Catherine Wells (1881)
    name: Palmer Wells
    event: Marriage
    event date: 17 Feb 1881
    event place: , , Vermont, United States
    gender: Male
    age: 58
    estimated birth year: 1823
    father: Palmer Wells
    mother: Abigail Sweet/
    spouse: Catherine Wells
    film number: 540601
    digital folder number: 004148712
    image number: 04947
    Source Citation: “Vermont, Vital Records, 1760-1954,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XFWW-C9W : accessed 15 April 2012), Palmer Wells in entry for Palmer Wells and Catherine Wells (1881).

    • jgeoghan Says:

      I have no record of a Palmer Wells married to Abigail Sweet. I have Palmer married to wives: Charlotte Coggeshall and Susanna Perry. Palmer had a son Palmer but he died young.

      • Marilyn Davis Says:

        It was always said that it was Peter Palmer Wells married to Abigail Sweet but as we can see in the Vital Records it was Palmer Wells not Peter. It is quite possible that his full name was Peter Palmer but after 12 years of searching for Peter Palmer Wells and never finding anything to use as confirmation, I used Palmer Wells and came up with the records of Palmer and Abigail Sweet being the parents of Olive & Palmer Wells Jr.

        Name of Groom Wells, Palmer, Name of Bride; Wells, Catherine.
        Residence of Groom Montgomery, VT
        Date of Marriage. February 17 1881, age in years: 58 yrs no. of marriage: 2
        Place of Birth: Broome P. Que.
        Father’s Name; Palmer Wells, Mother’s Name; Abigail (Sweet)
        Name Party Officiating; Rev. G.C. Vail
        Town Montgomery Otis N. Kelton, Town Clerk

      • jgeoghan Says:

        Here’s a link to Palmer Wells wife Charlotte on findagrave: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=54357286
        Who is the father of the Palmer Wells you are talking about?

  5. Betty Hamilton, North Attleboro, MA Says:

    I have (all undocumented) PPWells and Abby having 8 children. Mary Ann I have no birth date but Eliz had a date of Jul 27, 1804 ( which doesn’t make too much sense to me). Anna, 1811, Olive 1816, Lydia, 1819, RR May 18, 1822, Palmer 1823 and Peter July 29, 1820.

    So Charlotte dies in 1801, Palmer marries Susannah Perry when? And this Palmer died in 1810 Where?

    Palmer Jr marries and the family with 10 children live in VT, born and married in Vt for the most part. I have a marriage date of Palmer & Catherine Wilson, f Filman Wilson and m Catherine unknown on Dec 30, 1845 in Brome, Canada.

    • jgeoghan Says:

      I believe there is mention of this family here: Ancestors and Descendants of Willima Browning Greene and Mary Hoxsie Lewis by William E. Wright, 1993, pg. 425

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