Wells Family Genealogy

The study of my Family Tree

22 Oct 2017: Charles A. Erbig: Not all that volunteered came home. October 22, 2017

While on my vacation up in Ashaway, RI, I came across these newspaper clippings about my first cousin twice removed, Charles A Erbig (1915-1942,) who died in the service of his country. Sadly, this story is probably similar for many other families. Charles had died but it took many long months for the family to be notified that missing in action really meant that he had died. I’ve seen movies about Japanese prisoner of war camps, but can they really compare to the reality of what Charles lived through? It seems unlikely.

Charles A Erbig

Charles’ father was my great grand-uncle, William Edward Erbig (1888-1961.) Charles, like so many of the Erbigs, was born in New Jersey (probably Jersey City.) The family shows up on the 1920 census in Jersey City, but by 1930, they had already relocated to Ashaway, RI to join the rest of the Erbig clan.

In 1937, Charles is mentioned in an article in the New London Day for his being a witness to a friend’s accident.

The Day (New London, CT) 9 Apr 1937
Paper Distributor Badly Hurt:
Reaching over the rear fender to take a paper from the rumble seat, Ellsworth Hall, 21, of Ashaway, who was delivering papers in White Rock, Westerly,fell from the running board of a friend’s automobile yesterday morning and was critically hurt.  Hall was delivering papers in Main street,White Rock, at 9:30 o’clock, on the running board of a roadster operated by Charles A. Erbig, 22, of Box 99, Ashaway, who told police that as the car passed Spring Brook road, he felt a shifting weight on the car’s springs and looking back, saw Hall sitting in the road.  Erbig told police that before he could reach the man, Hall got up and staggered to the roadside, where he collapsed.  Erbig and Alexander Dinwoodie, 16, of West Street, Ashaway, a passenger in the car, placed Hall in the machine and drove to the hospital. Dr. Michael H. Scanlon and Dr. Linwood H. Johnson found severe head injuries and cuts on both hands.  Hall was unconscious for more than three hours. Hospital authorities said this morning that his condition was slightly improved although his name is still on the danger list.  Erbig was questioned at police headquarters by Police Chief Robert Kessel, Sergt. LeRoy H Norman and Patrolman Benjamin R Vredenburg of Westerly and Inspector Walter F. Kendall of the state motor vehicle department.  He was released to appear again if summoned.

According to the enlistment records I found on Ancestry.com, Charles enlisted in the military a full year before WWII began:

US World War II Army Enlistment Records: (ancestry.com)
Charles A. Erbig … Birth year: 1914 … Born in: NJ … Residence: Washington Co., RI … Enlistment Date/Location: 23 Sep 1940, Providence, RI … Brance: Air Corps, Grade: Private … Terms of Enlistment: Enlistment for the Philippine Dept … Education: 3 years high school … Civil Occupation: Semiskilled inspectors, n.e.c. … Marital Status: Single, without dependents … Height: 64, Weight: 118

Sadly, he would be dead less than two years later.  Here’s the first article I found:

Dies in Jap Prison. Cpl. Erbig, Ashaway boy, died of malaria in a Japanese prison camp July 25, 1942, the War Department recently informed his father, William Erbig of 6 Palmer Street, Ashaway. He was with the Air Force at Nichols Field in the Philippines when the Japs attacked Pearl harbor. Hew as reported missing in 1942 and his family last heard from him in a letter dated Dec. 6, 1941.

For those of you a little foggy on your history, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor the day after they last heard from Charles, December 7, 1941.  Wikipedia had this photo from 1941 of Nichols Field where Charles was stationed:

From what I read online, it seems relations between the US and Japan had been in a downward spiral since 1940 and the US was beginning to position troops in their general vicinity. Charles’ placement in the Philippines was part of that prelude to war.

Here’s the longer article on his death:

Ashaway Boy Dies in Jap Prison Camp – Charles A. Erbig was reported missing in Action in 1942 – Unheard from since the attack on Pearl Harbor, the War Department announced yesterday that Cpl. Charles A. “Tuffy” Erbig, 31, son of William Erbig of 6 Palmer Street, Ashaway, died July 25, 1942 in a Japanese Prison of War Camp as the result of Malaria. 

A volunteer in the Army Air Ford, Cpl. Erbig was at Nichols Field in the Philippines when the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor. His family last heard from him in a letter dated Dec. 6, 1941, just one day before the attack.  Since then they had received no word from him and in 1942 the War Department announced that he was missing in action.

After three years and six months of hopeful waiting the War Department yesterday confirmed Mr. Erbig’s fears that his son was no longer alive in the following telegram:  “Am deeply distressed to inform you reports just received state your son, Cpl. Charles A. Erbig, who was previously reported missing in action, died July 25, 1942, in a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp, as a result of malaria. The Secretary of War asks that I express deep sympathy in your loss and regrets that unavoidable circumstances made necessary the unusual lapse of time in reporting your son’s death to you.” The message was signed by the acting adjutant general of the army. 

Erbig, an outstanding baseball player and all around athlete in Ashaway, volunteered for the army in 1939.  He was with the air force in the Philippines when the situation in the Pacific became tense. After the Japs took the Philippines he was never heard from again and the government listed him as missing in action in 1942, but never was notified that he was a prison of war.

He was a prominent baseball player with Ashaway and Bradford in the Twilight League, being chosen twice as the outstanding third sacker in the circuit.  He was also an amateur boxer and a fine golfer.

Erbig was born in Hudson City, N.J., May 26, 1914.  He moved to Ashaway when only a youngster and was educated in the Ashaway Schools. In addition to his father he leaves his stepmother, Mrs. William Erbig, a brother William Erbig Jr., and Arm transport pilot in China and two sisters, Mrs. Ada Church of 41 School Street, Westerly and Mrs. Elizabeth Kenyon of West Street, Ashaway. 

Here’s the best picture I have of the Twilight League Charles played with. It’s not very high res, so I apologize in advance.  Charles is kneeling in the front row, the second from the far right.



20 Oct 2017: What ever happened to the Carriage Manufactory? October 20, 2017

While on my vacation in Hopkinton, I went in search of the location of A.L. Wells & Co. According to their advertisement, they were the largest carriage manufactory in the state of Rhode Island.

It was located on Clarks Falls Road, just west of Main Street (Route 3) in Hopkinton City.  It was quite large and took up the lots of at least three or four of the current house lots you will walk past.

Here is the site of the manufactory today:

August Lewis Wells Sr. (the A.L. of A.L. Wells and Co.) lived in what we now call the Thurston Wells House, which is this lovely yellow house on Main Street in Hopkinton City.

When you’re standing on Clarks Falls Road looking at the site of the manufactory, if you turn around, you can see a side lane that leads right down to Augustus’ old barn.  You can see it as the yellow building way back there.

From the front page of the Narragansett Weekly 19 May 1859.   It reads: Wells Carriage Factory.  The above is a very correct view of the Carriage Factory of Messrs. A.L. Wells & Co., at Hopkinton City, R.I.  The main building is 112 by 23 feet, two stories high.  The wing is 35 by 19 feet, also two stories.  The sales rooms in the upper story of the main building is 86 by 23 feet and is kept stocked with every kind of wheel vehicle from a democrat wagon to a Prince Albert Rockaway.  The present proprietors have carried on their business in this place since 1850.  They employ generally about a dozen hands.  Their carriages are mostly sold in the vicinity, where a ready market is found.

Here is a new engraving of the factory and house I found.



18 Oct 2017: The Wheel on the Mill goes Round and Round … annoying the groundhog October 18, 2017

You’ll have to pardon my first attempts at video. I’m more of a photographer than a videographer.  Anyway, although the Old Town Mill  in New London is closed, I was able to get the city to open it up for me.  I’d never been inside, but wasn’t expecting much, but when Judy from City Hall met me, I got the grand tour!  She even turned on the wheel for me! Pretty awesome! The Old Town mill was originally operated by my Rogers family ancestor, John Rogers.

The inside is super cool! It has a two grind stones for grinding corn.  I visited two other grist mills on my trip but they were only single grinding operations.

Me in front of the Old Town Mill in New London.

As soon as you come in the front door, off the left is a platform.  Up top are the two grinding stones.  Down below are the gears and the big thing I can only describe as long and barrel-shaped that is the lever the wheel turns on the inside of the building.  (see video of that below)

Just inside the front door of the Old Town Mill

Grindstone #1 is in its housing.

Grindstone #2, not in housing

Judy showing me where they stored the corn that was to be ground in the mill.

Gears below the grind stones. Not operational yet. They’re waiting on a grant to raise the money to fix it next.

Most of the original mill burned down when Benedict Arnold burned New London, but some pieces of the structure they believe are original. If you look at the beam that runs along the ceiling, you can see how originally, it was post and beam construction, but when it was rebuilt, they didn’t use the notches, but laid new beams on top of the beams.

The exterior of the building and the flume have already been rebuilt by grant money.

The Flume

And now for the video.  First is of the wheel where it enters the building below the grind stones.

The mill … on.

Side view of the wheel.

The wheel and my little furry friend. I think he was annoyed we turned it on.

Want to see the mill operating for yourself? Check it out this Saturday. Sure with I was still in town to go.  Looks like a lot of fun.  If you go, let me know how it was.



17 Oct 2017: The definitive post on Rhode Island Cooking October 17, 2017

I’m really not sure who else would look through antique shops on vacation for cookbooks, but that’s something I did on my mine last week.  And … I hit pay-dirt! I also rummaged around a few libraries, historical societies and bookshops.  Here’s some of what I collected:

Let’s start with Johnny Cakes.

The earliest recipe I found was from 1796. Here they spell it “Johny Cake or Hoe Cake.” The recipe says:

  • Scald 1 pint of milk and put to 3 pints of indian meal and half pint of flower.
  • Bake before the fire, or scald with milk two thirds of the indian meal, or wet two thirds with boiling water.
  • Add salt, molasses and shortening.
  • Work up with cold water pretty stiff and bake as above.

Johnny Cakes – from American Cookery (1796)

Then there are the recipes straight from the grist mills.  I was able to get Kenyon’s Grist Mill and Carpenter’s Grist Mill. Note that Carpenter’s adds milk and Kenyon’s doesn’t.

Johnny Cakes – from Kenyon’s Grist Mill


Johnny Cakes – From Carpenter’s Grist Mill

An old photo of cooking Johnny Cakes at Carpenter’s Grist Mill

I found this local Ashaway cookbook in an antique shop.  It’s from 1987. It agrees with Kenyon because it doesn’t add flour.

Johnny Cakes – from the Ladies Aid Soc. of the 1st Seventh Day Baptist Church of Hopkinton, Ashaway, RI (1987)

I found two modern cookbooks as well that listed Johnny Cake recipes.  This one adds in baking soda and eggs.  Eggs seem a more modern ingredient as they were in the ones I ate at Bishop’s 4th Street Diner in Newport.

Johnny Cakes – from The Best New England Cookbook

This one favors buttermilk over regular milk and adds flour.

Johnny Cakes – from A New England Table

And now for the best cookbook I found, Echoes from South County Kitchens, published by The Farm Home & Garden Center, Wickford, RI. There’s no date in it to indicate exactly when it’s from but from my research I’d say either the late 1940’s or early 1950’s.

This book is AWESOME! Here are recipes from the “From the Grist Mill” section. It includes recipes for: Corn Meal Pudding, Rhode Island Johnny Cake, Old Rhode Island Johnny Cakes, Lippitt Hill Johnny Cakes, Elsie’s Johnny Cakes, Oven Johnnycake with Molasses, Custard Johnny Cakes, Apple Johnny-Cake and Narragansett Doughboys.

And now we can move on to Indian Pudding. Here’s what was included in Echoes of South County Kitchens.

Here’s the recipe for Indian Pudding from American Cookery, the 1796 cookbook.

Indian Pudding – from American Cookery (1796)

Here is the recipe for Indian Pudding I was able to procure from Kenyon’s Grist Mill.

Indian Pudding from Kenyon’s Grist Mill

Here’s the Indian Pudding recipe from the 1987 Ladies Aid Society cookbook from the First Seventh Day Baptist Church of Hopkinton, Ashaway, RI.

Indian Pudding from the Ladies Aid Soc. of the First Seventh Day Baptist Church of Ashaway

Here’s are two 1833 recipes for Indian Pudding from The American Frugal Housewife cookbook. One is baked and one is boiled.

Indian Pudding – from American Frugal Housewife (1833)

Here are three more versions of Indian Pudding from The Best New England Cookbook.

Three Indian Pudding recipes from The Best New England Cookbook.

I was able to find one restaurant that was still open this late in the season where I could try Indian Pudding and it was fabulous! It was on the menu at George’s in Galilee, Rhode Island.

George’s restaurant in Galilee, Rhode Island.

Narragansett Indian Pudding

It was warm and topped with home-made vanilla ice cream. I totally recommend you stop in and try some!

Echoes of South County Kitchens had one last jewel for me.  It has a recipe for Sea Moss Pudding! In all my searching on the internet, I was never able to really come up with one that was truly local to the Washington County area!

Sea Moss Pudding

Sea Moss Pudding

Let the moss soak in cold water to liberally cover it for 15 minutes, then pick it over carefully, and measure. For a quart of milk you will need 2/3 c. of the soaked moss, well packed down in cup.  Scald the milk over hot water, add the moss and cover, cook for 30 minutes, then pour thru strainer to remove the moss.  Add 1.4 tsp of vanilla or lemon extract. Pour into wet mold and chill.  Serve with sugar and cream, or with chilled cooked fruit.


Me, at the Gilbert Stuart House Grist Mill.








15 Oct 2017: Vampires in Rhode Island? There’s a grave to prove it. October 15, 2017

Filed under: Cemeteries — jgeoghan @ 4:34 pm
Tags: , , ,

Where does the writer of vampire novels (and a genealogist) go on her vacation? To visit the vampire grave of Rhode Island, of course!

Pilgrimage complete!

While researching odd and interesting places to visit in Rhode Island and Connecticut on roadsideamerica.com, I came across the vampire grave of Simon Whipple in Union Cemetery in North Smithfield, RI.

In memory of Simon Whipple, youngest son of Col. Dexter Aldrich & Margery his wife, who died on May 6, 1841, aged 27 years.  Altho’ consumption’s vampire grasp had seized thy mortal frame, ……. mind …..

We’ll never know exactly how the epitaph ends at some point in the past, his stone was set in concrete?  Why?  Was it because the stone had been knocked over and had to be set again?  Or was it perhaps because to keep something in the ground from getting out?  We’ll never know …

Simon and his siblings … all died aged 27 years …. odd …


******** UPDATE *********

Per the request of a reader, I’m attaching photos of the headstones of Simon’s siblings. Keep in mind that I know nothing about this family. I was only told these were his siblings by a North Smithfield person who was there volunteering with a local clean up crew in that area of the cemetery.  I thought it seemed odd that Simon Whipple would be their sibling since they were Aldrichs. – Jennifer

Marietta Aldrich

Abigail Aldrich Merry


14 Oct 2017: Death, Taxes and the Wells family. October 14, 2017

Old Ben Franklin was right when he said death and taxes were the only things certain in life.  While on my vacation I came across this small, paper booklet from 1855 listing the “Valuation of Taxable Property in the Town of Hopkinton” for the year 1855. Quite a few Wells family members on the list.

Here are all the Wells’ on the list:
Wells Horace: Real Estate $0 … Personal Estate: $300 … Total: $300 … Tax: $0.96
Wells Thomas R.: Real Estate $1200 … Personal Estate: $2000 … Total: $3200 … Tax: $10.84
Wells, Thomas R & Co., machinery in Valley Mills: Real Estate $9000 … Personal Estate: $0 … Total: $9000 … Tax: $28.80
Wells Jonathan R: Real Estate $1200 … Personal Estate: $3000 … Total: $4200 … Tax: $13.44
Wells Russel: Real Estate $1700 … Personal Estate: $0 … Total: $1700 … Tax: $5.44
Wells Edward S.: Real Estate $300 … Personal Estate: $0 … Total: $30 … Tax: $0.96
Wells Edward S. Jr., and wife: Real Estate $0 … Personal Estate: $1700 … Total: $1700 … Tax: $5.44
Wells Henry M: Real Estate $2000 … Personal Estate: $1500 … Total: $3500 … Tax: $11.20
Wells Peter C.: Real Estate $2400 … Personal Estate: $0 … Total: $2400 … Tax: $7.68
Wells Betsey: Real Estate $700 … Personal Estate: $0 … Total: $700 … Tax: $2.24
Wells Denison: Real Estate $200 … Personal Estate: $600 … Total: $800 … Tax: $2.56
Wells Augustus Lewis: Real Estate $1200 … Personal Estate: $1500 … Total: $2700 … Tax: $8.64
Wells Silas C.: Real Estate $1700 … Personal Estate: $0 … Total: $1700 … Tax: $5.44
Wells William R.: Real Estate $0 … Personal Estate: $100 … Total: $100 … Tax: $0.32
Wells A.L. & Co.: Real Estate $200 … Personal Estate: $0 … Total: $200 … Tax: $0.64
Wells Thomas P.: Real Estate $200 … Personal Estate: $0 … Total: $200 … Tax: $0.64
Wells Albert, house and lot: Real Estate $700 … Personal Estate: $0 … Total: $700 … Tax: $2.24

Remember that there were two Wells’ families in Hopkinton at the time so folks like Denison, Peter and Albert are not related to my family of Jonathan R, Thomas R, Silas, Russel, etc.

So, who was the richest Wells in town in 1855? That would be my great, great grandfather, Jonathan R. Wells (1819-1864), with a total of $4200 in taxable property. This is for an individual as the highest taxes were actually paid by Thomas R. Wells Machinery in Hope Valley, a business, not an individual.

Jonathan Russel Wells

Russel Wells (1780-1859) son of Randall Wells and Lois Maxson, is on the list as well. His total estate came to $1700.00 and he paid only $5.44.

Other Wells’ in our family listed are:

Children of Russel Wells and Lydia Rogers Crandall:

  • Jonathan Russel Wells (Mentioned above)
  • Silas Crandall Wells (1813-1907)
  • Thomas Randall Wells (1816-1903)

Capt. William Randall “Bill” Wells (1816-1872) son of Randall Wells Jr. and Patience Coon.

Edward Sheffield Wells Jr (1793-1870) son of Edward Sheffield Wells Sr and Tacy Hubbard. (Note he is listed as Sr., not Jr. on the list.)

The children of Edward Sheffield Wells Jr and Deborah Hoxsie Lewis:

  • Augustus Lewis Wells Sr. (1820-1906)
  • Elizabeth Perry “Betsey” Wells (1825-1888)
  • Edward Sheffield Wells 3rd (listed as Jr. 1822-1893)

I find it odd that they published this book at all really.  I mean today, would you want the town to publish a book stating your net worth? Seems like privacy laws wouldn’t allow such a thing in 2017.



12 Oct 2017: My Rhode Island Johnny Cake Adventure October 12, 2017

While on vacation up in Rhode Island, I visited two restaurants to sample their Johnny Cakes.  To say that I ate two totally different foods would not be an understatement.  I’d read online that the J.C.’s on the east side of Narragansett Bay were different from the ones on the west side.  I now believe this to be true.

Let’s start with Johnny Cake #1 which I sampled at Bishop’s 4th Street Diner in Newport.

Bishop’s 4th Street Diner

Bishop’s 4th Street Diner

Johnny Cakes

These Johnny Cakes were very tasty, but as you can see they are almost paper-thin and have holes in them like lace.  I asked what they put in them and was told: Cornmeal, hot water and an egg with some salt and sugar.

Moving on to Johnny Cake #2.  This one I had on the other side of the Bay at Jigger’s Diner in East Greenwich, RI. Talk about a totally different J.C.

Jigger’s Diner

Crispy on the outside, runny on the inside.

Jigger’s Johnny Cakes were very good. They were about the same circumference as Bishop’s, but where Bishop’s were almost paper-thin, Jigger’s were about a third of an inch thick.  They were crispy on the outside and runny on the inside. I loved them!

Which did I prefer? I’d go with Jigger’s because they were just a more substantial meal. I will say that Bishop’s bacon was much better than Jigger’s.  Jigger’s was over cooked like leather. If you go, opt for the sausage.

I collected a bunch of different Johnny Cake recipes while on vacation and visited Kenyon’s Grist Mill to buy me some Johnny Cake cornmeal to use making my own back home.  I’ll post the recipes soon.



4 Oct 2017: Road Trip photo fun October 4, 2017

Filed under: Cemeteries — jgeoghan @ 10:33 pm

Today I didn’t do any real genealogy as my day was spent researching items for my novels.  However … when I passed this sign in front of a cemetery in Orient Point, NY, I had to stop and take a photo.




3 Oct 2017: On my Genealogy Vacation … a mural to remember October 3, 2017

I arrived in the Mystic, CT area last night!  Long drive from Orlando! Today I went to New London to visit City Hall in search of Land Grant records for Thomas Wells, the oldest of the known Wells in my family.  According to The History of New London (Page 60) He had a land grant dated Feb 16, 1649/50.

Although the N.L. Historical Society pointed to the City Hall when I asked them for info on land grants, City Hall pointed me to the State Library in Hartford as they sent all the records there.  So, no joy at City Hall … that is until I walked back into the entry hall and spotted this wonderful mural on the wall.

Mural in City Hall

According to the mural, it’s a representation of the city and the plots of land and owners as they were before Benedict Arnold burned the city in 1781.

You can even see the Town Mill that was previously operated by John Rogers.  This is the town mill that still stands today under the I-95 overpass.

The Old Town Mill in New London

Here are some closeups I took of portions of the map:

Lower Mamacock

First Church and Burial Ground

North of Winthrop’s Cove

New London City Hall

Cool map! Hope you enjoy!