While Mom and I were strolling through St. Augustine (Florida) on December 23rd, we passed this sign. I leaned over and said to her “Boy, they’re selling us for cheap.”
2 Jan 2018: A little Wells humor to start the year off. January 2, 2018
15 Nov 2017: A mill with a Wells history November 15, 2017
I was just working on the project of filling in the gaps in the notes in my genealogy program database when I happened upon this reference below. It was in the notes I’d gathered for Ruth Wells, daughter of Thomas Wells and Naomi Marshall. Thomas and Naomi are my 7th great grandparents, Ruth my 6th great grand aunt. The funny part is I visited the Gilbert Stuart birthplace while on my vacation last month! …. but had no idea that Ruth and husband James Kenyon worked the grist mill next to the Gilbert Stuart house!
Thankfully, I took lots of pictures!
Here’s the reference:
Matthew James of New Hampshire and his known descendants: with the related families of Pugsley, Ivers, Wells, Davis, Rasmus, Alford, and Weller, by Markley, Janet James; Burnett, Mary Lou James, 2002, Page 211
RUTH 2 WELLS (Thomas 1), b. ______ mentioned in her father’s Will. Ruth mar. ca 1692 James Kenyon, Jr., of Kingstown and Westerly, RI. He was b. 4 July, and bp. 12 July, 1657 at Oldham Parish Church, Lancashire, England, the son of James (Sr.) and Ester (Smith) Kenyon.
Both James Sr. and Jr. were millers. James, Sr., had the first grant to the mill privilege in Washington Co., RI, a place where the artist Gilbert Stuart was born in 1755. James, Jr., was taxed in RI in 1687. In 1700 an earmark was granted him for his sheep. James, Jr., and Ruth were in possession of the mill in 1702 when they conveyed it to Joseph Smith. In 1706, “James Kenyon, Sr.” and wife Ruth deeded to George Thomas of “Conanicut” 36 acres for 25 pounds.
In 1722 James and wife Ruth deeded to Jeffery Hazard 300 acres and housing in South Kingstown for 800 pounds.He bought land in Westerly in 1723. He wrote his Will 18 March 1720 and it was proved in Westerly 4 May 1724. In it he mentions his wife Ruth and makes her and son Peter executors. [Howard N. Kenyon, English Connections and Genealogy of American Kenyons of Rhode Island, (1935), hereafter”Kenyon,” pp. 47-56.]
Sorry, they don’t allow you to take photos on the inside of the mill.
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.
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.
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.
21 Sept 2017: Seaweed Pudding probably tastes better than it sounds September 21, 2017
Today I continue my series of posts on the traditional local foods prepared by our ancestors in Hopkinton. Rhode Island isn’t called the Ocean State for nothing. Mom’s cousin Dorothy remembers her mother (Sylvia Wells, daughter of Williams R Wells and Pauline Stillman Wells) making pudding from seaweed they would gather off the beaches down near Quonny. This would be back in about the mid 1930’s. Although it seems this is a real thing, after scouring the internet I as only able to come up with one recipe for such a pudding called Blancmange.
Blancmange as defined by Wikipedia: “Blancmange (from French blanc-manger) is a sweet dessert commonly made with milk or cream and sugar thickened with gelatin, cornstarch or Irish moss(a source of carrageenan), and often flavored with almonds.”
Blancmange: A pudding made from Irish Sea Moss
- 1/3 cup Irish Sea Moss
- 2 cups of milk
Gather fresh moss on the beach. Rinse well in cold water and spread in the sun to dry.
When ready to use, soften 1/3 cup of moss by covering it in cold water for fifteen minutes.
Drain and add 2 cups of milk. Cook in a double boiler for thirty minutes without stirring.
Strain into a bowl or molds, and cool—it thickens only on cooling.
Serve with jam, light flavored cream, boiled custard, chocolate sauce, or fruit, fresh or stewed. The blancmange is rather tasteless by itself and depends on the sauce for flavor.
* * * * *
There are several different types of edible seaweeds that grow off the coast of Rhode Island that our ancestors probably harvested to use as food. Here are a few:
Irish Sea Moss – Contains carrageenan and is used to thicken and stabilize ice cream, puddings, cream cheese, cottage cheese, frozen yogurt, pie fillings etc.
Bladderwrack/Knotted Wrack/Rockweed – Used in between layers of New England clam bakes for flavor and steam.
Oarweed and Sugar Kelp are two varieties of kelp that grow in Rhode Island. Oarweed (or Kombu as it is called in supermarkets) is cooked and enjoyed in salads and soups. Sugar Kelp can be cut into strips to make an Asian seaweed salad.
Sea Lettuce – Used in fresh salads.
Now, who’s ready to go foraging down at the beach? 🙂
Have you ever tried seaweed pudding? if so, where and what was it like?
If you have a recipe for Seaweed Pudding you’d like to share, send it my way!
T minus 9 days til I leave on my Rhode Island/Conn vacation! YAY!
6 Sep 2017: Foraging for dessert on the beaches of Rhode Island. September 6, 2017
Today I continue my series on food traditions of the Hopkinton/Westerly, RI area. What did our grandmothers and great grandmothers cook? From what I can tell, they drew heavily on foods that grew locally or even in their own back yard. My mother’s cousin Dorothy (from the Wells side of the family), remembers her mother making jelly from Beach Plums which would grow down by the water. From what I’ve read, they sound like they taste bitter, so I’m wondering what this Jelly would taste like.
First, lets talk about exactly what is a Beach Plum. For this, I’ll borrow some text from Wikipedia:
The beach plum, is a species of plum native to the East Coast of the United States, from Maine south to Maryland. … It is a deciduous shrub, in its natural sand dune habitat growing 40–80 inches high, although it can grow larger, over 13 feet tall, when cultivated in gardens. The leaves are alternate, elliptical, 1.2–2.8 inches long and 0.8–1.6 inches broad, with a sharply toothed margin. They are green on top and pale below, becoming showy red or orange in the autumn. The flowers are 0.4–0.6 inches in diameter, with five white petals and large yellow anthers. The fruit is an edible drupe 0.6–0.8 inches in diameter in the wild plant, red, yellow, blue, or nearly black.
The plant is salt-tolerant and cold-hardy. It prefers the full sun and well-drained soil. It spreads roots by putting out suckers but in coarse soil puts down a tap root. In dunes it is often partly buried in drifting sand. It blooms in mid-May and June. The fruit ripens in August and early September.
The species is endangered in Maine, where it is in serious decline due to commercial development of its beach habitats.”
Beach Plums grow on the shores of Long Island as well. My cousin Sharon did a report in grade school about cooking and included some information from my Grandmother (on the Geoghan side of my family.) She lived only a short distance from the Sound, in Mount Sinai, New York. Here is the page out of Sharon’s report that talks about Beach Plums.
Here are a few recipes for Beach Plum Jam that I found.
Beach Plum Jam
Wash beach plums. Cook in water to barely cover until soft. Strain through colander, add sugar, cup for cup, to pulp and juice. 1lbs. of lemon juice may be added if desired. Boil until drops “string out”. Delicious with all kinds of meats.
Beach Plum Jam
Makes 4 cups
- 4 cups whole beach plums
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup medium-bodied red wine, such as Merlot
Put a ceramic plate in the freezer to chill. Meanwhile, combine all ingredients in a 5- to 6-quart heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
Bring to a simmer so that the plums release their juices. Let cook 5 more minutes. Then pour mixture into a strainer set over a bowl, and press on the solids to extract the juice and fruit.
Return extract to heat and simmer, stirring often, 25 minutes. Reduce heat as needed to keep from boiling up. Remove the chilled plate from the freezer and spoon a small amount of jam onto it. It should thicken when it hits the cold. If it’s thick enough, stop there. If not, return the plate to the freezer and continue cooking the puree, checking it at 5-minute intervals, until it reaches the desired thickness (it should form a skin when chilled).
Pour into hot, sterilized jars to within 1/4 inch of the top, adjust lids, and process in boiling water 5 minutes. Let cool at room temperature and check seals.
Have you ever tried Beach Plum Jelly?
If so, where and who made it?
What did you think of it?
I’m in search of a recipe for the sea weed pudding I’ve heard was another dish cousin Dorothy’s mother made. If you have one stashed away in the back of a kitchen drawer, I’d love it if you could send it my way.
30 Aug 2017: The case of the missing cemetery August 30, 2017
The case of the missing cemetery. It sounds like the title of a mystery novel in the vein of Nancy Drew or Sherlock Homes. In this case, it’s a missing Wells Family cemetery in Ashaway, RI.
This past weekend I was up visiting my mom. We went over to visit her cousin Dorothy who lives around the block. We were talking about recipes and the produce they grew around the old Wells house when she started talking about this cemetery, one she was sure was a really, really old Wells family cemetery, that was located right off of Route 3 just south of the old Wells house (the one that was in Crandall Field.) When I showed her the area on Google earth, she pointed out the spot where it was. I circled it in red.
She says that it was just south of the driveway to the house her father built, which is the one hidden by the trees in the google pic.
She also said it was surrounded by HUGE rocks, so tall she couldn’t see the inside of the cemetery. (Mind you, she was a child at the time.) The cemetery was pretty sizable as well. About the size of a house lot. The stones, she thinks, were placed there on purpose to protect the cemetery. I asked her if she remembered headstones, but she doesn’t. She said she never climbed up the rocks to look over them.
Right now, there is no physical evidence at this location to ever suggest there was a cemetery there at any point in time. Dorothy remembers it being there around the time she lived in the house whose driveway is just north of Wells Street which would be around 1935. She couldn’t remember when the stoned disappeared. Dorothy says the rocks were very close to the road, easily visible to anyone passing by.
I’ve searched through all my old photos of the Old Wells house to see if there were any signs of large stones in the distance. Unfortunately, all the photos seem to be facing the other direction, north up Route 3, not south.
The question is, who’s buried in this cemetery? Dorothy seemed convinced it was a Wells family plot as it was on Wells land, land that had been in the family as long as anyone could remember.
So, anyone out there have any information about this cemetery? I’d LOVE to hear from you if you do. I’ve reached out to my friend, Lauri, who wrote the Hopkinton Historical Cemeteries book to see if she can lend a hand, but she’d never heard of it either.