Wells Family Genealogy

The study of my Family Tree

2 Jan 2018: A little Wells humor to start the year off. January 2, 2018

Filed under: Wells Family — jgeoghan @ 7:43 pm
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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.”

A little Wells humor.


29 Dec 2017: Holiday Indian Pudding … needs improvement. December 29, 2017

I’m a little late in posting this, but over Thanksgiving Mom and I made an Indian Pudding.  Here’s a few photos of the process.

Boiling/Scalding the Milk.

Adding the Kenyon’s Cornmeal.

Heading into the oven.

Yep. It’s bubbling.

Served with ice cream.

Not so sure about the consistency.

It tasted okay but the consistency was off.  The Indian Pudding I had at the restaurant in Rhode Island last October was really … the consistency of pudding.  Mine – not so much.

I’m pretty sure the form it needs to have before going into the oven needs to be less watery. I think this because all the cornmeal settled at the bottom of the dish.  When you look at the photo above, you can see a darker layer at the bottom which is the cornmeal separated from the other ingredients.  The pudding I had in October had consistent cornmeal throughout. Not sure how to achieve this with the recipe I was using.

Anyone have any suggestions?

I’m also wondering if I should have cooked it in a different type of dish. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

For Christmas, Mom and I tried Indian Pudding in a can. I purchased this can at the country store in Mystic Village in Mystic, CT when I was up there last October. I think I paid like $8 or $9 for the can. Crazy, I know, but I couldn’t resist. It was Look’s Atlantic Premium Indian Pudding.

Great job on the graphics on the can.

I paid $8 for this?

Humm … not so sure about the aesthetic appeal of this product outside of the can.  It tasted … meh.  I had a few bites and took a pass on the rest. Ate around it to finish the ice cream.

Over Thanksgiving, Mom and I tried our hand at Johnny Cakes again.  We did pretty good. They make a nice Thanksgiving breakfast. I pulled down an old cast iron skillet from the attic to cook them in since I was informed this was a definite necessity.  And yes, we used lots of real butter as well.

Mom in the kitchen.

Me and our creations.

While up in Rhode Island, I picked up this bottle of real Rhode Island Maple Syrup. Bought it at Ma and Pa’s store in Hopkinton.  Made a nice addition to our Johnny Cakes. I’m still a little confused as to why some Rhode Islanders are insistent Johnny Cakes are NOT to be served with maple syrup, yet every restaurant I saw them at in RI only served them for breakfast and put down a bottle of maple syrup in front of you.  What’s up with that?



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.]

The gray wooden building to the right is the mill

Selfie with the sun in my eyes. Red house is the G.S. birthplace. Gray is the Mill

Awesome photo I took of the Mill.

Photo taken across the mill-pond created by the dam. Mill on left. House on right.

Looking down on the wheel from the bridge over the damn

An old mill stone.

Sorry, they don’t allow you to take photos on the inside of the mill.



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.