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.

-Jennifer

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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.

-Jennifer

 

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.

Irish Sea Moss

Bladderwrack/Knotted Wrack/Rockweed – Used in between layers of New England clam bakes for flavor and steam.

Bladderwrack

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.

Sugar Kelp

Sea Lettuce – Used in fresh salads.

Sea Lettuce

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!

-Jennifer

T minus 9 days til I leave on my Rhode Island/Conn vacation!  YAY!

 

30 Aug 2017: The case of the missing cemetery August 30, 2017

Filed under: Cemeteries,Wells Family — jgeoghan @ 2:34 pm
Tags: , , , ,

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.

Missing Cemetery should be located here.

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.

-Jennifer

 

29 Oct 2016: Celebrate the spookiness of Halloween with the Wells vampires. October 29, 2016

For those of you who have read my blog long enough, you know that not only am I a genealogist, but I’m also an author.  Among my novels is a series I wrote where I used my real life Wells ancestors as actual characters, mainly Randall Wells (1747-1821) and his wife Lois Maxson (1748-1819) of Hopkinton, Rhode Island.   To grant myself my fondest genealogical wish of meeting my 4th great grandparents, Lois and Randall, I took the facts we know of their lives and weaved a story around them, breathing literary flesh over those dry bones of the dates of birth, marriage, death.  Then I brought them ahead a few hundred years and made them living people in the modern age we live in today.

How did I do that?  Well … I made them vampires.  Each book in the five book series reveals more of their story, like peeling back the layers of an onion. So for Halloween, I thought I’d share with you a little of how their story begins to unfold in book one of the series, The Purity of Blood.

To set up the quote below, I will introduce Sara Donnelly, the protagonist of my novels.  Like me, she is also the 4th great-granddaughter of Randall and Lois, at least the literary versions of them.  It is through her eyes that we enter the hidden world of vampires that secretly coexists with the humans of the Earth.  But these vampires are not like the ones of popular culture.  Vampires are not immortal.   They can walk in the sunlight.  For the most part the are solitary creatures that have an innate need to hide their existence from the world.

In this conversation, Sara is talking to Daniel Bennett.  Daniel is the adopted son of Randall and Lois.  He is also a vampire, but though he is well over a hundred years old, he has never killed a human.  He was raised by Randall to be as close to human as a vampire can possibly be, and because of this unique lifestyle, they have extended their lives well past the accelerated aging most vampires experience.

Now read as Daniel explains the beginning of Randall and Lois’ back story.

The Purity of Blood, Vol I, by Jennifer Geoghan. Available now on Amazon.com

Excerpt from The Purity of Blood, Volume I, by Jennifer Geoghan

“So, Randall and Lois. You promised to tell me their story when there was time.”

“I did, didn’t I.” His smile faded a little. “It’s not a very happy one, are you sure you want to hear it now?”

“Well, give me the highlights; you can fill in the details some other time.”

He settled back in his chair and began.

“I guess I have to go back farther than just when Randall became what we are now. You should know that their marriage was arranged by their parents. In those kind of small isolated communities like Hopkinton, most of the time marriages were partnerships more than emotional relationships. Randall will tell you he fell in love with Lois the moment he first laid eyes on her. She, on the other hand, was a sensible woman and only agreed to the marriage because she thought Randall would be a good provider and partner in life. She didn’t love him, but she also didn’t think it was important that she did either.

“He married her knowing this, but he was convinced that in time she would eventually grow to love him. Her sensibilities and his expectations were more common than you would think back then. The lifelong journey together often took two people from strangers to friends, and from friends to lovers. This was what Randall hoped would happen for them in the end.

“Years passed and Lois was an excellent wife providing for all his needs, raising his children and supporting him in every way she could. But he knew she still didn’t love him the way he wanted her too. Still he loved her with all his heart and believed that someday she would return his love with her own.

“Their life went on like this for many years so I’ll skip ahead to 1819 when he was bitten. Randall was an older man when it happened, seventy-four. He had gone out of town for a few days to settle some business up in Providence, I think it was. He was travelling back to Hopkinton in his carriage when he came across what looked like a body in the middle of the road. He got down to see if he could help, but the body was a vampire lying in wait for him. He sprang up, attacked Randall then left him for dead deep in the woods.”

He paused when he saw the look on my face. “You’re wondering why the trap. Why not just drag him down off the carriage and kill him.

I shrugged my shoulders as I chewed.

“Vampires are people too, Sara.”

Then he kind of chuckled when he realized what he’d said. “They get bored and find new ways to capture prey. I have to assume that was why. Anyway, there in the forest, Randall went through his transformation. It took a couple of days he thinks, but you can’t keep track of time when all this is happening to you. The pain is too excruciating.”

“Do you think his attacker meant to leave him alive?”

“He doesn’t know and there’s no way to say for sure now.”

“What do you think?”

Daniel paused for a moment then said “Yes, I think it was probably on purpose. But I’m the only one who thinks so.”

Then he turned to watch a couple at another table kissing in the corner. Although I had no clue why, I think it was clear he didn’t want to talk about it anymore, so I changed the subject.

“So what happened next?”

“When he regained his senses he knew something was wrong. He felt the remains of the bite marks on his neck and when he held his hand up to his chest, he couldn’t feel his heart. Even though his throat burned with an overwhelming thirst he didn’t understand, none of it mattered, his only thought was for Lois.

“He ran back to the house only to find her sitting on the back porch waiting for him. She took one look at him and knew something was terribly wrong.

“He told her what had happened, that he’d been attacked and had woken up in the forest. Of course at this point he had no idea what had really happened to him. Then he reached out, took her hand and placed it on his chest so she could feel that his heart no longer beat.

“Did he look younger then?”

“Yes.”

“That must have freaked Lois out.”

“Yes, I believe it did.” He sighed, I think uncomfortable with the subject.

“So what happened next?” I asked as I twirled my fork around in my pasta.

“She started to cry and told him she didn’t want to be a widow. I think part of her thought he was dead already – some kind of a ghost. She broke down and told him how she’d desperately loved him for years, but had kept it hidden from him because of her pride. She’d thought that if she ever told Randall how much she loved him, that things would change between them. She said she wouldn’t be able to stand it if he ever tired of her and looked at another woman. She knew that by denying him what he’d always wanted most, her heart, that she’d kept him all to herself. And here in the end, she finally realized she should have confessed her love for him years ago.

“Randall was stunned, he’d had no idea. He said in that moment of revelation, he could feel the warmth of her hand on his bare chest. Swept up in his lack of understanding of what was happening to him, he felt her blood as it surged through her hand faster and faster, her pulse quickening under her emotions. He could hear her heart beating so loud and so strong. And in that singular moment, he realized that after all these years, it finally beat only for him. He said he’ll never forget how his eyes stared at her hand on his chest, and how he followed the blood in it up her arm until he looked up to see the desperate emotion that filled her eyes. That was when he lost control. The thought of a life without her overwhelmed him and … he bit her.”

Daniel paused for a moment, waiting for me to take in the enormity of what he’d just said.

“Suddenly realizing what he’d done, he dropped her and ran off, leaving her barely alive. He still didn’t know what he’d become, but he knew what he’d done to Lois, and unable to live with the knowledge of it, he fled.

Totally wrapped up in the story, I stared at Daniel.

“You’re not eating, please finish,” he softly urged.

I cut up a meatball and took another bite.

“So then what?”

“I suppose you could say that’s where their story really begins, but let’s save that for another time.”

He reached over and gently placed his hand on mine, and for a moment ran his thumb across my knuckles. It was the smallest of contacts, but even this small sensation generated a tingling down deep inside me. When I looked up into his eyes, he smiled, then pulled his hand back to pretend to take a sip of water as our waitress passed.

I was satisfied for tonight, but I wouldn’t let him forget to tell me what happened next. It would give me something to look forward to. Of course, I was also wondering how I was going to translate all this new information into my genealogy program. I’d have to give that some more thought as well.

I hope you enjoyed this spinet of my novel.  If you’d like to read the entire novel and the four more that follow to experience the entire story of Randall, Lois, Daniel and Sara, go to Amazon.com to purchase the books as either paperback of ebooks:

https://www.amazon.com/Purity-Blood-I-Jennifer-Geoghan-ebook/dp/B00J142WK2

The Purity of Blood, Vol I, by Jennifer Geoghan. Available now on Amazon.com

The Purity of Blood, Vol I, by Jennifer Geoghan. Available now on Amazon.com

-Jennifer

 

13 July 2015: Ashaway Dr. Asks “Are You Too Fat?” July 13, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — jgeoghan @ 9:18 pm
Tags: ,

I wish I had a higher quality photo of this newspaper advertisement.  I saw it for sale on EBAY some years back and got a hoot out of it.  Can you imagine if they put that in the papers today?!?!?!

Are you too fat

Rev. Charles J. Budlong of Ashaway, RI apparently lost 40 pounds and you too can have a sample box free!  Makes you really wonder what it was the Rev. Budlong was helping them sell!

-Jennifer

 

29 June 2015: Who are these old Men? June 29, 2015

A friend up in Hopkinton gave me a copy of this photo.  I can identify who one and maybe a second of the elder gentlemen of Hopkinton, RI are, but not the others.

Group of Old Men in Hopkinton, RI

Group of Old Men in Hopkinton, RI

Here’s who I can identify out of the photo:

This is Silas Crandall Wells (1813-1907) son of Russell Wells and Lydia Rogers (Crandall) Wells.  He’s my second great grand-uncle.

Silas Crandall Wells 1813-1907

Silas Crandall Wells 1813-1907

The other man I have a lead on is:  I was told his name was Randall R Wells, but I don’t have a Randall R Wells in my database or any Randall that would fit the dates of the photo.  I’m guessing it was taken pretty close to 1907 as that’s the year Silas (above) died.

Randall R Wells??

Randall R Wells??

So if anyone has any lead on who any of these men are, let me know (jegeoghan@hotmail.com) and I’ll update this post for all to see.

Thanks,

-Jennifer

PS: Don’t forget, my latest novel, If Love is a Lie, is going to be released on Amazon this Friday!!

Only Four Days Left!!! Until If Love is a Lie is released on Amazon!

Only Four Days Left!!!
Until If Love is a Lie is released on Amazon!