Joseph A. Wells

Joseph A. Wells
Virginia Lawyers
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Captain, Co. H, 91st ILL. Infantry
The Chanute Daily Tribune, Tuesday, March 16, 1926, Pg 1
Volume XXXIV, Number 288

He Came to County in 1866 and Was
One of the Founders of Erie and
Of New Chicago, Now a
Part of Chanute.

Judge J. A. Wells, dean of Neosho county pioneers, passed away last evening at his home in Erie at the age of 88 years. Funeral services will be held from the Methodist church in Erie tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 and burial will be in the Erie cemetery.
Judge Wells came to this county in 1866. He was one of the founders of the city of Erie and of New Chicago, a part of Chanute. He was the first mayor of Erie and was the organizer of the first Masonic lodge in Erie. He was a thirty-second degree Mason and was secretary of the Erie chapter for forty years. He has served as justice of the peace in Erie for twenty-five years and wrote up his last case just a day or so before he was taken sick last week.
When his country needed men in the days of the Civil war, Judge Wells joined Company H, Illinois volunteer infantrymen as a private, served during the struggle and came home a captain. The year following the close of the struggle he left his home in Illinois and came to Neosho county, where he has been a factor in the development since.
Judge Wells has always enjoyed good health until a few days ago and has been unusually active for a man of his years. He took to his bed last week and was sick only three or four days.
He is survived by three sons and a daughter. The sons are Seth G. Wells, state oil inspector and editor of the Erie Record, Logan H. Wells, Fort Worth, Tex., and J. C. Wells, Los Angeles, Cal. The daughter is Mrs. Jennie Rogers, Topeka.

William G. Cutler’s History of the State of Kansas

JOSEPH A. WELLS, born in Greene County, Ill., in March, 1838; received a limited education at the district schools of his county, the most of his early life being spent on the farm, but was always acknowledged as a very apt scholar. At the age of eighteen he received a first grade certificate as a school teacher, passing an examination before the State Commissoner (sic) At the age of twenty-one he was elected a Justice of the Peace of his township. Previous to this he was, on motion, admitted to practice law before the District Court of his county. At the age of twenty-two he was married to Matilda, youngest daughter of Pleasant and Lydia Wood of his county. At the age of twenty-four he entered the service of his country as a private of Company H., Ninety-first Illinois Infantry, and by his prompt attention to business, he was rapidly promoted to the office of Orderly Sergeant, First Lieutenant and Captain of his company, and for daring acts on the battle field in and around Mobile, Ala., in March and April, 1865, he was, by the president, in special order, breveted Major of Volunteers. At the close of the war, in 1865, he returned home to his family, and a short time afterward declined the offer of a Second Lieutenancy of Cavalry of the regular army. In August, 1865, he removed to Adair County, Mo., where he bought a farm and remained until the spring of 1866, when he sold out and started for Kansas, arriving in Neosho County on the 4th of April, 1866, and bought a claim three miles northwest of where Erie is now located. In the fall of 1866 he was elected Probate Judge of Neosho County, and served as such until January, 1869. In the summer of 1867 he sold his farm and went to the woods and cut, hauled, rafted and then sawed the logs of which the Erie House, in Erie, and other buildings were built. He then, as a member of the Erie Town Company, built the first hotel ever built in the town, and moved into and occupied the same on the last day of 1867. Here he has ever since had his family residence. He, together with S. W. Fastar, bought the first piece of land for town purposes where Chanute now stands, and here he built two houses in 1870. He also completed the first business house ever built in Coffeyville, Kansas in August, 1871. He has several times been appointed Justice of the Peace of the city and was the first Mayor of the city of Erie, at its organization in December, 1869. In 1871 he was editor of the Erie Ishmaelite, a red hot local organ. In 1872 he was appointed Deputy United States Marshal, which place he held until 1874. During his two years service he was instrumental in bringing a large number of offenders to justice; those acts, coupled with the fact that he was chairman of the Erie executive committee for county seat purposes, made him many enemies as well as a large number of warm friends. In 1873 he was arrested for violation of his duties, which caused him a great deal of trouble. After two years of law bickerings the case was finally nolle prosequied. June 19, 1874, he received his appointment as one of the force of the United States secret service, which place he now holds. Among the noted criminals that he has captured he mentions those of J. S. Wilson, at Shreveport, La., in 1875, and Martin Hixley, in Sumner County, Kansas, in 1877, both of those being arrested and delivered to the proper officers, the former at Memphis, Tenn., and the latter at St. Louis, Mo. In February, 1876, he was ordered to report at New Orleans to the United States Marshal and was detailed to go to Cuba in the interest of the United States, but owing to the revolutionary state of the country at that time, the business was not arranged to his satisfaction; nevertheless the government was pleased with the tact he displayed, and for his shrewdness in the matter he was highly complimented. He mentions many other arrests and incidents of his life which would be of interest, but space forbids. He has been a Notary Public of Kansas ever since May 1, 1868, and is now engaged in the real estate and loan business. In February, 1883, was elected Justice of the Peace and City Judge by an almost unanimous vote.

Volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. … / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar

Joseph A. Wells of Erie, Kan., is a pioneer settler of the state and the representative of a family whose patriotism is unquestioned, for four generations of the Wells family have served in as many of our wars, Judge Wells, himself, being a veteran of the Civil war. He was born in Walkerville, Ill., March 24, 1838, a son of Samuel and Mary (Powers) Wells. Samuel Wells was a native of Tennessee, from which state he removed to Illinois in 1831. There he settled on a large farm which thereafter remained his home. He was a Democrat in politics and during the struggle of 1861-65 his sympathies were with the Southland. He was the father of twenty-four children and died in 1893, at the age of eighty-four. Philip Wells, the father of Samuel and the grandfather of Judge Wells, was born in Tennessee and was a Baptist minister. He, too, became a resident of Illinois and died in that state at the age of seventy-six. His wife attained the age of ninety. Philip Wells served in the war of 1812 and participated in the battle of New Orleans under Gen. Andrew Jackson. Carter Wells, the great-grandfather of Judge Wells, represented Virginia in the patriot army during the Revolution and soon after the war removed to Tennessee. The Wells family is of English descent and very early settled in America. The maternal grandfather of Judge Wells was Joseph Powers, who was a native of North Carolina but moved to Tennessee, where he engaged in farming and reared his family. Later he moved to Illinois and thence to Missouri, where de died. Judge Wells received his education in a log schoolhouse in Illinois and began life independently at the age of sixteen. He worked on his father’s farm for a time, read law, and at the age of twenty-two was elected a justice of the peace in Illinois. Two years later, Aug. 8, 1862, the young man, inspired with the generous sentiments which actuated the flower of the youth of the North, enlisted in Company H, Ninety-first Illinois infantry, as a private under Col. Henry M. Day. The regiment was mustered in Sept. 8, 1862, left for the front Oct. 1, and arrived at Shepherdsville, Ky., on the 7th. On Dec. 27, at Elizabethtown, after an engagement with the forces of Gen. John Morgan, the regiment surrendered and the men were paroled. On June 5, 1863, it was exchanged and newly armed and equipped for the fray. The regiment was sent to Louisiana, where in the following September the brigade to which it belonged had a fight with the enemy near the Atchafalaya river, the result of the contest being that the enemy held his ground and the brigade fell back six miles. On the following day the brigade again advanced, driving the enemy across the river. On Nov. 6 the regiment started for Brownsville, Tex., skirmishing all the way with the enemy, and reached Fort Brown on Nov. 9, going into winter quarters, where it remained until Dec. 31, when it made its famous raid on Salt Lake, ninety miles out in the enemy’s country, capturing a lake of salt two miles square, a few hundred horses, mules and cattle, which were promptly confiscated for the good of the command. In September, 1864, the regiment had quite a fight with the Confederates near Bagdad, on the north side of the Rio Grande, and it was said at the time a squadron of French troops forded the Rio Grande to help the Confederates, but all to no use, for they were driven back over the "old battlefield," Palo Alto, of 1846. Throughout the siege of Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely the regiment took a very active part, and the fall of those strongholds resulted in the surrender of Mobile April 12, 1865. Company H was one of six that participated in a running engagement with Hardee after the surrender of the city, which was the last fight in which the regiment was engaged. The regiment was mustered out July 12, 1865. Besides the engagements mentioned above Judge Wells participated at Vicksburg and at Baton Rouge. During his service he was promoted to first lieutenant and during the last year of the war served as captain of his company. After the war he returned to Illinois, from whence he moved to Adair county, Missouri, where he remained six months. He then came directly to Erie, Kan., where he took a claim, proved it and sold it. In 1867 he built his home, which is the second oldest house in Erie. At this date (1911) he is the oldest continuous settler in Erie and was one of the original town-site men that established that place. He was also one of the organizers of Chanute and built the first house erected in Coffeyville. Judge Wells has always been a Republican and was the only Wells up to his time that believed in and supported the principles of that party. In 1866 he was elected probate judge of Neosho county and served until 1869. He has also served a number of years as a justice of the peace. He was admitted to the bar at Erie, Kan., in 1886, but had practiced law previous to that time. His business career has been along different lines, though his attention has been given principally to a general insurance, loan and pension business, in which he has been extensively engaged, but from which he is now retiring. He is now interested in raising fancy poultry and in past years has raised thoroughbred horses, principally trotters and pacers. In 1860 he married Matilda, a daughter of Pleasant Wood, a farmer resident of Illinois. Of their union were born six children. Loyal T. Wells, the eldest son, died in 1898, after serving five years in the regular army. Seth G. Wells, the second son, is well known to the people of Kansas through his official services and his political and journalistic activities. He was the efficient auditor of state eight years, from 1903 to 1911, and was postmaster at Erie five years preceding that. He has edited the "Erie Record" for a number of years and is one of the leading Republican politicians of the state. He was born, reared and educated in Kansas and his whole career has been one of useful activity in promoting the welfare of his state. Byron C. Wells, the first child born in the town of Erie, died in 1898. He was deputy postmaster there at the time of his death. Logan H. Wells, now an attorney at Lawton, Okla., and Jay C. Wells, a horseman at Salt Lake City, both served in the Spanish-American war, the former as a second lieutenant and the latter as a corporal. Jennie E. Wells, the only daughter, is a high school graduate and married J. E. Rodgers, who at the present time (1911) is bookkeeper for the state treasurer of Kansas and resides at Topeka. The mother of these children died in 1891, and in July, 1894, Judge Wells married Mary J. Hazen, a native of Pittsburgh, Pa. Her father, David H. Hazen, was a practicing lawyer at Pittsburgh for a number of years, but later removed to Iowa and thence to Kansas, where he died. He had enjoyed a successful business career and was a wealthy man at the time of his death. Mrs. Wells takes a prominent part in the work of the Methodist Episcopal church at Erie and is a leader in the Woman’s Relief Corps there. Judge Wells is an enthusiastic member of the Masonic order and is one of the best informed men in Masonry in Kansas. He is a Thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason and a Noble of the Mystic Shrine. He has served as master of his lodge ten years, as secretary about the same length of time, and is at present filling that office. He is a man of unquestioned force and probity of character and throughout a long and active career has entered heartily into every movement which would promote the growth and welfare of his town and county. He is one of Neosho county’s oldest and most honored pioneers and by an upright and useful life has won the esteem of all who know him.

Here is where his photograph is:…

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