Biography of James Foster Wells

JAMES FOSTER WELLS – In the Vaux, or Bank, or Bayeux, or de Vallibus family of France originated the De Welles family of Lincolnshire, barons by summons to Parliament. It is one of the most illustrious families known to history. The derivation is traced to the year 794, from which period its members held the highest rank personally and by royal intermarriages. It was founded in England after the Conquest by Harold de Vaux (a near connection of William the Conqueror) and his three sacs, Barons Hubert, Ranulph and Robert, who were all surnamed de Vallibus. The descent is through the younger son, Robert, whose grandson, William, had four sons: Robert de Dalston, baron; Adam and William de Welles, of Lincolnshire, 1194; and Oliver de Vallibus, prior of Pentney Abbey. Adam de Welles died s. p., and his brother, William, thus became founder of that long line of noblemen of Lincolnshire, whose history is given in full by Dugdale in his standard work on “Baronage of England.”

Among the different branches of the Wells family in America are varied traditions of origin, but they are not contradictory, nor are they inconsistent with one another. Thus the descendants of George, afterwards of Southampton, Long Island, Richard, afterwards of Salisbury, Massachusetts, and William, afterwards of Southold, Long Island, known as among the first settlers of Lynn, Massachusetts, 1638, claim that there were three brothers who came over from England together; also those from Isaac (of Barnstable, Massachusetts), Edward (of Boston), and Thomas (of Ipswich) have the same tradition. Also those of Hugh (of Hartford), contemporary 1636 to 1650, with Governor Thomas and John, his son; while the descendants of Joseph, of Boston, 1636, thence into Rhode Island about 1640, at Wickford, state that he was the first immigrant of the family, fled about 1629 from London to avoid religious persecution and to save his life, and was soon followed by his seven sons or brothers, who may reasonably be supposed to be all named above, viz., Isaac, Edward, Thomas, Richard, George, William and Hugh, although there is no evidence of their consanguinity.

It is said by Albert Wells, the historian of this family, that the account of the family ancestry is voluminous and very satisfactory, being of ancient origin (794), and of high rank in Normandy and England, with royal intermarriages for over seven centuries, when the title and estates merged into the Willoughby and Dymoke families. From this English source came over in 1636 Thomas Welles, who was the common ancestor of many of the family in this country. He was eminent among that band of worthies who planted in this western world the germs of civil and religious freedom. He was not only Deputy Governor but the Governor of Connecticut. He was elected one of the six magistrates at first chosen at the organization of the government at Hartford, and annually reelected until his death, a period of more than twenty years. The magistrates at that time constituted the highest legislative and judicial tribunal in the colony. In 1639, on the full organization of the colonial government, Thomas Welles was chosen treasurer of the colony, the first ever elected. In 1643 he was chosen secretary of the State. In 1649 he was chosen as one of the two commissioners to represent Connecticut in the confederation of the New England colonies.

James Foster Wells, representing the eighth generation of his family, is a son of Alexius Wells, and grandson of Jonathan Wells, who lived in Williamsburg, Massachusetts. Jonathan Wells married a Graves, and was a farmer; they had children: William, Alexius, of whom further; Mary Ann, Sarah and Ahoy.

Alexius Wells was born in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, and died in Cummington, Massachusetts, in April, 1909, aged eighty years. He lived in Williamsburg until 1864, when he removed to Cummington, where he resided up to the time of his death. He had a farm of some two hundred and fifty acres, raised fruit and onions, and was the first to raise onions above the valley. He was a stone mason by trade and built the cellars for buildings that might be erected. He built the bank wall at Williamsburg by the railroad station. It withstood the flood at the time of the Mill River disaster. He served as a selectman for two years in Cummington, and was highway surveyor, having charge of all road and construction and repairs for many years. He married Lydia Wilcutt, of Chesterfield, born in 183x, now living, aged ninetythree years, daughter of Joel Wilcutt. They had children: Charles Alexius, Henry Gardner, Thomas Meekins, Marie Jeanette, who died in 1924, married Joseph Bates; James Foster, of whom further; William Graves, Darwin Russell and George Warner, who died in 1921.

James Foster Wells, born in Cummington, Massachusetts, August 1, 1864, received his education in the common schools of Cummington, and worked on his father’s farm clearing away rocks and digging ditches. He left home when nineteen years of age and worked in the general store of Lyman D. James, of Williamsburg, for five years. Mr. James was a brother-in-law of Marshall Field. Mr. Wells went to Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1888, and here he worked for different concerns. For a short time he was in Boston, then went to Northampton and was engaged in the State Hospital there for two years. He then went to the village of Gilbertville in the town of Hardwick, where he worked in a grocery store for two years. He returned to Northampton in 1893 and spent two years in a grocery store. In 1895 he went to work for John A. Ross and remained with Mr. Ross for twenty years. In 1919 he bought out his employer, and for eleven years has been in business for himself as sole owner and proprietor of the Central Grocery. Mr. Wells attends- the First Church and is a member of the parish.

Mr. Wells married, on July 20, 1892, Carrie Kingsley, of Northampton, Massachusetts, daughter of Edward and Josephine (Graves) Kingsley. They are the parents of the following children:

  1. Edith Josephine, born in 1893, a graduate of Smith College, class of 1916; married John Hancock Babbitt, of Garrett, Indiana; they have one child, John Hancock, Jr., making four generations living at the present time.
  2. Catherine Kingsley, who died in infancy.
  3. Kenneth Kingsley, born in June, 1903 a graduate of the Northampton High School, now (1925) taking the mechanical engineering course at Cornell University.



Lockwood, John H. (John Hoyt); Bagg, Ernest Newton; Carson, Walter S. (Walter Scott); Riley, Herbert E. (Herbert Elihu); Boltwood, Edward; Clark, Will L. (Will Leach); Western Massachusetts A History 1636-1925; New York and Chicago: Lewis historical publishing company, inc., 1926

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