Worked at the Carpenter and Plastering Trade Until He Was 83: Now in Good Physical Condition Except for Blindness.


Born March 7, 1834, in Onondaga township and county, New York. His father, Orin Morris Wells, came to Sunfield in April 1842, settling in Section 33 near the south line of the township. The father was the thirteenth voter in the township and the first election was held in 1842. Mr. Wells remarked in telling of his father that "he was a Whig and that he knew of only one democrat in the Wells family and that he died." In 1843 the first school was established in Sunfield township and the teacher was Mrs. Sophronia Peck Andrews and Mr. Wells remembers attending the school which was held in Mr. Andrews home. Later a small log shanty was built for the first school house which was used until 1851 when a frame school house was built. Mr. Well's uncle, J. R. Wells, was one of the original organizers of the school district. Another uncle, William A. Wells, lived to be 90 years old, never gave a note in his life, and never paid a cent of interest, and left a considerable property. In relating his experience as an 8 year old child coming with the parents from Syracuse, New York to Buffalo by the Erie canal thence to Detroit by steamer, thence to Sunfield by horse team, remaining over night at the homes of settlers scattered along the way, he distinctly remembers the most noticeable thing was the large numbers of Indians who seemed to occupy the country during the summer. He remembers when he was a young man of seeing at one camp meeting near Kalamo Center, 500 Indians. The Indians had a summer home at the foot of Thornapple lake, a small group at Swaba lake, and the old chief Swaba was a remarkable character, much given to liquor and dangerous when drunk. It is said that he not only killed his wife buy several other women. Mr. Wells tells of an Indian having a blind daughter who killed his wife in a drunken fit of rage and was tried by an Indian jury, found guilty, and received the following sentence from the chief of the tribe, who ordered that the man be shot at sight if ever caught with a gun in his hands. He tells of the sacredness of Indian traditions and customs, namely; an Indian locked his wigwam by placing cross sticks in front of the door and no Indian under any circumstances would go in while the cross sticks were there. If no cross sticks were in front of the door an Indian never knocked but walked right in. Mr. Wells never feared an Indian and found them always dependable unless in liquor.

One of the first settlers was Edward O. Smith, known as Frog Smith, who located land in 1838, which now is known as the Freemire property and a part of the farm in the well known Freemire cemetery. When Mr. Wells was 17 years old Mr. Smith, who had been selling lots in this cemetery which he established in 1838 to neighbors in exchange for work, said to Mr. Wells, "You will be needing a cemetery lot soon when you get married. I am going to have a big logging bee and if you will carry the beer from the house to the logging bee and keep us supplied I will give you a lot in the cemetery." Young Wells was practically a total abstainer (has always been) accepted the proposition and his wife who died 30 years ago and two sons, lie buried in the lot. Mr. Wells in telling about this smiled and said, "I expect to lie there when I go as peacefully and restful as though I had carried prohibition water in the jug to the logging bee."

When Mr. Wells was young man he was very strong and active and a handy man with the axe. He tells that at 16 years of age he left the father's home at 9 o'clock returning at 12, noon, and had cut 2 cords of maple wood four feet in length and piled it. He alone once windrowed five acres of as heavy beech and maple timber as grew in that township in 7 days and 1/2. He learned the carpenter trade and also plastering and masonry and became very expert at it. In an early day no part of Michigan produced such wonderful maple sugar as the township in the northwest part of Eaton county. Mr. Wells made with his own hands, 950 tight sap buckets, between January 9 and April 1 of the year that he was married. When 78 years old he went to Battle Creek and worked at the carpenter and plasters trade until he was 83 years old, drawing $3.00 a day which was the highest wages paid at that time.

Mr. Wells was married December 19, 1860, his wife dying 30 years ago. Seven children were born, three now living, Mrs. Joseph Lemon, Mrs. George Bosworth, at whose home Mr. Wells is now staying, and Mrs Ida Stevens.

Mr. Wells has always been in good health until two years ago when his sight failed him. His memory is remarkable and is interest in life is keen and interesting. At the Pioneer meeting held in Bellevue, celebrating their 90th birthday three years ago, Mr. Wells took the prize, $5.00, as the oldest man at the celebration. He has received like prizes at Charlotte and at the Vermontville celebrations he sat on the stage beside Mrs. Mary Pickens, a neighbor who was the guest of the occasion and was 103 years old. Mrs Pickens died last year.

Mr. Wells attended the first agricultural fair held in Eaton county and the fair grounds was located a little east of the Phoenix house at Charlotte. He never used tobacco or liquor and his motto has always been to never be outdone.

At fifteen years of age he weighed 163 pounds and stood 6 feet in his shoes. He remembers when in his prime of cradling grain with a cradle which had a ground edge of 4 feet and 4 inches long and the swath it cut was 12 feet in the grain, and his record was seven acres of grain a day, easily done.

The next year after his father settled in Sunfield, in 1843, he being 9 years old, the father told him if he would look after getting the cows home at night as his regular job he could have his choice between a gun and a dog. The boy chose the gun, and although not a hunter of game, liked to shoot and was very expert. The gun was a small one, beautifully made, probably by hand, and was nickel trimmed and decorated with nickel emblems. The young man was very proud of it as he got older and he remembers that his father traded the gun to a neighbor for 12,000 sap bucket staves and 1200 sap bucket heads, and he made them into 1200 sap buckets. His experience going after the cows which roamed at will in the woods was often exciting and amusing. Wolves and bears were plenty and his aim was to get the cows home long before dark. One night the cattle strayed 3 1/2 miles north in what is known as the Hunter settlement and when he located them by the sound of the cow bell and started them home it was so dark that he could not see the cows ahead of him, but followed them by hanging onto the tail of the last cow. When they got within a few rods of the home they dodged off into a bypath and he lost his tail hold. The bell soon ceased to ring and he knew the cows were home. So with his bare feet he felt the path and followed it by the sense of feeling in his feet until he reached home.

Mr. Wells expects to be at the Sunfield celebration August 25, to assist in celebrating the townships birthday, and will probably get the prize being offered for the oldest person present and also the prize for the oldest person present born in Sunfield township. Much interest is being aroused for this Society meeting of the Eaton county Pioneer Society and the annual farmer's picnic. A big time is assured and there will be things doing all day for young and old. Basket dinner.

Hon. Joseph L. Hooper, congressman from the third district, delivers the address.

(By Frank N. Green, President of the Eaton county Pioneer Society.)

Julia Wells, wife of Edwin died Dec 4, 1897 and Edwin Morris Wells died July 13, 1929. Both are resting in the Freemire Cemetery located in Section 34, Sunfield Township, Eaton County, Michigan

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