William A. Wells, who resided on section 33, town of Sunfield, was one of the wealthiest farmers in Eaton County. He was born in Marcellus, Onondaga County, New York on January 1, 1813, and was the son of Augustus and Deborah (Converse) Wells, natives of Connecticut. His brothers and sisters were Orrin M., Priscilla, Maria, Russell B. and James R. Wells.

      William A. Wells was reared under the paternal roof in Onondaga County, New York, and received only a limited education. He was thrown upon his own resources at an early date in his existence and by working by the month and year provided for his support. He subsequently learned the blacksmith trade, which he followed for a time. Acting on the advice of Horace Greeley, he came west in 1840, making the journey from New York to Detroit by water, and from there across the country with an ox-team. In Eaton County, he made a claim of one hundred and twenty acres of land, settling thereon in the spring of 1841. There was no clearing within a mile and a half of his place and no road near it, but all was in a primitive condition, untouched by the hand of man. His first house was a shanty, 12 x 15 feet, built of logs, and the only board in the whole structure was that forming the door. With a capital of $30 he began life on the Western frontier and his lot was not exempt from the hardships and trials, which beset the path of the pioneer. After seven years a substantial log home replaced his cabin. As time passed, acre after acre of land was placed under the plow until as the result of his own labors, one hundred and sixty acres of richly cultivated land pay tribute to the care and cultivation he bestows upon them, while an additional thirty-five acres was also comprised within the boundaries of his farm. His progressive and enterprising spirit had manifested itself throughout all his work. He and his brother, Orrin M., purchased the first threshing machine brought to the town of Sunfield and also brought the first mower and reaper, and the first fanning mill and windmill.

      On the 20th of December 1841, Mr. Wells wedded Miss Mary Chatfield, also of Eaton County, who was born in Oneida County, New York, October 26, 1822. Her parents, Abram and Sarah (Bixby) Chatfield, came to Eaton County in the autumn of 1837, and located in Sunfield, where they died, both at the age of sixty-six years. Mrs. Wells was one of the first white women who came to Sunfield Township and her home had been in Eaton County since January 1, 1839. She was in every way worthy of the high esteem in which she was held. Her hospitable home showed marks of her care and culture and the welcome she extended to the many friends of the family made the Wells’ home a favorite resort to the people of the community. Six children were born to William and Mary Wells; John, the eldest who was a farmer of Sunfield Township, married Esther Coleman, by whom he had two children—Mary and Priscilla. Palmer H. Ellen M. was the wife of Hollis Y. Patterson, of Vermontville, and unto them were born seven children: Cora, Mary, Henry, Homer, Ruby, Bernice and Jesse. Eva was the wife of Joseph A. Dale, of Vermontville, by whom she had six children—Charles W., Roy H., Grace E., Bertha, Joseph A. and Leslie. Frederick I., who married Miss Idell Kenedy, by whom he had one child, Perry, was a farmer in Vermontville. William R., who wedded Cassie Rawson of Vermontville Township, and was engaged in merchandising in Shaytown, Michigan.

      To say that Mr. Wells had succeeded in business hardly expresses the excellent prosperity, which had crowned his efforts, and to his own labors may be accredited all that he had made. Since coming to Eaton County he never purchased a bushel of grain or potatoes except for seed; had never paid a dollar’s interest on borrowed money, did not owe a dollar; nor was he under obligations to any man. A wealthy citizen, his property has been acquired through the legitimate channels of business and in no way forfeited the confidence of his fellow townsmen in his business integrity. In politics he was first a Whig and later supported the Republican Party. He was never connected with any religious denomination or secret organizations.

      William died May 2, 1903 at the age of 90 years and Mary died March 21, 1897 at the age of 75 years, both are resting at the Freemire Cemetery, Sunfield Township, Eaton County, Michigan.

Portrait & Biographical Album Barry & Eaton County, Michigan, 1891

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