WELLS-L Archives

Archiver > WELLS > 1997-08 > 0871277252

From: <>
Subject: WELLS family of Wellsburg, Brooke Co., VA/WV
Date: 10 Aug 1997 22:27:32 PDT

A recent post had an attachment entitled "WELLS FAMILY HISTORY / BY /
ORRIN BRYTE CONWAY." The post was accompanied by a message indicating
the gentleman had found the document while "housecleaning" his PC and
might help someone.

Fair enough! Unfortunately, the =original= author [Conway] seems to
have taken an approach to his research that could be characterized as
"casual" at best. A brief example will suffice:

The fourth page of this "Wells family History" states:
"Wellsburg, West Virginia was founded December 7, 1791 and named
after Alexander Wells. Alexander Wells was the Son-in-law of Charles
Prather as he married the daughter Elizabeth..."

These two sentences conflict in all but one detail with the information
Nancy Lee Caldwell, Copyright 1975, Wellsburg, WV (of which I obtained a
partial copy at the Brooke County Library about ten years ago):

Chapter 1, "Early History of Brooke County" (relevant excerpts):
"One of the earliest settlers was Charles Prather. On March 6, 1788,
Prather purchased 481 acres of land from John Cox, heir of Friend Cox.
... In 1790, Prather had this ground surveyed, a plat was made and at
the January term of court in 1791 in Ohio County, the Town of
Charlestown, Virginia was incorporated.." [Note: Brooke County was
formed out of Ohio County in 1796 or 1797; authorities differ.] ...
From 1788 to 1795, settlers were arriving every day. ... One of these
early settlers was Alexander Wells from Baltimore, Maryland. Mr. Wells
first settled in Cross Creek Township, Pennsylvania around 1773, and was
the first person to erect a frame building in that part of what is now
Washington County, Pennsylvania. However, around the late 1780's, Mr.
Wells started to dispose of his property in Cross Creek and started
investing in properties in Charlestown, Virginia. Mr. Wells traded
property with his cousin, Richard Owings of Baltimore, in exchange for
450 acres at the mouth of Buffalo Creek where he built a trading post
and warehouse. He purchased and rented lots in Charlestown from Charles
Prather and other men. In 1788, he built a log cabin... [still standing
in 1975]. ... The legislature of the state of Virginia passed an act
December 27, 1816, to change the name of Charlestown to Wellsburg. The
new name was in honor of Charles Wells, who married Elizabeth, the only
daughter of Charles Prather." [Note: One problem with the name
Charlestown was that there was already a "Charles Town" in Virginia; it
was, and is, the county seat of Jefferson County. A second
"Charlestown," as county seat of Brooke County, was undesirable.]

From this second account, which appears authoritative and appropriately
documented, we note:
1) The town was =founded= as Charlestown (not as Wellsburg).
2) Incorporation as =Charlestown= (not Wellsburg) occurred in January
1791 (not 07 December 1791).
3) The founder was Charles Prather, not Alexander Wells.
4) Charlestown was renamed Wellsburg by legislative act on 27 December
1816 (twenty-five years AFTER its alleged "founding" by Alexander
5) The town was named for =Charles= Wells, =not= Alexander Wells.
6) Charles Wells (not Alexander) married Elizabeth Prather.
7) Charles Wells (not Alexander) was the son-in-law of Charles Prather.

In short, there appear to be seven (7!) factual errors in a mere two
sentences (one factual error for every four words). Is this a record?
(BTW, Elizabeth Prather =was= the daughter of Charles Prather; at least
Conway got that right.)


Of course, the first tipoff that this is probably genealogical graffiti
was its opening sentence. Any four-page(!) "Wells Family History" that
starts out "The first Wells to appear in English history was Richard,
who sailed from Normandy with William the Conqueror, in 1066...", then
leaps 800 years to "Gideon Wells of Connecticut [who] was in Lincoln's
cabinet" tells us plainly that the author was merely infatuated with the
reflected glory of "famous names." [Needless to say, none of these
famous WELLSes are ever connected to the Wells family of Brooke County.]

Some of the data presented by the author may well be correct, but I'd
suggest anyone interested in this account proceed with maximum caution
and accept no statement made by Conway without appropriate confirmation
from primary evidence or at least a generally reliable secondary source
(which is simply good practice in any case).


BTW, I don't research the WELLS family of Wellsburg (my WELLS family is
of Massachusetts), but do have a primary research interest in a German
family in the Wellsburg area (who came from Lancaster, PA. ca 1784,
=before= the WELLSes and the PRATHERs arrived). I'm familiar with the
area (and my family are intermarried with the PRATHERs) - so the
"offending" two sentences instantly set off alarm bells.

I am presently working on mid-19th century records of Wellsburg and the
surrounding area (principally its newspaper, the Wellsburg Herald) and
have been posting to the list such WELLS items (primarily marriages and
obits) as I note. As mentioned, however, that I do not research this
WELLS family, so (except in rare instances, such as intermarriages with
"my" families) cannot assist in identifying persons named in these old
newspaper articles. My contribution is to slog through the old
newspapers and post the WELLS items I note while looking for the
families of interest to my research. Also, if you have specific
research problems in the area, I may (emphasize "may") be able to offer
suggestions - I'll try, at least.

Richard ()

This thread: