HOLMES COUNTY, FLORIDA

HISTORY OF HOLMES COUNTY -- The First Settlers of Holmes County --- The John C Wells Family

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(From the book "Heart and History of Holmes County" by Anna Paget Wells (used by permission of the publisher, Sue Cronkite))  This book is chock full of pictures and what has been used within this web site is only a small about of the book.  It can still be ordered from Sue Cronkite or from the Holmes County Advertiser, 112 E Virginia Avenue, Bonifay FL 32425; phone 850-547-2270; fax 850-547-9200

The John C Wells family was not the first Wells family to come to Holmes County. He was involved in the construction of the first railroad through the county.

John Cís father, William Wells, was listed in the Federal Census of 1850 in Butler County, Ala, age 54, farmer, born in South Carolina. He moved to Butler County, Ala, between 1832 and 1838. His wife, Lucinda, age 38, was also born in South Carolina. After Lucinda died, William Wells married Judy Elizabeth Smith. Several children were born to them before William died in 1874. John C Wells, my husbandís grandfather, was one of them.

John C Wells married Lucinda Speigner. They settled in Bonifay in the early 1880s, and had seven children, James Thomas, Betty, Jasper Green, John Smith, Lafayette "Fate", Lula, and Emma.

        1. James Thomas Wells married Hannah Brock. Their children were, William Perry, born 1898; Alex, born 1900; Lee Joshua, born 1903; Hugh Thomas, born 1905; Lela, born 1909 and Virginia, born 1916.

        2. Betty Wells married Oscar Peters. They had two sons, Henry and Ned.

        3. Jasper Green Wells married Linie Baker. Their children were J C, Met, Eva Mae, Leon, Tommy, and Malzie.

        4. John Smith Wells married first, Malzie Still. There were five children from this marriage, Gladys, Ottis, Hannah Mae, Rencie, and Ernest, who died at a young age. After the death of Malzie, John Smith Wells married Willie Mae Bush. There were four children from this union, Lenora, Johnnie, Walton, and Brown. In 1977, when this book was first being written, John Smith Wells was the only one of John C Well'í seven children living, and he was near being a centenarian.

        5. Fate Wells married first, Ella Atchison and second, Alma Howell. There were children of both marriages, but we do not have the names of all.

        6. Lula Wells married Kenlock Chitty. There were six children born to them, Mallie, Ola, "Fate", Ethel, Ruby, and Don. Kenlock Chitty had been married before he married Lula Wells. There was a large number of Chitty stepchildren.

        7. Emma Wells married George Bryant, and they had nine children, Edna, Thelma, Velma, Willard, Charity, Tommy, Lena Mae, Earl, and the last child which was stillborn and was never named.

The heads of the two Wells families in Holmes County when the first Census was taken in 1850 were Abner T Wells, born in Georgia, and John D Wells, born in South Carolina. We could find no information on these families.

MORE ABOUT THE J T WELLS FAMILY

After James Thomas, the oldest son of pioneer John C and Lucinda Wells, grew up and married, he settled just across the line in Washington County, but his post office address never changed from Bonifay.

To his friends, James Thomas Wells was known as "Tom". To his mother and teachers he was known as "Tommy". When he was a boy, he attended he Bonifay school. He told the following story on himself: "I wrote a note to my girlfriend on my slate unaware that my teacher, Miss Carkhuff, was standing behind me looking over my should. I was taken by surprise when I heard her say in a low-toned voice, "Tommy, I believe I would erase that."" Tommy, smiling broadly, would say, "I heartily agreed with her!".

TOMMY SURVIVES TWO RATTLESNAKE BITES

When Tommy was about 12 years old, his father sent him into the wood to bring a team of oxen that he had left there. Before Tommy reached the oxen, he was bitten by a large rattlesnake. He killed the snake and returned to his father carrying it on a stick over his shoulder.

His father asked, "He bit you, didnít he son?" Tommy admitted that the snake had bitten him. His father carried him home on his back.

After became a framer, he was bitten by a ground rattler, about two inches from the spot where the large rattler had bitten him.

THE WELLS FAMILY ATTEND THE CHAUTAUQUA

During the season when the Chautauqua was held in DeFuniak Springs, the railroad company would give special rates to people attending the Chautauqua. The lower rates were called "excursion rates". Joshua Wells describes the trip his family made:

"We got up very early and drove a team to Bonifay to catch the train. We lived about six miles from the station. I was bout five years old. I remember I wore the very first shoes I ever owned on this trip. My Uncle Willie Brock accompanied us on this trip. He also had a new pair of shoes made of black patent leather which cost him $5.


"I remember more about seeing twin calves born to a cow owned by Dr King than about the program presented by the Chautauqua. A fire in town caused some excitement. A dog led the fire wagon to the fire. When my father heard the clanging of the fire wagon bell, he said, "thereís a fire!"

""True to custom, people rushed to the fire. The firefighters asked the sightseers to stand back. When they didnít respond, the firemen turned the water hose in their direction. They made room immediately.


"During the day Uncle Willie Brock got tipsy and was taken to jail. At the end of the day when it was time board the excursion train home, someone got Uncle Willie out of jail just in time to board the train.

"When were about halfway home, Uncle looked down at his and made a shocking discovery: he was wearing a very ragged pair of brogan shoes. While he was sleeping it off in jail, someone had taken his fancy black patents and left him the old brogans in their place."

The writer became affiliated with the Tom Wells family by marriage in 1936. I would like to pay a tribute to my father-in-law: I donít believe I have meter another person who appreciated the privilege of working or tried harder to do a better job than he did. He was both industrious and thrifty. He was primarily a farmer, but he could do carpentering and other things, tool. If he built a house, he wanted it to stand straight and strong.

Tom Wells would have been classed as a small farmer. A small farmer had to be a good manager to keep his family clothed and fed, and he had to be a very good manager to provide the "in" luxuries of the times. Tom Wells did both.

THE SURREY WITH NO FRINGE ON TOP

One of the luxury items the Wells family owned was a surrey. It was a four-wheeled, two-seated, horse-drawn carriage with beautiful fringe around the top. About 1914, Tom Wells purchased a nearly-new surrey from Wyatt Parish. He hauled turpentine from Wyatt Parishís still to the railroad to earn money to pay for it. Tom Wells believed in a "pay-as-you-go" philosophy.

It was not long before the surrey was involved in an accident. The Tom Wells family had just finished picking over their cotton field. The weather was threatening. The Tom Wells boys piled in the surrey and went to help their Uncle John Wells get his cotton out before the rain. The wind and rain did come and the Wells boys were forced to remain at their Uncle Johnís until the storm was over. By this time there was black darkness.

During the storm, a tree had fallen across the road. The butt of the tree rested on a high stump. It was so dark the driver did not see the tree. The team had no trouble going under the tree. Not the surrey top Ė it crashed. Thatís the story of the topless carriage.

In the mid-1920s, Tom Wells purchased another luxury item, a T-Model Ford. He also paid cash for it. And, like the surrey, it was involved in an accident. His son, Joshua, drove the family to Dothan to visit a sick relative in a hospital there. The Ford was well loaded. There were three passengers in the front: Joshua, his wife Ila, and his older sister, Lela. In the back seat, there were four: his father, his mother, his grandmother, and his younger sister, Virginia.

On the return trip, Joshua fell asleep. The car left the road and turned over. The "spill" was so easy that Joshua didnít wake up until he hard someone says, "Heís dead!" Suddenly, he was awake and asked, "Whoís dead?"

There were no critical injuries. Mrs Wells suffered a dislocated shoulder and one of Lelaís fingers got caught in a door and was madly mashed. The T-Model fared badly. A wrecker picked it up. Mr Wells decided to buy a new one instead of having it repaired. The wrecked car was a 1926 model and the new car was a 1927 model. A white horse was swapped for the new car.

 


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This page was last updated on:  17 June 2002 , 08:42 PM