Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p., [155] leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.


George W. Wells

GEORGE W. WELLS. The old story, found in most of the early school readers, "mixing brains with work," has a special application to farming in Western Kansas, if not elsewhere. It is the man who combines a reasonable degree of good hard work with the "sweat of his brow" and directed by an ever alert intelligence who gets farthest along the road of success.

Such is the chief lesson that seems to be derived from studying the career of George W. Wells in Western Kansas. Mr. Wells was fourteen years of age when he first came to Kansas. The impressions made upon his mind by the country were only such as could be made upon the mind of a boy who had lived in a city and been suddenly transferred into the wild and wooly West. His ancestors for many generations had lived in Lincolnshire, England. His grandfather was a shoemaker in that English shire. His father, Thomas Richard Wells, was a bricklayer and contractor and died in Lincolnshire, England, in 1872, at the age of thirty-seven. His son was then only two years of age. Thomas R. Wells married Anna Hurst, daughter of William Hurst, an English farmer or what would be called a truck raiser in the United States. Anna Hurst Wells died in 1912, at the age of seventy-three. She and her husband had the following children: Betsy Ann, wife of Harry Ward, of Lincoln, England; Hannah, widow of Fred Quip, of London; Nellie, wife of Walter Stephenson, of Saxilby, Lincolnshire, England; Louise, wife of Alfred Osborne, of Lincoln, England; Joseph, a member of the Cold Stream Guards of the English Army; George W. Wells; and Jennie, wife of W. E. Woodhouse. Mr. Woodhouse, who is now chief mechanical engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railway living at Montreal, is a selfmade man and has progressed from the bottom of the shop to one of the leading industrial positions in Canada.

George W. Wells was born in Lincolnshire, England, August 30, 1870, and received most of his education in the public schools of his native land. He attended school two years after coming to Kansas.

He came to America to join an uncle who then lived twelve miles north of Spearville in Hodgeman County, Kansas. This uncle was a cattleman. Mr. Wells took passage on the ship, the State of Indiana, sailing from Glasgow, Scotland, and, after twelve days on the water landed at Castle Garden and four days later arrived at Spearville, Kansas. He did not possess a dollar when he arrived in the state, having spent all his funds for transportation. He immediately went to work for his uncle, riding on the range. He obtained his first views of Kansas from the saddle. The country was all open in every direction and it was possible to ride for miles and miles without seeing a fence. The memory of those early days is strong and vivid. In riding after the cattle when he would surmount one of the long ridges that are characteristic of the topography it seemed to him that the next ridge far away on the horizon must be the end of the world. The entire country was prairie and there was hardly a tree anywhere in the prospect. After about two years his uncle went back to England. He desired that his nephew should accompany him, but the latter had in the meantime become so thoroughly grounded in Kansas that he determined to grow up with the country. Therefore he stayed, and his experience enabled him to acquire a place as a line rider. In the meantime the country had settled up very fast and the cattlemen found it necessary to fence in their land. From line rider Mr. Wells progressed in employment to a section hand in the construction of the Santa Fe Railway and he also worked for the Denver and Rio Grande Railway in Colorado.

After his marriage he rented a farm two miles north of Lewis. He spent two years there and he then rented six miles east of Lewis and was in that locality for twenty years. In the meantime, in 1909, he had bought part of the land he rented, a quarter section, for which he paid $8,000, though it was unimproved. Here he built a six-room, one-story frame house. and barn with capacity for thirty head of stock, fifteen tons of hay and granaries to hold 6,000 bushels, garage, milk house, poultry houses and other buildings such as are found on a first-class modern Kansas farm. Besides the home quarter Mr. Wells now owns 480 acres, giving him a complete section of first-class Kansas soil. In 1914 he threshed a crop of 11,000 bushels of wheat. His harvest in 1916 was 8,000 bushels and that spells almost a fortune with the prevailing high prices of the cereal. His experiences with corn are of particular interest and value. In the twenty years spent on his farm Mr. Wells picked a corn crop nineteen seasons. Credit for his success as a corn raiser he ascribes to good cultivation at the right time. His method has been to list and plow deep and cultivate afterwards, especially during the wheat harvest period when the corn is growing rapidly and needs loosening of the soil and the dust mulch which preserves the moisture. It is his opinion that the farmer who employs this method is practically assured of a good yield of corn. On the home farm in 1915 his son raised 6,000 bushels of corn.

His experience with trees and orchards has not been so favorable. The trees have always grown well and have produced wood and foliage, but have seldom given a crop of fruit. Thus it is out of the pages of abundance of experience that Mr. Wells is able to assert that intelligent work is a practical guarantee of reasonable success in this district. In 1908 he sold a thousand dollars' worth of hogs off his farm and never lost one from birth to marketing. These hogs were produced with feed raised on the farm, and he sold the entire lot at one sale. The cholera invaded another flock and took away all of them except two. In 1914 Mr. Wells sold the stock on his farm to his son, a practical and successful farmer, and bought a modern bungalow of eight rooms in Lewis, where he now lives retired and has his time his own to enjoy life as he sees fit. Mr. Wells began life in Kansas without a dollar. He has no intention of selling out, but if he did so desire it is very probable that his holdings would bring him $40,000, all of which is a return for good hard industrious work and no inheritance. During his life in Kansas Mr. Wells made several trips with a view to finding some place that would offer superior advantages, but he has never disposed of any of his property and has come to the conclusion that no place offering more than Kansas is in existence. During one of these trips he spent three months in Western Canada, in the Province of Alberta. In 1904 he returned to England to visit his mother. He went to England on the Etruria, a seven-day journey, and came back on the Campagna, which was five days in crossing the ocean from Queenstown.

On November 11, 1897, Mr. Wells married Amy Bacon. She was born January 23, 1870, a daughter of Thomas Bacon and a sister of T. J. Bacon, elsewhere referred to in this publication. Four sons were born to their marriage: Fred, the oldest, is giving a good account of himself on the home farm. He married May Van Valkenburg. The second son, William B., is still at home and graduated from the Lewis High School in 1917. The youngest, Joseph L., was injured while playing basket ball and died as a result at the age of fourteen in 1915.

Mr. Wells is a Scottish Rite Mason, a member of Lewis Lodge and the Wichita Consistory. He is also affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Modern Woodmen of America. He and his wife are members of the Eastern Star and Mrs. Wells is also a member of the Rebekahs and is a member and librarian of the Ladies Reading Circle at Lewis and is president of the Busy Bee Club. The children were all baptized in the Episcopal Church but in the absence of a church of that denomination at Lewis Mrs. Wells is active in the Methodist denomination. Mr. Wells is a democrat and has been a delegate to county conventions and quite active in local affairs. For five years he was trustee of Belpre Township and a number of times served on the school board. Besides his real estate holdings he has stock in the First National Bank of Lewis and is one of its directors, and is a stockholder in the Farmers Elevator at Belpre.


Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p., [155] leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.

Volume 4 - Table of Contents

Tom & Carolyn Ward
Columbus, KS

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