Our Traceable Beginnings

75 years before Christopher Columbus took what had to have felt like a life-or-death gamble to sail across the Atlantic Ocean for a ‘shortcut’ to India, our earliest, traceable ancestor was born about a 3-days walk southeast of London, England. Thomas Atte Welle was born sometime before 1430 and grew up to be a farmer in Willesboro, England. Willesboro was a small village in Kent County, near the modern town of Westwell.

John Britton Wells, III, our resident family historian (among others on the Historical Committee) has written a wonderful book that traces Thomas’ sons and daughters through 11 generations to Richard Wells IV – the man whose family found roots in Kentucky’s Big Sandy Valley.

There are a number of wonderful stories in John’s book that tell of how our family grew, how the family name evolved to become ‘Wells,’ the properties they owned, their dowries, their wills – and how, in 1635, Richard Wells, as punishment for thievery, was sent to the English Colonies as an indentured servant. And so began the Wells family experience in what would later become America.

Our Family in the Colonies and America

A few generations later, one Richard Wells IV was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1760. At 15 years of age he moved to Wilkes County, Georgia with his Uncle George Wells.  These were the early years of tension between the colonists and the British government. 

American’s were of two minds – you had the rebels on one side and those that sympathized with the English (the Tories).   Richard was one of the rebels, even serving as an Orderly Sergeant in the Georgia Militia while fighting against the English in the Battle of Stono. 

Georgia was overrun by Tories for a time and Richard, rather than be captured, fled to southwest Virginia.   Once there, he volunteered in the Virginia military as an “Indian Spy” during the late 1770’s/early 1780’s.  During the Revolutionary War, many Native American tribes sided with the English – thinking that the English may allow them to retain much of the land west of the Appalachians.  During this time, the Indians attacked and killed many colonists, burned their villages and, in general, made life in the wilderness a bit uncomfortable for the colonists.  Indian Spies were a group of men who were trackers and soldiers.  In groups of 2 to 4, they would spend a few weeks deployed in the woods to keep an eye out for Indian warriors and, once they saw them, they’d hurry back to the forts / villages and help prepare the defenses. 

After the Revolutionary War ended and his service complete, Richard remained in Washington County, Virginia and was employed by Peter Hutchinson to work on his farm.  Peter’s daughter, Susannah Hutchinson took a liking to Richard and they were married on September 18,1797.  It was their marriage that served as the beginning of our colorful family tree which has grown tremendously over the years since the foundation of our United States of America.

Around 1825, their son, George Eireland Wells, was the first to move to Daniel’s Creek in Johnson County, KY.   Richard, and some other family members, also eventually moved to Kentucky – with most settling in the Big Sandy Valley.   

And this is where our story begins.  We’ve had ministers, lawyers, physicians, farmers and even state legislators branch out over the years.  Our cover photo on the first page of this website is a picture from the family reunion held in 1915.  There are hundreds of people in that photograph – all aunts, uncles, grandparents and great-grandparents of those of you reading today.

Our Venture Ahead

We encourage you to explore this website – it’s small now, but it’s going to grow quite a bit in the coming years.  You’ll be able to purchase family histories of your line of the Richard and Susannah tree (they had many children who, in turn, had many children).  There’s a lot of us Wells’ across America and we’re hopeful that this website can become a place where you can contribute to that history.  We have a number of family newsletters already here and soon, you too, can contribute your stories … births, graduations, marriages, big events (small events, too!), passings and prayers – we’ll take them all, add them to our newsletters and to our online home and make them available to all.


The Wells Family Association