Saturday, July 14, 2012

Grandpa Wells - Roots of a Different Sort

It has been a great adventure of the richest sort:  tracing my ancestral roots.  I cannot say enough good things about the website, Ancestry.com.  From stores & scores of records I have made my way out upon the lengthy & lofty branches of my family tree.  At various intersections it is abundantly clear that distant relatives are doing work of their own there, adding documents, stories & photos that help me in my own journey. 

Some boughs have taken me back hundreds of years, especially those of my mother's Grinnell limb.  As you may have guessed, it is one and the same Grinnell that is associated with so many notable places & people ... Grinnell College being but one.  In fact, it's so widely known that it even has it's own website:  The Grinnell Family Association.

However, when it comes to my Dad's kin the boughs are rather short & stunted, as if someone had taken a buzz saw to a Poplar tree.  That said, on most boughs I'm able to make my way across the seas to the Emerald Isle - to the Ireland of the mid-to-late 1700s.  Names like Kelly, McAleer, McFadden, Breslin & Lagan are quite common.    

Photo:  Elial Parker Wells

Of the Clan Wells, little is known from 1810 forward.  That's when John Wells, my great-great grandfather was born in New York, no doubt the progeny of immigrants himself.  It was his son, Elial, who gave birth to James Elmer, who gave birth to my Dad, James Uvo in 1902.

Today I've been thinking about James Elmer, my grandfather.  I'm rather unhappy with him, but more on that later.  He was born in 1862 & died in 1919, making him only 57 years old at the time of his death; this untimely demise among family that often lived well into their 80s & 90s.  So it has been of particular interest to me to know the what & why of Grandpa Wells' brief life. 


Photo:  James Elmer Wells


Father to ten, he was a craftsman by trade.  He built many a fine structure (mostly homes) in Canada, Washington & Oregon.  When his sons were old enough to put their hand to the hammer, he appropriated their time & talents alongside his own.

It was in 1919 that he contracted to build the residence for the principle of Ferris Institute in Omaha, Nebraska.  With sons Frank & Martin in tow, he undertook the project. 


Initially my grandmother, Annie, along with the youngest hildren joined him.  When finished he did not go directly home, but decided instead to detour via Burns, Oregon, in order to visit his mother (my grandmother, Sarah Kelly).  It was there that he suddenly took ill & died.  His grave remains there to this day.

Photo:  Annie Claire McFadden-Wells

Over time, and when it actually mattered to me, I heard of, then read about the story of Grandpa's illness.  Much has been shared about him by his youngest daughter, Helen (my aunt), so connecting dots has not been troublesome.  It is among her artifacts that I discovered that it was an abscessed tooth that turned into that sudden, lethal ailment.  A tooth.  I have since learned that an abscess can breach the mouth's tissue and bone, then enter both brain and heart to become fatal. 

This all seems painfully relevant to me today - - several days hence of oral surgery, AGAIN. 

I'll end here with a bit about how Grandpa's DNA (and "roots" of a different sort) has been passed down to me...

From the git go I have had umpty-umpty problems with teeth & jawbones.  I could have put a child through Harvard for what I've spent on maintenance & repairs in my lifetime, and I've endured more than my fair share of abscesses & resultant root canals.  Even with the best of oral care, the genes meted out to me have been of little help.

So today I'm grateful for the legacy of industry that Grandpa has passed on.  The DNA?  Not so much ...




Group Photo:    Far L: Frank Wells, 4th from L, Martin Wells, 4th from R (w/mustache), Grandpa James Elmer Wells.  As for the others ... I'm clueless.

4 comments:

RCUBEs said...

That is really neat to learn so much about your family tree. That will be awesome if you happen to see those structures that your grandpa had built (same with the uncles). DNA...Ahh...It's awful when those not so wanted genes are passed on...Like hypertension...etc..I pray you will get a break from all those dental problems. Not fun! Take care sister. God bless.

manthano said...

Be careful about picking your ancestors.

Seriously though. Hasn't God been good to
us in what was passed on down to us.

God bless you.

Denise said...

Very interesting.

Just a little something from Judy said...

What an interesting post! We have more in common than I thought. My great grandfather died at 52 from the same thing your grandfather died of. I too have teeth and jaw issues that I find myself thanking him for.

My granddaughter and your grandma have the same name. What a fun discovery for me.

I enjoyed reading this post.