THOMAS J. WELLS is a son of one of the first settlers of Scott County, was reared amid the primitive scenes that characterized its early settlements to a vigorous, capable manhood, and as soon as large enough began to share in the pioneer labors that laid the foundations for its present wealth and greatness. He is now numbered among the most successful of the practical, wide-awake, skillful farmers and stock-raisers of Winchester Precinct, where the greater part of his life has been spent since 1822, a period of sixty-seven years. His farm on section 16, township 14, range 12, comprises 200 acres, and with its well tilled soil, substantial buildings, including a fine brick residence, and many other valuable improvements, is considered one of the most desirable estates in this part of the county. There is a great deal of fruit on this place, including choice varieties of apples, pears, peaches, strawberries, currents, plums and grapes. Mr. Wells has devoted himself largely to raising stock, and has some fine graded cattle and horses.
The subject of this sketch was born Sept. 19, 1816, in Monroe County, Ill., and was the third child in order of birth of ten children in the family of Alexander and Mary (Chance) Well natives of Virginia and Maryland respectively, the former reared in Kentucky and the latter in Illinois. The father came to this State in the territorial days, and met the woman to whom he was afterward married. They spent the first few years of their wedded life in Monroe County, Ill., and came from thence with their family in 1822 to Scott County, then called Madison County, and later Morgan County. He took up a piece of wild land and improved it into a good farm, his original homestead now being in the possession of our subject. He was one of the first settlers here and had a good deal to contend with that the farmers of the present day know nothing about. Wild beasts were plentiful in this region and often troubled the crops, and our subject has seen many a bear killed by his father lying in the door-yard. In those days he had to go way to St. Louis to mill, and finally bought a small hand-mill on which two men could grind a peck of corn without stopping to rest. He took an active part in the Black Hawk War, and was a captain of a regiment. He was held in high consideration by his fellow-citizens and was a man of influence in this community, and here his name and memory are cherished as those of a deserving pioneer. His honorable life-record was brought to a close at the venerable age of ninety-five years in February, 1877. His wife is also deceased; her death preceding that of her husband twenty years. The descendants of this worthy couple were well represented in the late war by one son, John C., and five grandchildren, one of them, William A., the son of our subject, all of whom served in the Union Army.
Thomas Wells of our sketch, was a child of between four and five years when his parents brought him to Scott County, and as in those pioneer times schools had scarcely been started in this region his education did not commence till he was eleven or twelve years old, and he did not even know his letters, when, for the first time at that age he began to attend the rude log house, with its rough slab benches and poorly lighted interior, that served as the temple of knowledge for the children of the early settlers of Winchester Precinct. His chances for attending school even then were limited as he had to assist his father on the farm, but at one time he was under the tuition of the famous Stephen A. Douglas for three months; that gentleman teaching school in Winchester. At the age of twenty-one our subject began an independent life, and worked a portion of his father's place for all that he could get out of it. Nov. 13, 1845, he took an important step toward establishing a comfortable home, as on that date he took unto himself a wife in the person of Miss Julia Ann York. Her parents were William K. and Phebe (Lyons) York, natives respectively, of North Carolina and Bowling Green, Ky. They were married near Alton, Ill., March 4, 1821, and removing to this county at once, bought a place south of Winchester and were the very first settlers here. They had nine children, three of whom are now living, and two of their sons, William H. and J.B., served in the Union army in the late war, the former as quarter-master and the latter as private. Mrs. Wells was the second child of this family, and was born April 27, 1824, six miles east of Winchester. The family fared very hard in those early times, in common with many other pioneers, and Mrs. Wells received such education as she could pick up. She was twenty-two years old when she married our subject.
Mr. and Mrs. Wells settled a half mile west of this place, and began housekeeping on a very limited scale. Mrs. Wells in those days, being an accomplished spinner and weaver made all the cloth used in the family, and even sheared the sheep herself to get the wool. Mr. Wells at that time farmed on an eighty-acre tract of land, subsequently bought twenty acres more, and later on another 100-acres, which belonged to the homestead of his father.
Our subject and his wife mutually aided each other in their work and their years of hard and unremitting toil have been amply rewarded as we have seen. Four children, two sons and two daughters have blessed their union and are spared to comfort their declining years - William A., born Sept. 15, 1846; Thomas J., born April 25, 1848; Mary E., born Sept. 26, 1850; Lenora, born June 15, 1853. Will aim A., who lives in Winchester, has been married twice. His first wife, by whom he had three children, was Maggie Woodall. After her death he married Ada V. Waters, and they have had two children, one of them now dead. Thomas, who lives in Jerseyville, Ill., married Jennie S. Stuart, and they have seven boys. Mary E. is the wife of Charles S. Doyle, and they live at the homestead, and have one child, Gertie. Lenora married Robert Hawk, and they live one-half mile north of the homestead, and have one child, Ivan.
Mr. Wells is public-spirited and contributes his quota to furthering all schemes for the advancement of the precinct and county. He is an uncompromising Republican and always gives his party his support at the polls. He cast his first vote for the hero of Tippacanoe and many years later had the pleasure of voting for his grandson, our present President.
He has been school Director and Supervisor of roads many years, and discharged the duties thus incumbent upon him so as to promote the best interests of the community. He and his wife are people of earnest religious convictions, who carry their religion into their every day lives, and over forty years ago, they united with the Christian Church. Though the frosts of age have descended on his head our subject still bears in his heart the dew of youth, and seems never to have grown old, being lively and full of fun and his genial disposition makes him a general favorite with all.