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The Axer / Oxer / Auxier Family

“A Journey of Courage and Conviction”

by  John Britton Wells III


By way of introduction, my name is John Britton Wells III. I was born in Kentucky and lived in Paintsville for 29 years. The Wells family came to the beautiful East Kentucky hills about 1820 when my 4th great grandfather Richard Wells settled on Daniels Creek. I am a businessman by profession, but my heart has always been in the history and genealogy of the mountain region. I taught American and Appalachian history for the University of Kentucky and Morehead State University as an adjunct instructor for over twenty years and am a certified professional genealogist with thirty-three years experience. I hold a B.A. in American history from Columbia University, an M.A. in southern history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an M.B.A. from Vanderbilt University. I spent a year of specialized study in French history at the University of Paris. My work experience includes stints as genealogist and research specialist for the North Carolina Department of Archives and History and assistant curator of rare books for the University of North Carolina. I have served as national genealogist for several hereditary organizations including the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Military Order of  The Stars & Bars, the Wells Family Association, Inc. and the Society of American Descendants of Brazil.

Before I begin the Auxier family narrative I want to express how proud I am to be an “Auxier.” Until two years ago I had no idea that I was connected to the family, but it has since become a source of great pride to me. My mother Martha Gess Hayman Wells grew up in Lexington, Kentucky. Her family has lived in Fayette County for over two hundred years. When she joined the Daughters of the American Revolution her qualifying ancestor was her 3rd great grandfather William Christian who died in Fayette County in 1828. The wife of William Christian was Nancy “Oxer.” All I knew about Nancy was that she was born about 1757 in Virginia and married in Washington County, Virginia, on April 22, 1777. Permission to marry was granted by her father "Michael Oxer."

Because I have organized and led successful European family heritage tours for the Wells and Hutchison families, a veteran of both trips who is also an Auxier descendant asked me to organize an Auxier heritage tour to France. She encouraged me to offer it to the 2000 Auxier Family Reunion. Just prior to the Auxier reunion I picked up a copy of the second edition of The Auxier Family by “Memphis Dave” Auxier and Judith Tickel Need in order to gather some background information about the family. To my great surprise, right there on page 3 was Nancy Oxer/Auxier my 4th great grandmother! A week later I attended my first Auxier reunion and met hundreds of new cousins. I also learned much new information regarding the proud heritage of the Auxier family … MY family!

However, as I examined various Auxier traditions and folklore some of the family stories appeared not to jibe with available historical records. The tradition that the Auxier family is of French extraction was particularly troubling. I expressed my concerns to family historian Judith Tickel Need and found her to be very open to continued genealogical research. In the past I have encountered many genealogists in her position who took a “circle the wagons” approach to established family traditions. On the contrary, Judith was anxious to examine new discoveries and theories. She is a very professional and thorough researcher and working with her has been a delightful experience.

I know that some of you will be unhappy with the following narrative. I understand it is hard to give up traditions that have been handed down for generations. I also understand there will be those of my new cousins who will reject the new research out of hand and cling to the old traditions. I accept that and have no desire to cause turmoil within the family. For that reason, the following narrative is based solely on available historical records and is very carefully documented. Every statement of fact is accompanied by footnotes explaining the sources of the records and conclusions. Our Auxier ancestors deserve the recognition and honor due them. Only through documented, accurate research can their true story be uncovered and preserved. Family stories and traditions must be saved, but they must be compared with historical fact in order to separate the truth from inevitable embellishments that come from generations of  “telling and retelling.” There are many details yet to be uncovered and this research effort continues to be a work in progress. With that I present to you the story of our Axer/Oxer/Auxier family.

  John Britton Wells III


Auxier Family Article 

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