Henry Wells

Henry Williams Dwight Wells (1805 - 1878)

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Henry Williams Dwight Wells
Born in Thetford, Orange, Vermont, United Statesmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married 5 Sep 1827 in Palmyra, Wayne, New York, United Statesmap
Husband of — married 25 Apr 1861 in Roxbury, Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United Statesmap
Died in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland, United Kingdommap
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Profile last modified 4 Apr 2020 | Created 29 Nov 2017 | Last significant change: 4 Apr 2020
07:37: Dusty Boren edited the Biography for Henry Williams Dwight Wells (1805-1878). [Thank Dusty for this]
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Henry Wells was a co-founder of the American companies, American Express and Wells Fargo & Company, as well as a philanthropist and a benefactor of Wells College.[1]


Henry Williams Dwight Wells was born on 12 December 1805 in Thetford, Orange County, Vermont, the son of Dorothea "Dorothy" (Randall) and Shipley Wells. His father was a Presbyterian minister at what is now the First Presbyterian Church of Seneca Falls, New York, who moved his family to central New York State in the westward migration of Yankees out of New England.[2][1][3][4]

Henry was a member of the seventh generation of his family in America. His original ancestor was an English immigrant Thomas Welles, who arrived in Massachusetts in 1635 and was the only man in Connecticut's history to hold all four top offices: governor, deputy governor, treasurer, and secretary.

As a child, Henry worked on the family farm and attended school in Fayette. In 1822, he was apprenticed to Jessup & Palmer, tanners and shoemakers at Palmyra, New York.

On September 5, 1827, Henry married Sarah Caroline Daggett, daughter of Levi Daggett. They had four children: Charles, Mary Elizabeth, Oscar, and Edward.[5][6][7]

After his first wife's death on October 13, 1859 in Albany, New York, Henry married Mary Prentiss of Boston, April 25, 1861.[2][8][3][9]

California Gold Rush

Henry was a significant participant of the California Gold Rush. His experience with the Pennsylvania Railroad gave him tremendous talent with express transportation. In 1841, with George Pomeroy, he co-founded Livingston, Wells, & Pomeroy, which provided customers with express service between Albany and Buffalo. He was arrested several times for delivering mail for six cents, a pittance compared to the then government rate of twenty-five.[1][10]

In 1844, Henry co-founded Wells & Company, which connected Buffalo to Cleveland and Detroit, making it the "first company to offer express service west of Buffalo". By 1850, Wells & Company had extended to Chicago and St. Louis, making it the first express company to provide service to these cities, as well. Henry soon engineered a merger, combining Wells & Company and Livingston & Wells (Pomeroy had since retired) with a third company that provided express service between Albany and New York City: American Express Company, with Henry as President. By offering a direct connection between New York City and most of the west, and by establishing European Express offices in London, England and Paris, France, the American Express Company quickly became the nation's major delivery company.[1][10]

The California Gold Rush created an urgent need for secure shipments of gold dust and bullions to the East. Henry co-founded Wells Fargo & Company with William Fargo to transport gold through steamship from San Francisco to New York City. Wells Fargo also provided stagecoach services and banking to a number of California mining communities. In 1855, the company began to offer express service through coach from St. Louis westward, eventually establishing a stage line all the way to California. By 1866, Wells Fargo had a near monopoly on the market.[1][10]

"In eighteen hundred and sixty, Wells College opened its gate." Wells was founded as Wells Seminary, by Henry Wells on 171 acres he purchashed in 1850 in Aurora, NY. On opening day, 16 Sep, his son Charles presented a statue of Minerva, Roman Goddess of wisdom, intellect, music and craft to the Seminary. It was the only thing to survive a 1988 fire that destroyed the original Main Hall. Seniors have for many years kissed Minerva's big toe for good luck on their way to Comprehensive Exams! Renamed Wells College in 1870, Wells was a women's college until 2005. Many Wells alumnae notably opposed the move to coeducation. Wells remains a small, private liberal arts college, well ranked nationally, with individual program options, and charming traditions. Henry Wells own home, Glen Park, is among the historic campus buildings.


Henry died in Glasgow, Scotland, on December 10, 1878, two days short of his 73rd birthday. He was brought home for burial, transported aboard the steam-ship Ethiopia. His funeral was held at his home in Aurora and he was buried at Oak Glen Cemetery in Aurora.[1][11][12]

Research Notes

I think that there is a family connection between Henry and Fred H. Wells Jr.. Fred started a milk route in 1913 in Le Mars, Iowa. That led to what is today known as Wells Enterprises (Wells Blue Bunny), the largest family-owned ice cream manufacturer in the United States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wells_Enterprises


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 James Grant Wilson and John Fiske (eds.) Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography Vol. 6 Published in New York by D. Appleton & Sons, 1889. Page 429-430
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Year: 1870; Census Place: Ledyard, Cayuga, New York; Roll: M593_911; Page: 431B; Family History Library Film: 552410 Ancestry Record 7163 #29563044
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Marriage Records, 1840-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. New England Historic Genealogical Society; Boston, Massachusetts; Massachusetts Vital Records, 1911–1915 Ancestry Record 2511 #5321737
  4. Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 143; Volume #: Roll 143 - 01 Oct 1866-30 Nov 1866 Ancestry Record 1174 #1550910
  5. Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1855 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. Ancestry Record 7181 #1653799949
  6. Ancestry.com. 10,000 Vital Records of Western New York, 1809-1850 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2016. Genealogical Publishing Co.; Baltimore, Maryland; 10,000 Vital Records of Western New York, 1809-1850 Ancestry Record 61445 #9537
  7. Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Year: 1850; Census Place: Jamaica, Queens, New York; Roll: M432_582; Page: 263B; Image: 177 Ancestry Record 8054 #9220278
  8. Ancestry.com. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Ancestry Record 2495 #45713703
  9. Ancestry.com. North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016. Book Title: The history and genealogy of the Prentice, or Prentiss family, in New England, etc , from 1631 to 1 Ancestry Record 61157 #1738419
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "Henry Wells", The California Gold Rush
  11. Ancestry.com. U.S., Newspaper Extractions from the Northeast, 1704-1930 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Ancestry Record 50015 #27203
  12. Find A Grave: Memorial #24599370

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Comments: 5

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A distant 12th cousin 7 times removed. The first common ancestor is John Danvers, my 18th great grandfather.
posted by Mark Hough
My 4TH Cousin Seven Times Removed and Wikitree has Henry Wells as my fifth cousins five times removed, Thomas Welles born about 1629 is my 10th great grandfather and is Henry's 5th great grandfather.
posted by Steven Losey
18th cousins 6 times removed. The first common ancestor is Walter (Burgh) de Burgh Knt.
posted by Tiina Allén
9th cousin, 4XRemoved through my paternal Grandmother Estes.
posted by Sylvia (Patty) Simms
Hi there profile managers! We plan on featuring Henry as the Example Profile of the Week in the Connection finder on March 18th. Between now and then is a good time to take a look at the sources and biography to see if there are updates and improvements that need made, especially those that will bring it up to WikiTree Style Guide standards. I will check on the profile closer to the week we'll feature it and make changes as necessary.

Thanks! Abby

posted by Abby (Brown) Glann

Henry is 16 degrees from Mary Pickford, 16 degrees from Cheryl Skordahl and 14 degrees from Henry VIII of England on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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Categories: Oak Glen Cemetery, Aurora, New York | Notables