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The Charlie Wells Story
By Ron Taylor

Many times as I have traveled the roads of history I’ve bumped into people that I have wished I could have known more about.  Such is the case with Charlie Wells.

As coincidence will have it I received a reply to the picture I recently displayed in my Patriot newspaper column of the Belfast, NY old Genesee Valley Canal Warehouse.  Dean Wells responded that he noticed due to the fact that his grandfather had been involved in helping to apprehend one of the accused murderers.  It piqued my interest when I heard the name Charlie Wells and wrote to Dean asking for his help to learn a little more about Charlie.  I had remembered the pictures I had seen of Charlie’s stonework “monuments” which he had built in the early 1900’s.

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Finished Stone Sentry Box

 

Below are mostly Dean Wells'  words telling “The Charlie Wells Story”.  He states that the information is “as related to him by his father and from the diaries of Charlie” which are in his possession.

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Charles Gardner Wells (1867-1942) was born the son of Sewell (1828-1893) and Sarah Wells.  His father was a civil war veteran in Co. B., 189th Regt, NY Infantry.  His name is on the monument in the park at Belfast. 

          Charles’ grandfather was Gardner Wells (1800-1868) whom Wellsville, NY, was named after.  Gardner moved to the Coyle Hill Road which runs off the White Creek Road.  Sewell’s farm was on the White Creek Road near the Friendship Town line.  Charles was born there in 1867. 

          When Charles was 19 he and his father had a disagreement so Charles rode his bicycle to a place near Coudersport.  He worked as a Bark Peeler for a logging outfit producing tanbark for the leather processing at the tanneries.  He slept in a lean-to next to a fence.  After working only a short time he broke his shoulder.  He then rode and walked his bike back to his home on the White Creek Road.  His father realized he had wrongly accused Charles and their differences were resolved. 

          He married Clara Curtis in 1897 and they had three children.  Ruth (1898-1949) married Lynn Gleason, a banker in Fillmore; my father – Raymond (1902-1998), was office manager for R.G.& E. in Canandaigua; Harold (1905-1998) who lived north of Oramel on Route 19. 

          Charlie was a Mason by trade and layed stone for stone walls in the Belfast area.  My father said he would leave Monday morning on his bicycle with his mason tools and return Saturday evening from his stone laying job.  He also made cemetery vaults on order.   

          He was a fiddle player and played at many dances.   Evidently back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s dances were taking place in private homes as in his diaries he would tell how he was paid four dollars to play at dances getting home around 3 a.m. from so-and-so’s home.  He and my grandmother used to play at dances at the hotel in Oramel which I think was the Vosburg House.  He played the fiddle, my grandmother played the piano and my Dad sometimes played the ukulele. 

          The following was an entry in his diary dated December 21, 1907 (relating to the capture of one of the accused murderers at the Belfast Warehouse: 

“I got a call on phone at 8 o’clock to go up on B&S Railroad (on Crawford Creek Road in Oramel) to see if could catch an Italian (Guisoppi Sanduci) that had killed two Italians.  I went up near Fox Crossing from there over to Charles Gleason, got his shotgun (unloaded) went over to Railroad near mile-went down the railroad about a mile-saw an Italian-went back up the railroad to Crawford Creek Culvert (there is a log cabin in this location now) found him, chased him up to Aron Stones, got him.  Took Stones team back up tho his barn.  Got back to Oramel a little before 4’ o’clock.”   

          Evidently constable pay was not much.  Dec. 27, 1906 he was paid $1.50 for the arrest of two Hungarians! 

          In 1928 he started building the stone cone not using any mortar.  According to my father, Charlie built this cone just to see if he could do it.  The Town Highway crew dismantled the cone in 1948 afraid some kids would get hurt playing in it.  These are shown in pictures 3 & 6 of the gallery below.  5, 7, & 8 are other stone posts he built.  Number 8 still stands on my private property. 

          Picture 1, I was told by my Dad, were an Oxen team.  I remember the yoke hanging up in the barn.  I never heard much about the mule team.  The home still stands in Oramel. 

          As he mentioned in one of the diaries, driving his horse-driven cutter through snow could be hazardous and occasionally it would tip over with he and his wife tumbling out.  A January 1, 1919 diary entry showed that Charlie weighed 128 lbs. and was 5’ 2 ½” tall. 

          Charlie died in 1942 and I was only 5 years old so remember only a few things about him.  He always sat me on his lap and always turned to a picture of a snake in the dictionary.  He would take me for a ride in his Model A and show me how the windshield wiper would work by continually moving the handle.  Also him using the crank to start the motor. 

          Below are some pictures including the old Oramel Hotel and a couple pictures of Charlie along with the stone work that he did, “just to see if he could do it !!”

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Charlie & the Cows

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Mule Team circa 1931

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Home of Charles & Clara Wells

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Sentry Post

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The Oramel Hotel Block.  Photo submitted by Ardean Wells.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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