Captain J. A. Wells

Company H, 91st Illinois Volunteer Infantry



Photo and biography submitted by Dave Dalton, gr-gr-gr-grandson of J. A. Wells.

JOSEPH A. WELLS was born in Walkerville, Greene County, Ill., 24 March 1838. He was one of 21 children born to Samuel's three wives. His mother was Mary Powers. She had four other children. Samual could trace his family back to the colonial days when his great great great grandfather, John W Wells, was a member of George Washington's bodyguard. Most of Joseph's early life was spent on the farm, but he was always acknowledged as a very apt scholar. At the age of eighteen he received a first grade certificate as a schoolteacher, passing an examination before the State Commissioner. At the age of twenty-one he was elected a Justice of the Peace of his township. Previous to this he was, on motion, admitted to practice law before the District Court of his county. At the age of twenty-two he was married to Matilda, (a Cherokee Indian) youngest daughter of Pleasant and Lydia Wood of his county. At the age of twenty-four he entered the service of his country as a private of Company H., Ninety-first Illinois Infantry. He was rapidly promoted to the office of Orderly Sergeant, First Lieutenant and Captain of his company, and for daring acts on the battle field in and around Mobile, Ala., in April, 1865, he received from the president special order of Major of Volunteers. Most of his war experience was in New Mexico and Mobile Bay and Whistler, Alabama. At the close of the war, in 1865, he returned home to his family, and a short time afterward declined the offer of a Second Lieutenancy of Cavalry of the regular army. In August 1865, he moved to Adair County, Mo., where he bought a farm and remained until the spring of 1866, when he sold out and started for Kansas, arriving in Neosho County on the 4th of April, 1866, and bought a claim three miles northwest of where Erie is now located. In the fall of 1866 he was elected Probate Judge of Neosho County, and served as such until January 1869. In the summer of 1867 he sold his farm and went to the woods and cut, hauled, rafted and then sawed the logs of which the Erie House, in Erie and other buildings were built. He then, as a member of the Erie Town Company, built the first hotel ever built in the town, and moved into and occupied the same on the last day of 1867. He was appointed Justice of the Peace of the city and was the first Mayor of the city of Erie, at its organization in December 1869. In 1871 he became editor of the Erie Ishmaelite newspaper. In 1872 he was appointed Deputy United States Marshal, which place he held until 1874. In 1874, he received an appointment as one of the force of the United States secret service.
The sword he had from the war was kept in the Erie newspaper hanging on the wall. I remember as a kid seeing the sword. He passed on the sword to his son Seth who in turn gave it to his son Don. Don was my grandfather and I believe he gave the sword to his son Richard. I hope to someday return to Kansas and see if I can find it.

Return to our Civil War Photo Album  * * * Return to The Illinois Civil War Project