History of Wells, Maine
From
A Gazetteer of the
State of Maine
By Geo. J. Varney
Published by B. B. Russell, 57 Cornhill,
Boston 1886
Transcribed by Betsey S. Webber



Wells, situated upon the sea-coast, in York County, was first
settled by persons from Exeter, N.H., about the year 1640. Its name
is supposed to have come from Wells in England. In regard to land
titles, Folsom says that an Indian named Thomas Chabinoke, devised
all his title and interest to Namps-cas-coke (being the greatest part
of Wells) to John Wadlow or Wadleigh, upon condition that he should
allow one bushel of Indian corn annually to “Old Webb,” his mother.
This title proved valid. In 1641, Sir Ferdinando Gorges presented
5,000 acres of it to Thomas Gorges, deputy-governor of his Province
of Maine and mayor of Gorgeana, for a manory. He chose a tract near
Ogunquit River in the south-west part of the town. About 400 or 500
acres of this was conveyed by deputy Gorges, in 1643, to Rev. John
Wheelwright (brother-in-law of the noted Ann Hutchinson), who had
been banished from Massachusetts for his Antinomian principles.
Another grant was made by Gorges, July 14, 1643, to Wheelwright,
Henry Boad and others. When wheelwright settled here about 1643,
Edmund Littlefield had already erected a saw-mill, on Webhannet River.

The town was incorporated in 1653, being the third in Maine. Its
Indian name was Webhannet. It included Kennebunk until 1820,
when that portion was set off. It then acquired its present bound-
aries, having Sanford and Kennebunk on the north, the latter and the
ocean on the east and south-east, York and South Berwick on the
south, and South Berwick and North Berwick on the west. The
number of acres of land is stated in the county atlas at 22,300. The
settlement went steadily on until the Indian wars. The adversities
which the people met for nearly three-fourths of a century seem to
have been too much for human endurance. Their suffering were
greatest in the wars commencing in 1792 and 1703. During the first
of these there was fought on its soil one of the most remarkable battles
of the Indian war. Five hundred French and Indians under French
officers attacked the garrison of Joseph Storer, -- a place of refuge which
he had built at his own expense for all who, driven from their homes,
might come to him. There were within it 15 soldiers only under Cap-
tain Converse; and about a mile distant, at the landing, were two
coasters under captains Gooch and Storer, having on board 14 addi-
tional men for the garrison. Every means were tried by the enemy
against the fort and vessels, but all their machinations were ineffectual;
and after two days of uninterrupted conflict, they were compelled to
abandon the enterprise, with the loss of Labocree, their commander.

It was during this bloody war that Rev. George Burrows, who was
then residing near Salem, became the victim of the terrible witchcraft
delusion, and perished on the scaffold. He was a graduate of Harvard
college, and had been an esteemed minister in the vicinity of Wells,
and was at the time of his arrest devoting himself to obtain aid for the
suffering people of the east, who like himself had been driven off by
by the Indians, or were endeavoring heroically to hold their ground
against them.

In an attack in August, 1703, Wells was again attacked, and with
such desperation that in a short time 39 of its inhabitants were killed
or made prisoners, besides many wounded. This war did not end
until 1713, during which time many more of the inhabitants were
murdered, many houses burned, farms laid waste and cattle killed.
Ten years later another war let loose again the savage hordes; but the
towns had grown stronger. In 1745 occurred the memorable and suc-
cessful siege of Louisburg. Believing that the French had been the
inciters of most of the Indian wars, the people of Maine entered upon
that expedition with great earnestness; and it is believed that fully
one-third of the able-bodied men of Wells were engaged in that enter-
prise. The people were right in the belief, and Wells was little
troubled by the Indians after the fall of the eastern stronghold of the
French.

The people of Wells entered into the Revolutionary war with such
zeal that at least one-third of the able-bodied men were in the service
during a portion of the struggle, if not constantly. Colonel Joseph
Storer, Major Daniel Littlefield, Captain James Hubbard, Captain
Daniel Wheelwright, Captain Samuel Sawyer, died in the war. Gen-
eral Noah M. Littlefield, Major Nathaniel Cousens, Major Isaac Pope,
Captain James Littlefield, Ensign John Littlefield, and others, were in
active service. No other town had such a number of officers in the
war. The bounties required to fill their quota exhausted their finances
to such an extent that some were obliged to take the feathers from
their beds, and procure their sale in Boston, to meet their proportion
of these public burdens.

The feeling of the people was against the war of 1812, and few or
none enlisted. In the war of the Rebellion the quota of the town was
largely obtained from abroad, the bounties paid ranging from $200 to
$400. Wells has honored the memory of the forty-two of her soldiers
who perished in that war by a neat monument. It consists of a simple
marble shaft on a granite base.

After the Revolutionary war, there was a great increase of ship-
building, the vessels being mostly of less than 300 tons burthen. So
many of them were captured by the French at the time of their spoil-
ations that it has been thought that the loss of the town in ships was as
large as its gain by ship-building.

The business of the people is chiefly agricultural. The soil, though
sandy in some parts, is excellent for vegetables, and yields a good crop
of grass. On Ogunquit, Webhannet and Little rivers are many mill
sites, if not great powers; and each of these streams has its mill for
lumber. A considerable number of the inhabitants are interested in
the fisheries. The valuation of the town in 1870 was $683,940; in 1880
it was $613,326. The population in 1870 was 2,773; and in 1880, 2,483.
The rate of taxation for 1880 is one-third of one per centum.

The principal business centers are Wells Village in the north-west,
Ogunquit at the south, and Wells Depot in the northern part of the
town, -- each having a post-office. Wells Village is finely situated on
a ridge overlooking the ocean. The Boston and Maine railroad passes
near the latter place, and the Portsmouth, Saco and Portsmouth road
has a station at Wells Depot, -- each place being about 28 miles from
Portland.

Previous to the formal gathering of a church the town had provided
the preaching. Rev. John Wheelwright was one of the first ministers.
In 1661 the court at York appointed Ezekiel Knight and William
Hammond to conduct worship at Wells on Lord's day, “as the law of
God and this jurisdiction require.” This order continued about two
years when the people again hired their own minister at a stipulated
salary. Six ministers or religious teachers were thus employed from
1664 to 1690, -- the first being Joseph Emerson, settled for two or three
years. His successor was a physician as well as minister; and the next
but one was Richard Martin, a schoolmaster. About this time a church
and parsonage were built. For his services in the pulpit, Martin had the
use of the parsonage, and 50 pounds, -- payable as follows: wheat at
4s., rye 2s.6d., pease 4s. per bushel, pork 2 ½ d. per pound, boards 19s.
and staves 17s. per thousand. From the time of the first Indian war
until 1713, the period when Wells suffered most, it is probable that
there was little or no preaching. The first Congregational church of
Wells was organized in 1721, and Samuel Emery was ordained the
pastor. The Rev. Moses Hemingway was ordained over this church
in 1759, and remained until his death at the age of 76 years in 1811.
He was a graduate of Harvard, and received from it the degree of
D.D. Jonathan Greenleaf, author of Ecclesiastical Sketches of Maine,
was ordained over the church in 1815 remaining until 1828. He died
at Brooklyn, New York, in 1855, aged 80 years. The second Con-
gregational church of Wells was organized in 1831. The first pastor
was Rev. Charles S. Adams.

The first Baptist Church in Wells was organized in 1793, and arose
from the labors of Nathaniel Lord, a licentiate. The Wells Christian
church was organized in 1809, by Elder Elias Smith. The Christian
church of Wells and York, at Ogunquit, was organized in 1830. The
Free-will Baptist society was formed in 1843. The Methodists formed
a class of ten members in 1851, with Shadock Littlefield as leader. A
neat and tasty house of worship was erected by them at Missionary
Ridge in 1870. The first Universalist Society was formed in 1861. At
present the active societies consist of two Congregationalist, a Free
Baptist, two Methodist and two Baptist. The Union House, at
Plaisted Corner, was fitted up for worship in 1868.

Wells has 14 schoolhouses, valued at $5,000, and sustains a high-
school. The amount actually expended for schools in the last school
year, is $3,816. It has a library of about 400 volumes. Wells is a port
of delivery in Kennebunk Customs District.

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