A prominent figure in the rural town of Shelburne, Mass., during the early nineteenth century, William Wells served for many years as a town selectman, representative in the state legislature, and captain of the militia. He died in Shelburne in July 1848, leaving behind his wife Prudence (May) and their nine children.
This tightly focused body of documents from William Wells represents a cross-section of public life in the town of Shelburne during the early decades of the nineteenth century, touching on the town’s finances, care for the church, school, highways, roads, and the local militia.
A prominent figure in the early history of Shelburne, Mass., William Wells was born in Colchester, Conn., on Jan. 27, 1767, the son of David and Mary (Taintor) Wells. At the age of five, William’s family settled in Shelburne, a young hill town, and soon established themselves among the local elite. During the Revolution, David Wells commanded a Hampshire County regiment that saw service at Ticonderoga and that was present at Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga, and he was involved in later years in local political and social life.
Following in his father’s footsteps, William rose to become Captain in the militia and served for many years as a town selectman and state legislator, playing a role in the tri-fold division of Hampshire County in 1812 into the present-day Hampshire, Hampden, and Franklin Counties. Wells married Prudence May (1768-1862) on Dec. 7, 1794, raising a bevy of seven sons and two daughters. He died of bladder disease on July 11, 1848, and is buried in Shelburne’s Hill Cemetery.
This tightly focused body of documents from William Wells represents a cross-section of public life in the town of Shelburne during the early decades of the nineteenth century, and are typical of the sorts of records maintained by a town official. The documents touch on a wide variety of topics, ranging from town finance to care for the church, school, highways, and roads. Among the more interesting items in the collection are a contract apprenticing a boy to a local farmer (1796), a thick sheaf of letters and other documents relating to the local militia regiment, a legal dispute regarding taxes and support for the Baptist meetinghouse in town (1791), and a series of petitions relating to the care of elderly, poor, and troublesome residents.
Gift of Robert W. Hugo, Friend of the Libraries, through Steve Finer, Aug. 1990.
Processed by Linda Seidman, 1990, and Margaret Dashwood, Sept. 2015.
Everts, L. H., History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, vol. 2. Philadelphia : Everts, 1879, p. 646.
Sheldon, George, History of Deerfield, vol. 2. Greenfield, Mass. : E. A. Hall & Co., 1896, p. 363-364.
Some materials have been digitized and are available online in Credo.
Cite as: William Wells Papers (MS 347). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.
- Shelburne (Mass.)--History
- Wells, William