Edward P. Wells was born in Troy, Wisconsin, November 9, 1847. His father was a Congregational minister, who had moved from York state to Wisconsin n 1844. On March 8, 1871, Mr. Wells married Nellie M. Johnson, daughter of Joseph S. and Anna Wilder Johnson, of Minneapolis, who then owned and occupied the one hundred sixty acres of land in that city, bounded by Grant street, Franklin and Lyndale avenues.
Mr. and Mrs. Wells are the parents of four children, all living:
Miss Marguerite Milton Wells, unmarried, now regional director in the Northwest for National League of Women Voters.
Stuart Wilder Wells, president of the Wells-Dickey Company. He is married and the father of three children: Edward P. Wells II, now a senior in Amherst College; Stuart Wilder Wells, Jr., now a sophomore in Deerfield Academy, Deerfield, Massachusetts; Miss Beatrice Goodrich Wells, now a student in Miss Hall’s School for Girls, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Nora (Wells) Jewett, wife of Frank G. Jewett, Secretary of the Guaranty Mortgage Company, of Minneapolis. Their children are: Ann Wilder Jewett, attending school in Boston; Louis Jewett, attending school at Walnut Hill, a suburb of Boston; Frank Jewett, Jr., a student at Blake Boys’ School, Minneapolis; Wells Jewett, a student in the Minneapolis High School.
Florence (Wells) Ireys, wife of C.G. Ireys, Vice-President and Treasurer of the Russell-Miller Milling Company, and allied companies. Their children living are: Calving Goodrich Ireys, a student in Deerfield Academy; John Ireys, attending the Blake School for Boys; Miss Marguerite, a young daughter at home.
Mr. Wells was engaged in the Produce Commission and Life Insurance business in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Minneapolis, form 1864-1878. He moved to Jamestown, D.T., in 1878, with his family and engaged in the land and loan business. In 1880, he was elected an Assemblyman from the Jamestown district and served in the Dakota Territorial Legislative Assembly during the 14th session, which convened in Yankton from January 11th to March 7th, 1881. In 1883-84 he was Territorial Chairman of the Republican Party in Dakota. In 1884 he secured the appointment of Curtis D. Wilbur, of Jamestown, son of D.F. Wilbur, of the law and land firm of Nickeus, Wilbur & Nichols, to a cadetship in the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. This was the first appointment from Dakota to either Annapolis or West Point. Mr. Wells’ next meeting with his cadet friend was after Mr. Wilbur’s appointment as Secretary of the Navy in President Calvin Coolidge’s cabinet.
On November 10, 1880, Mr. Wells was a special guest of the Northern Pacific railroad at the driving of the silver spike on the Dakota-Montana Territorial line.
He also introduced the bill in the Territorial legislature in 1881 for the creation of Dickey county and which he named in honor of his partner and business associate, Alfred M. Dickey.
Mr. Wells became associated with Alfred M. Dickey in 1879, and they founded the Wells & Dickey Land Company, now the Wells-Dickey Company. He was also president of the North Dakota Loan & Trust Company. Mr. Dickey was elected the first Lieutenant-Governor of North Dakota in 1889. The town of Dickey, in LaMoure county, was named in his honor and was first called Dickey’s Landing. The Dickey Memorial Library in Jamestown was a gift to the city by Mr. Dickey, and his son, Alfred E. Dickey, at their deaths.
In 1881, Mr. Wells found the James River National Bank, the “Old Reliable,” at Jamestown, one of the strongest and most courteous banking houses in the upper James River Valley. He served as president of this bank for twenty years and is still a director. In 1896, he became president of the Russell-Miller Milling Company and in 1899 and 1901 moved to the headquarters of his financial interests from Jamestown to Minneapolis. He then became president of the Electric Steel Elevator Company.
In 1881, he piloted Pres. Henry Villard and party north from Jamestown, when the route for the Northern Pacific branch to Carrington, was located, and which was completed in 1882. He promoted and was president of the James River Valley railroad between Jamestown and Oakes, now a part of the Northern Pacific system. He was also president of the Aberdeen, Bismarck & Northwestern railroad which was graded from Aberdeen to Bismarck, but never completed, and later became a part of the Soo Line system.
Mr. Wells is of a kindly disposition, easy to approach and of keen business ability. He was always an advocated of the value of North Dakota lands and was a most determined factor in the settling up and development of the state. He was very active in the business and financial world of the entire Northwest for many years, and became a millionaire. He is now retired from active business. He says, however, that he considers the years spent in North Dakota as the most useful and pleasant of his long life. His sister, Mrs. John S. Watson, is a resident of Fargo.
He is a member of the Masonic fraternity and demitted from Ancient Landmark Lodge No. 5, Minneapolis, in 1881, to help found Jamestown Lodge No. 6.
Mr. Wells lives in Minneapolis, and has his home at 325 Groveland Avenue.
He is always public spirited and donates generously toward the founding of an endowment for religious and educational institutions.
He and his sister, Mrs. Watson, have been liberal donors to Jamestown College, and a gift of $100.00 from Mr. Wells assured the publication of this book.
Mr. Wells, his wife, and their daughter were guests in the Windsor hotel in New York City on St. Patrick’s Day in 1899, when the terrible fire occurred there, in which many were injured or killed.
They were watching a parade on the street below and the room and corridors filled with smoke before they realized their danger. Mr. Wells secured a rope and lowered his wife and daughter from the sixth story window to the pavement to safety. He realized that he could not go down hand over hand, so he wrapped his hands with towels and slipped down the rope while the crowd cheered the plucky North Dakotan.
Walter Earnest Spokesfield
January 1, 1928.
Copyrighted, 1929 by Walter E. Spokesfield. All rights reserved.