William Henry Wells


 BORN 6 May 1815 in Heytesbury, Wiltshire, England.
 BAPTISED 20 May 1815 in Heytesbury.
 DIED 7 June 1860 at Jamberoo, NSW. Link 
 MARRIED 1 Frances Maria Barnes (1816-1846) on 29 June 1837 in Owslebury, Hampshire, England.
 MARRIED 2 Sarah Ann Pickering (1830-1900) on 30 September 1846

NSW Marriage Record V1846739 77/1846

@ Sydney, Scots Church.
 CHILDREN   George William Rowden Wells (1848-1905)
 Henry Edward Alexander Wells (1850-1916)
 William Charles W Wells (1854-1854)
 Francis Wilson Wells (1855-1861)
 Percy Charles Wells (1857-1927qld)

Travelled to Australia with Frances as a sponsored immigrant in 1838.

William was Assistant Surveyor under the Poor Law and Commutation Tithe Commissioners for Wiltshire, England in 1837. He appears in the NSW & Port Phillip GPO Directory of 1839 published by James Maclehose of Hunter Street, Sydney as being in the Surveyor’s Department, Port Phillip and in 1842 was advertising himself in the Sydney press.

By 1846 William was a widower and in that year married Sarah Ann who bore him 5 boys, George, Henry, William, Francis (died in infancy) and Percy. During this time his address given variously as Dickson St, Castlereagh St and Palmer St.

Wells remains, apart from his bankruptcies and a few earlier publications and appointments, a rather enigmatic figure for one who produced such an important work as his 1848 Gazetteer.

Wells’s death, however, is well documented—he drowned whilst attempting to cross the swollen Minnamurra River at Jamberoo on Thursday, 2 June 1860. The Kiama Examiner of 9 June 1860 reported:

Today the Coroner, R.I. Perrott, Esq., held an inquest on the body of the unfortunate individual, W.H. Wells, whose sudden death, and the failure of all attempts to discover the body for more than two days after, had created such a sensation in the neighborhood. Although you will probably be in possession of the official report of the inquest for your forthcoming issue; it may be worth while in some respects to send you a brief abstract of what appeared in evidence and otherwise. On Thursday evening last the deceased arrived in this locality from the northward, and an hour or two before sunset stopped at Mr. Moons’ Inn, the Man of Kent. Here, though he generously treated all whom he found, the language which he used, and which appeared to be habitual to him was such as excited the uttermost disgust and horror in the bystanders. The particular expressions, indeed, which he employed amid his ribald and blasphemous loquacity, were of a nature which would in a more superstitious or less charitable age, and considered in connection with his swiftly-following end, most assuredly have given accession for a verdict of 'Died by the judgment of God'. Somewhat before dusk the deceased was desirous of proceeding to Mr. Law’s, where he had previously been lodging. He had a horse with him; but as if distrustful of his ability to take care of himself, he inquired whether anybody could be got to accompany him over the stream of the Minnamurra; though the water in that river was not deeper than horsemen are in the habit of riding through at the same spot, without any particular thought of danger. A laborer named Timothy Feenan, who had arrived at the Man of Kent a little while before him was induced by the promise of five, and afterwards of ten shillings, to do him this good office. On arriving at the stream, Feehan, at the request of the deceased mounted before him on the horse which he was riding, and took the reins, though apparently himself unaccustomed to the management of horses. The animal, which was a young one, shied at the water, and was only induced to enter it by some persons behind, who had followed from the Man of Kent, and one of whom struck him with a switch to urge him forward. With some difficulty he carried his double burden through the stream; but … the animal stumbled among the boulders which cover the bed of the stream, and fell, throwing of course the two men into the water. Wells, who had been sitting with his arms round his companion’s body, lost his hold in the fall; … The body was swept down the river to the distance of about half a mile from the spot where it crosses the road, and, after having been sought in vain during Friday and Saturday was discovered on Sunday afternoon among a heap of logs, the neck apparently broken, and several bruises on various parts. The corpse was conveyed in Mr. G. Wood’s dray to the Man of Kent, where the inquest was held, and a verdict of ‘Accidentally drowned’ returned in accordance with the above-mentioned circumstances.

Whilst unpublished, an anecdotal comment has been that as Wells left the inn he shouted follow me lads and I’ll show you the quickest way to hell.

As a freelance surveyor, whose office in 1859 was at 15 Bligh Street, Sydney, William Henry Wells, at the time of his untimely death was reportedly in partnership with Abraham Polack, an auctioneer, of Pitt Street, Sydney.

Wells is as obscure today as in life. He is interred in an unmarked grave in the Anglican portion of the pioneer cemetery behind St Stephens Presbyterian Church, Jamberoo.

[Adapted from Khanterintee, journal of Kiama Family History.]

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Ourgen.es web page made 13 June 2010; edited