CHARLES E. WELLS and HANNAH COMPTON
Once upon a time there was a family with ancestral roots around Grand Rapids, Michigan. They knew a few things about their ancestors, such as Delilah who, they were told, was French and from whom the brown eyes in the family came. They knew that when Grandma Porter had surgery for cancer in 1930, "they found her so full of it that they just closed her up again." And they heard it declared from time to time that bad traits in the family, for whatever reason, were attributed to someone called Great-grandmother Wells.
Charles E. Wells
The first thing Grandmother Hannah told us about was her parents and her siblings. The following is a third-hand copy of material in her Bible.
Ancestors of Hannah Post
"Hannah Post was born in Holland, came to New York City, married Wm. Compton, son of Wm. Compton who fought in American Revolution. Eleven children were born to Hannah Post and Wm. Compton.
Annie Compton married Seymour Sachwood
David Compton married Rachel Simmons
Peter Compton married Elizabeth Hitchman
William Compton married Betsy Penn
Abraham Compton married Rebecca Campbell
Hezekiah Compton married Margaret Benson
John P Compton married Elizabeth Woodruff
Susan Compton married Cornelius Thompson
Elizabeth Compton married John Slaget
Hannah Compton married Charles E. Wells "
My list in 1951 contained only ten names. In 2000 we learned that the missing sibling was brother Runyen, the 5th child. We learned this from a descendant of his, Shelley Compton Hutchens, met through an Internet message board. We also know from the Internet that there may have been a 12th child, another Hannah born in 1814, who must have died before Hannah Marie (my 5th great-grandmother) was born in 1821.
We now know Annie's husband's name was Lockwood, not Sachwood and that Annie was Guy Lockwood’s other grandmother, though he never knew her. She died in New York the year after he was born in Michigan.
The listing of Elizabeth Hitchman as Peter’s wife is mysterious. Most records, including a daughter’s direct testimony, consistently show his wife was Maria Buckbee. See Hannah's Family.
For a picture of Hannah and much more about her siblings, their marriages, their children, and how their lives may have dovetailed with hers, click on her name at the top of this page.
Hannah then told us about her grandfather and earlier Comptons.
Ancestry of the First Compton Family"William Compton was a grandson of a younger branch of Sir Spencer Compton, Warwickshire, England. Sir Spencer Compton was slain in 1648 at Hopton Heath, England, and defeated Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan rebels during the battle. William Compton born in England (our great-grandfather) [served] in the first regiment of Orange County, N.Y. militia had his lower jaw shot off and died during the Revolution. His son, William Compton, married Hannah Post (that is my mother). She is buried in Sugar Hill, N.Y., and he is buried in Watkins, N.Y."
The name of Hannah’s grandfather William Compton can be seen in the troop registry at George Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh, NY, where he served under Major Zacharias DuBois, but that doesn’t tell any battles in which he fought nor the one in which he was wounded. We recently picked up a reference suggesting he did not die immediately upon being wounded. Perhaps he got home before he died? Inquiries to the National Archives in 1992 did not turn up any information on him.
Hannah’s account of the Hopton Heath Battle is surprisingly but not completely accurate. The battle happened in 1643, not 1648, and Oliver Cromwell did not come into prominence in the struggle with the king until later. Hannah refers to her ancestor as “great-grandfather” but goes on to say that his son married her mother, which would make him simply her grandfather. Hannah wasn’t born until forty years after the Revolutionary War, so of course she never knew that grandfather. Based on our current research, we think there were at least four generations between Hannah and Spencer Compton.
We are still working to find the missing link between Hannah’s grandfather and Sir Spencer, though we’re confident there must be one. Consider how many facts she had accurately in her Bible, facts confirmed elsewhere:
All three parts of his name: Sir Spencer Compton
Name of the battle: Hopton Heath
Date of the battle: 1648 (though this is not correct, "8" and "3" could easily have been miscopied in 200 years, including by me at age 15)
He fought against the Puritan opposition to the reigning monarch.
The king's forces were victorious.
But Spencer died.
Finally, the name Warwickshire, which meant nothing to us until Matt Hoppe tracked down the Compton estate, Wynyates, located in Warwickshire, England.
How could lowly Hannah Marie Compton, on the frontier of New York two hundred years later, have even known about that battle, let alone gotten that many points correct if they did not have their roots in facts?
The date the Internet has given us for the birth of Hannah's father, whom we refer to as William II, is 1776. If that is true, and it is compatible with the dates of his children's births, and if his father did indeed die during the fighting for independence, then William would not have known his father very long, if at all. We know he married Hannah Phebe Post (her middle name helps us distinguish her from her daughter Hannah Marie, our Great-grandmother Wells) on February 23, 1794, during George Washington's second term as President.
nine of the Compton children were born, the family moved to the Finger Lakes area of west central New York. The names of some of
those children and of their children have been found in the records in Watkins County,
NY. One record tells of the deaths of three children of Hannah’s brother Peter:
“In old Sugar
Hill Cemetery . . . Samuel B. Compton, son of Peter, died April 30, 1825 . . .
Harriet, his sister, died Sept. 5, 1840, aged 2 years, 5 months, 19 days [b.
March 14, 1838] . . . Hannah Louise, their sister, died April 19, 1841, aged 15
years, 2 months [b. February 1826]”
record tells of four children in the extended family, ages 3-13, dying within
days of each other, doubtless in an epidemic. Parents are listed as David and
Rachel, John P. and Eliza, and William and Elizabeth. The cemetery is identified
as “Donovan Hill plot, that general area.” No dates were reported for these
deaths (by Barbara Bell).
1982, my husband and I searched a number of cemeteries in the Sugar Hill,
Watkins, and Donovan Hill areas, but with no success at locating any of the
above headstones or any Comptons at all [quite mysterious and frustrating at the
time]. We now know that several of Hannah’s
brothers moved to and died in
other states—David to Ohio, William to
Michigan, Peter to California and South Dakota, and John to Ottawa
County, Michigan, near where Hannah ended up. That’s one reason the cemeteries
weren’t filled with Comptons.
We did locate the common headstone of a niece and nephew of Hannah’s, along a roadside in that area. Their names were Eliza Compton and Lyman Compton, and they died in 1840. Internet databases tell us they were cousins, not brother and sister. They also tell us that Lyman’s older sister had died four days before and another cousin a week before. See “Hannah’s Family.”
In 2010 we’ve found on the Internet a clear map of the cemeteries in Orange Township, Schuyler County. It should make searching a lot better when we get back to that area again. It clearly shows the names of Old Sugar Hill and Donavan Hill cemeteries. The next question is whether the headstones are still readable. It isn’t encouraging, and Hannah and William were not buried together, nor even in the same cemetery, though they both died in the middle of the 19th Century. We don’t even have the name of a cemetery for him.
We have two letters shared with us by Shelley Compton Hutchens, a descendant of Hannah Wells’ brother
Runyen. One of the letters at least is written by their brother Peter’s youngest daughter, Harriet, who lived until 1935. That letter is signed and dated 1910. Content of the letters is similar, but the handwriting is very different, which creates a good bit of mystery.
Here is a paragraph from one of the letters. It is written to a cousin, also a grandchild of William and Hannah Phebe. In the sentence before this, she reminds her cousin that they called their grandparents Grandmom and Grandad. “Aunt Lizzie” would be Hannah’s sister Elizabeth.
“Grandmom died at Sugar Hill, NY, about 69 or 70 yrs. ago. She is buried there. After we left Sugar Hill and went to Havanna to live Granddad came to Havanna and lived with us. He went down to Jefferson (now Watkins) to visit Aunt Susan and died there and is buried there. Jefferson you will remember is about three miles from Havanna. The name has been changed to Montour Falls. Uncle John Slaght and Aunt Lizzie are both buried at Watkins as is their daughter Hannah who died when a young lady.”
The other letter appears to be written to a cousin one generation later, but we can’t be sure who. Both letters make this statement about the writer’s grandfather, William Compton, son of the William Compton who fought in the War, that he “married Hannah Post. Her mother's name was Mary Canfield Gibbs and her mother's name was Salina Canfield.” See further discussion of this in “Mysteries Remain”
Note: We have a report from a family member 2-3generations later that says this: “Hannah Compton died at Sugar Hill in Watkins Co., New York … William Compton is buried in the same place. Their graves are still to be located,” then in the same handwriting but smaller, “a plain slab marks them.” That sounds like someone later located a grave (or just had it described). Because Hannah’s report, which is much closer to the fact, agrees with Harriet’s that they did not die in the same place, that seems the more plausible. Perhaps it is just a single slab for Hannah.
|4th great-grandson Matt by headstone of Charles and Hannah Wells, Brooklawn Cemetery, on 4 Mile Road nw of Grand Rapids, MI|
5th great-grandson Logan digging in preparation for planting a geranium beside the Wells grave.
Hannah Marie Compton, the youngest of the eleven children in her family, was my third great-grandmother. Clearly we have a flood of information about the Comptons down through the
generations. By contrast, we have only a couple scraps of information about C.E. Wells, the man Hannah grew up to marry.
Despite many efforts and the Internet, all we know is that he and his father were born in Pennsylvania, and that he and Hannah were married on his 23rd birthday in 1837 (she was four months short of sixteen). The “C” stood for Charles, a name given by his daughter Roxy to her oldest son. Her son’s middle name, Edward, may well have been her father’s middle name as well.
The first of their four daughters, Marcia Almira, was born two and a half years later in September 1839. The second, Marion Elizabeth (Guy Lockwood’s mother Minnie) was born in 1841, and the third, Sophrona Roxana, my great-great-grandmother, in 1843. For some time, we weren’t sure if her name was Roxana or Roxanne, Sophrona or Sophronia, or indeed which of the two came first, but now we know from the Stauffer family Bible that is was Sophrona Roxana. Apparently she was known as Roxy most of her life, and that is even the name on her tombstone.
(Dates of births, marriages, and deaths of the Wells daughters and some descendants are also found in a Bible owned by Esther Hawkins Moneysmith and from a list on yellowed paper sent to Esther Gross, probably by Ruth Stauffer. The latter has the following at the bottom of the page: “These are the entries as I have them in my record and all I have. Signed, Carl A. Stauffer.”)
In 1846, the family moved from Tyrone, in Schuyler County, New York, a bit further south to Painted Post in Steuben County. There in 1848 Mary Jane (called Jane) was born. Six years later in 1854, the family set out for Michigan. Marcia was 15, Minnie 13, Roxy 11, and Jane 6. We would love to know how they traveled. Travel by railroad was in its infancy, so it may have been by some form of animal travel and transport.
Weddings for the four girls began just three years later. In 1857, 18-year-old Marcia married George Haas. Two years later, Minnie married Seymour R. Lockwood, whom we now know was her first cousin, son of her Aunt Annie Lockwood. We have no information on when or why Seymour went to Michigan. The romantic in me likes to imagine that he followed her there and waited for her to grow up, but who knows? The following summer (August 1860), not-quite-17-year-old Roxy was awarded a certificate to teach in the schools of Conklin, Michigan. She did not marry until 1865 when she was 22. The following year, Jane, 18, married George Stauffer, the brother of Roxy’s husband, Samuel.
Charles and Hannah celebrated their 50th anniversary the year before she died (see Father’s Note written a month before her death). They had eleven grandchildren in the area, though in July that year their eighteen-year-old granddaughter, Rose Stauffer, died of consumption (tuberculosis). Hannah died March 28, 1888, and Charles died five years later, April 27, 1893.
I hate to think what might have—or might not have—happened if Guy Lockwood that day in 1951 hadn’t pulled out his piece of paper and showed us what he had copied from his
grandmother’s Bible. Would I have gotten interested in genealogy at all? Of course there’s no way of knowing,. If I hadn’t, I would have missed so much—like being invited into homes built by a couple of my ancestors, making friends with third and fourth cousins who come from those brothers and sisters whose names Great-grandmother Wells wrote in her Bible, and visiting the graves of at least three sets of fourth-great-grandparents.
I never saw Guy Lockwood before that day or after, though he lived another ten years. All I can say is “Thank you very much, first cousin three times removed!”