William Henry Harrison Wells was born on May 13, 1841, in Naples, Ontario County, New York, the son of John (b. 1789) and Prudence (Griggs, b. 1795).
New Jersey native John married Connecticut-born Prudence, and settled in New York. By 1850 William was attending scvhool with his two older siblings and living with family in Springwater, Livingston County, New York. They eventually moved west and settled in Michigan, possibly in Kent County around 1852. In any case, by 1860 William (referred to as “Harrison”) was working as a farm laborer and living with his family in Jamestown, Ottawa County.
William stood 5’10” with gray eyes, brown hair and a light complexion and was a 21-year-old farmer probably living in Jamestown, Ottawa County when he enlisted in Company D on December 29, 1861, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, crediting Kent County, and was mustered the same day. However, Wells was never mustered into Company D, but upon joining the Regiment was assigned to Company I on order of Colonel Stephen Champlin. He was sick in the hospital from May 3, 1862, through August, and allegedly deserted on September 21, 1862, at Upton’s Hill, Virginia.
In fact, William was in the general hospital in Yorktown in May and June, and was eventually sent to the general hospital in Portsmouth Grove, Rhode Island and then to Providence, Rhode Island, where he was discharged on November 20, 1862, for “hypertrophy with dilatation of the heart.”
After he left the army William returned to Jamestown.
He married Ellen Barger (b. 1844) of Wyoming, Kent County, on March 15, 1863, in Jamestown, and they had at least seven children: Harry or William H. (b. 1865), George (b. 1867), a daughter (b. 1868), Myra (b. 1872), Gardner, Alva or Alvin J. (b. 1876) and a daughter (b. 1879).
William was probably residing in Ottawa County when he reportedly reentered the service in the Thirteenth Michigan infantry on September 27, 1864. In fact he was apparently drafted for one year from Jamestown on September 27 and was assigned to Company D, Thirteenth Michigan as a Corporal on February 1, 1865. (It remains unclear when and where exactly he joined the regiment.) The regiment participated in the Campaign in the Carolinas from January to April of 1865 and was involved in the battle of Bentonville, North Carolina, March 19-21. William was wounded in action on March 19 at Bentonville, and sent to McDougall hospital in New York harbor. (In his obituary he was reported to have lost an arm during the war.)
There is no further military record.
After the war William eventually returned to western Michigan, probably to Ottawa County. (His father John had remarried to Rhode Island native Ferlin, b. 1795, and was living in Jamestown, Ottawa County in 1870; also living with them was a 9-year-old boy named William Wells, born in Michigan.) For many years William worked as a farmer. By 1880 he was working as a farmer and living with his wife and childrenin Gaines, Kent County. He was living in Grand Rapids in 1883, in Gaines, Kent County in 1890, and in Grand Rapids at 139 Quigley in 1911.
He was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, and he received pension no. 51,771 of $24.00 per month.
William died of apoplexy on March 24, 1914, at his home at 139 Quigley, and the funeral services were held at the residence at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. He was buried in Blain cemetery; Kent County.
In 1914 his widow applied for and received a pension (no. 779033).