Orson Wells and Hannah Hall

(Our great-grandparents)

Parents and Family

Orson Roscoe Wells was born on July 27, 1863, in Dryden, Michigan to Julia Ellen Van Kleeck, age 31, and Nelson R Wells, age 47. He was the youngest of five children:

Early Years

Orson lived in several different places growing up and as an adult. I have identified most of the locations by census records, birth records, and some family records.

1870 - age 7

The 1870 US Census list his family as in Almont, Michigan where his father was running a hotel. In an obit (The Lapeer Democrat, Volume 8, Number 17, Feb 1, 1882, Page 8) it states that Nelson ran the Exchange Hotel from 1864 to 1866 and again from 1868 to 1870. I thought that the Exchange Hotel was in Dryden but other references say it was in Almont. The two places are only 5 or 6 miles apart so the references might be to the same Hotel. Either way, it burned down before 1890.

1880 - age 16

Nelson Wells was a farmer in Moore, Sanilac, Michigan. Orson is listed simply as "At Home".

The Fire of 1881

In September of 1881, a huge fire swept through the thumb region of Michigan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thumb_fire). It destroyed much of Lapeer, Huron, & Sanilac counties - leading to the death of of almost 300 people including Orson's father Nelson. The 1884 "History of Lapeer County, Michigan" talks about this on page 45 in a biography of Henry Goetchius. Henry was married to Orson's sister Elva.

Mrs. Goetchius' father, Nelson Wells, was at the time residing in Sanilac County. He escaped with his family into the river, where they remained for four hours, almost suffocated by the heat and smoke,from the effects of which Mr. Wells never fully recovered. He died January 23, 1882, aged sixty-five. He was for several years the proprietor of the Exchange Hotel in Almont.

1884 - Marriage to Hannah

Orson married Hannah Huldah Hall on July 20, 1884, in Sandusky, Sanilac, Michigan, when he was 20 years old.

Hannah's parents, Hiram Hall and Mary Angeline Straus Hall, moved from Washington Township, MI (near Romeo) to Lamotte, MI sometime between 1870 and 1880. The Hall family, led by Elias Hall, had lived in Washington Township since the 1830's.


Orson and Hannah had 9 kids while living in Sanilac County, Michigan. Some where born in Snover and some in Moore Township. These are only about three miles apart so, either they moved around a bit or the children were born with different doctors or mid-wives. The kids (with dates and cities):

  1. Harry Franklin Wells
  2. Gertrude Bertha Wells
  3. Jennie Mae Wells
  4. Iva Wells
  5. Julia Evelyn Wells
  6. Lorena (Rena) Wells
  7. Bernice Beulah Wells
  8. Harold Ferris Wells
  9. Lela Pearl Wells

Still in Michigan


The 1900 US census shows Orson and Hannah living in Moore, Sanilac, Michigan along with 5 of the 6 kids that they had at the time. Gertrude, age 13, was living away from the family at the time of the census.

On the move

The family moved several times after leaving Michigan. I found an unattributed note left by one of Orson's kids that details the moves:

The family left Michigan (for Kalispell, MT) in March 1909 - mother, dad, Iva, Evelyn, Lorena, Harold, Lela, Beulah. Henry never moved out west. Gertrude came to Kalispell in 1912 and stayed two years. Herb came after her (this was Herbert Curtis. They married in Kalispell on 24th of Dec 1914). Jennie had come out earlier to live with the family.

Times were bad and in 1909 and a friend who had lived in Washington talked about the country and prosperity. The family moved to Monroe (Washington - along US hwy 2 - Steven's Pass) where dad, a carpenter, worked on the new home for the Supt. of the reformitory. In August, they left and went to Kalispell, MT and stayed until June 1918 when they moved to Camas, Washington.


The US census puts Orson and Hannah living in Kalispell, Flathead, Montana. He is listed as a carpenter, working on houses. Living with them are Iva, Evelyn, Lorena, Beulah, Harold, and Lela.

This brings up a question - Why move to Kalispell?

The answer, according to family lore: Orson was told that "If you have unmarried daughters, go to Kalispell and they will find husbands." Well, Orson had seven unmarried daughters! It is hard to verify family lore. However, when I was doing research in the Kalispell library, I related that story to a librarian that was helping me. He got an amused look on his face and went off to find a book. He returned with a history of Kalispell - "Kalispell, Montana and the Upper Flathead Valley" by Henry Elwood. That contained the following:

A Scarcity of Women
It was a shortage of women for teachers and wives that prompted Mayor W. H. Griffin to insert an advertisement in some eastern papers, telling of the wonderfully rich Flathead Valley and offering to give a buffalo calf to any young women who would come to Kalispell and teach School.

This advertisement made a great hit with many eastern papers. These papers copied it as news and ran it free. As it was copied from one paper to another, the stories kept growing. Many of the papers printed long stories of the wonderful Flathead Valley, of mountains where the wealthy businessmen wanted wives.

This is an early case of a post that went virile!

Of the daughters that came west, several did get married in Montana!


A 1918-1919 City Directory for Vancouver, WA and vicinity shows Orson and Hannah living in Camas, Washington. He was listed as a Carpenter helper for CWP Co. CWP is the Crown Willamette Paper Mill - the forerunner to the current paper mill in Camas.


The US census places Orson, Hannah, and three kids (Beulah, Harold, and Lela) in Camas, Washington. Orson is listed as a carpenter working for the paper mill.

Centralia - 1930 and later

The 1930 US census Lists Orson, Hannah, and Lela is Centralia, Washington. Orson is listed as a laborer for "Eastern". This is, undoubtedly, Eastern Railway & Lumber that was the site of terrible labor unrest and anti-union rioting in 1919. I guess that settled down by the time Orson started working there. The 1940 census listed Orson as a saw mill laborer.

His wife Hannah Huldah (Hall) passed away on December 4, 1940, in Centralia, Lewis, Washington, at the age of 74. They had been married 56 years.

Orson Roscoe Wells died on August 1, 1942, in Centralia, Lewis, Washington, when he was 79 years old. He died at the Parmalee home, 1124 W.Walnut St, Centralia, Lewis, WA

Both Orson and Hannah are buried in the Mountain View Cemetery in Centralia