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Wells History

History

Wells is at the junction of U.S. Highway 69 and Farm Road 1247, twenty-three miles south of Rusk in extreme southern Cherokee County. It was established in 1885 as a stop on the newly constructed Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad and was named for Maj. E. H. Wells, a civil engineer for the railroad. A post office opened in 1886, and by 1890 the town had a sawmill, a hotel, a Methodist church, three general stores, and a population of fifty. Shortly after the railroad was completed, the state penitentiary established a satellite camp just outside the town to produce charcoal for the state-run iron works at Rusk. The presence of the prison camp discouraged many potential settlers, and the town's population remained small until after 1900, when the charcoal camp was closed. During the 1910s, however, the town boomed; the First State Bank of Wells opened in 1913, and the following year the population reached 300. During the 1920s the community incorporated, and in 1936 Wells reported 475 residents and twenty businesses. The population continued to grow after World War II, rising to 761 by 1990. Over the same period, however, the number of businesses has gradually declined, falling from twenty-six in 1952 to seven in 1990. Farming, cattle ranching, and lumber are the principal industries.

Education

Lack of transportation forced most children to walk to school, so for that reason small schoolhouses were scattered at five-mile (8 km) intervals throughout Cherokee county. About 50 of these schoolhouses existed in the county in the 1870s. These schools were usually located in a church or a one-room building. Many of these small community schools sprang up near saw mills and other operations. The earliest schools in the Wells vicinity were at Shook's Bluff, Mt. Hope, Pleasant Hill, Damascus, Forest and Sweet Union communities. In 1884, boundaries were redrawn and 69 new school districts were formed in Cherokee County.

The Shook's Bluff school, located near Shook's Bluff Cemetery, was operating in 1861. It was a crude, one-room, unpainted building. By 1920 people began to move away from the Neches River communities and closer to Wells, so the Shook's Bluff school was relocated two miles (3 km) west of Wells. Three teachers employed at that school were Vinnie Solley, Nora McClain, and Effie Wesley. Shook's Bluff school finally consolidated with Wells school in 1928.

Forest School was established in 1888 in the Forest Baptist Church, and later occupied a separate building on a lot donated by J. S. Derrough, Jeff Latham, and Hugh Henry. In 1922, Forest School consolidated with the Wildhurst School from the Chronister Lumber Company Camp and a new building was built on the old Jim Hogg Highway north of the Baptist Church in Forest. The new building housed the elementary and three unaccredited high school grades. Forest School consolidated with Wells ISD in 1949.

There were two Mt. Hope Methodist church schools. The first school was established in 1875 and the first teachers were H.S.P. Espie and John Clifford. The other Mt. Hope school consisted of a single 20 x 20 room and all grades were taught by one teacher. Classes were held for three months in the winter and during two summer sessions. Nathan Fulton, the first teacher, was paid $40 a month for his services. Other teachers were Jasper Starling, Asilee Hyde, Charlie Bowden, Quarles McClure, and George B. Terrell.

When Wells began to prosper as a result of the Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad reaching the town in 1885, the Mt. Hope school was moved to the Methodist church in town. Classes later moved to a two-story brick building on the present school site. That building burned in 1917 and was replaced by a similar structure build on the original faulty foundation. When a crack appeared in the back wall a few years later, the school was reduced to a single story. About that time Damascus and Crossroads schools consolidated with Wells and three high school grades were added.

Wells Independent School District was formed on June 12, 1921. The first school trustees were W. D. Lewis, Jr., Rube Sessions, W. T. Hunt, R. N. Falvey, T.B. Warner, J. W. Ellerbee, and Steve Cherry. The first superintendent was Hugh Stegall. The federal census showed Wells with a population of 475 when the first four-year high school class graduated in 1930. The school was accredited by the Texas Education Agency in 1934.

As transportation facilities continued to improve, all the county's small school districts were gradually absorbed into the 5 school districts that exist today: Wells, Alto, Rusk, Jacksonville, and New Summerfield

Traditions

Since 1964 the city has come together once a year for their annual Wells Homecoming. The entire month of March and up to the homecoming parade the queen contestants raise money for the community. The young lady that raises the most money is crowned homecoming queen.

The original date of the homecoming was the last Saturday of March. With the Cherokee County Youth Fair also on that date the homecoming day was changed to the first Monday of April. This way everyone would be able to attend.

Starting the morning of homecoming all the old timers gathering on main street to talk about the good old days. At 2:00 P.M. on the dot the annual parade with floats, school class favorites, old cars, horses and fire trucks starts. The running joke is timing how long the parade last; the more entries the longer it is.

The day is filled with fun and excitement; seeing family and friends that you have not seen since the last homecoming is the highlight of the day.

In the evening everyone gathers at the school auditorium for some good old fashion entertainment and the crowning on the homecoming queen. The Wells Community Homecoming Association gives scholarships to the queens contestants and used all the money raised to put back into the community. 

Over the years the homecoming committee has constructed a fenced soft ball field and constructed the restrooms at the Wells Community Park. 

Demographics

As of the census of 2000, there were 769 people, 275 households, and 191 families residing in the town. The population density was 401.8 people per square mile (155.5/km²). There were 333 housing units at an average density of 174.0 per square mile (67.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 72.43% White, 18.73% African American, 0.26% Native American, 6.50% from other races, and 2.08% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.10% of the population.

There were 275 households out of which 30.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.2% were married couples living together, 13.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.5% were non-families. 28.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.13.

In the town, the population was spread out with 24.6% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 23.7% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 21.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 90.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.1 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $21,518, and the median income for a family was $26,563. Males had a median income of $24,659 versus $18,542 for females. The per capita income for the town was $10,639. About 20.2% of families and 28.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.4% of those under age 18 and 29.5% of those age 65 or over.