The Wells House
The Wells House

On the Osage River, near the town of Tuscumbia, sits the Wells House, possibly the first residence in Miller County equipped with running water and indoor bath facilities. The house was built in 1889 by J.R. Wells, whose father, Charles, had homesteaded the farm not long after arriving in Missouri from Wheeling West Virginia.

Charles lived in a small log cabin he found on the farm until his death. At that time his sons, J.R. and William, came from West Virginia to settle their father's affairs. William remained only a short time, but J.R. married here and decided to stay on at his father's farm.

J.R. and his wife lived in the cabin until 1889, when they decided to build a house nearby on a flowing spring. The new house consisted of five rooms, with each bedroom measuring 15 feet square. Some of the Wells' seven children were born in this house and attended a one-room schoolhouse nearby.

In 1902, J.R. began a major renovation and expansion on the family's residence. When completed, the house had three stories and ten rooms, including a bathroom and pantry. Although considered one of the finest homes around at the time, J.R. was not finished.

For years he had noticed that the spring never ceased to flow, even during droughts, so he decided to cap it as the source of running water in the house. A springhouse was built and water was pumped into reservoir. From there the water was channeled into the house. The spring also provided a fountain in the front yard, where the Wells' children could probably be found playing on hot days.

The third floor of the big house served as a school for these children, probably the only private school for miles. Teachers were brought in from Virginia and North Carolina to instruct the classes, but in 1917, the family moved to Jefferson City so their children could attend high school. They kept their river home, though, and returned during the summer and on holidays.

In the early days, the trip to and from Jefferson City took about all day and was usually made by horse and buggy, with sometimes an accompanying wagon to carry provisions. At one time the trip was made by boat, the "Ruth", owned by J.R. Wells. When this boat was built, its name was selected by drawing one of the names of his daughters for the honor.

The Osage River, whose fluctuation was disturbed by the creation of the Lake of the Ozarks, overran its banks in 1942, and the first floor of the Wells House went under. In 1949 the big frame house was moved back about a half mile from its location near Highway 17. It now sets at the foot of a hill and is surrounded by an enormous lawn. In 1953 a sidewalk and patio were added by then owner, Roy Sone, grandson of J.R. Wells.

In the 1960s, after 1 centuries of family ownership, the house was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Paul Griffith of Mexico, Missouri. At that time, Ruth Wells Sone furnished the following information on the history of the farm and acquirement of the land:

Charles V. Wells of Tyler County, West Virginia, purchased 152.52 acres which Andrew McCasland entered Aug. 10, 1841, a total of 185.08 acres from McCasland and his wife, Mary, consideration $462.70, dated April 28, 1842; 47.69 acres were entered by William Miller, July 1, 1845. On Oct. 13, 1855 Charles V. Wells, entered 320 acres joining the land purchased. This tract was patented April 2, 1857. In 1861, Charles V. Wells purchased 144.92 acres at a sheriff's partition sale (which also joined the other plots.)

The land, 737 acres more or less, was accumulated by Charles V. Wells, and was never in any name other than the Wells name. The other land was bought from the men who had entered it. Therefore it was owned by only one other person prior to the Wells ownership.

Charles V. Wells had been a steamboat captain before and during the Civil War, while investing money in real estate in Miller County. After the War he came to live on the land he had acquired in the past 25 years. He died Jan. 21, 1880.

His two sons, Joshua and William purchased the interests of their mother and sisters in 1885 to become owners of the farm. Joshua R. Wells obtained the interests of his brother, William, and wife by deed dated June 29, 1928.

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