Wells, Hezekiah G.

Born: 1812-06-16 Steubenville, Ohio

Died: 1885-04-04 Kalamazoo, Michigan

Flourished: Kalamazoo, Michigan

Hezekiah G. Wells was a lawyer, judge, and city government official. Born into a wealthy and prominent Ohio family, Wells spent his youth in Steubenville, Ohio. He matriculated to Kenyon College, and upon graduation, he read law in Steubenville, earning admission to the bar in 1832. He moved to the Michigan Territory in July 1833, settling on his brother’s farm in Kalamazoo County. Wells lived with his brother for two years, helping out on the farm and setting up a law practice in Bronson in 1834. In May 1834, he earned admittance to practice law in the Bronson Circuit Court. A year later, he relocated to Schoolcraft Township, where he practiced law and became involved in local government. In April 1835, Kalamazoo County voters selected him to represent the county at the first Michigan Constitutional Convention. Although the youngest member of the convention, Wells sat on several important committees and participated actively in the creation of Michigan’s first state constitution. In 1837, Michigan’s Whig Party nominated him as their sole candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. Wells lost the election to Isaac E. Crary but was re-nominated in 1838, only to lose to Crary again. Though defeated a second time for Congress, Wells served as a presidential elector representing Michigan in the presidential election of 1840. In September 1840, he married Achsah Strong; the couple did not have any children. Wells won election as a county judge in 1845 and remained in that office for four years. In 1850, Wells was living in Schoolcraft and owned real property valued at $5,000. In addition to his work on the county bench, Wells served as town supervisor, town treasurer, and school inspector for Schoolcraft. In June 1850, he again represented Kalamazoo County, as a Whig, at the second Michigan State Constitutional Convention. In 1856, Wells moved to the village of Kalamazoo. In June 1856, he represented Michigan at the first Republican National Convention and actively campaigned for John C. Fremont in the presidential election of 1856. In 1857, voters in Kalamazoo elected Wells village president, a position he held again in 1858, 1864, and 1865. In 1860, Wells owned real property valued at $16,000 and had a personal estate of $5,000. In the presidential election of 1860, Wells supported Abraham Lincoln and was again an elector for Michigan. In 1861, the Michigan General Assembly appointed Wells to the State Board of Agriculture, and his colleagues on the board elected him president of the board. In August 1862, Wells raised the Twenty-Fifth Regiment of Michigan Volunteers for service in the Civil War. President Lincoln appointed Wells as minister resident to the Central American states, but Wells declined the appointment. After the war, Wells served as the presiding judge of the Court of Commissioners for the Alabama Claims.

Donald L. Shuler, Biography of Hezekiah G. Wells (n.p., 1958), 1-15; History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan (Philadelphia: Everts & Abbott, 1880), 55, 56, 106, 202, 216, 514; Early History of Michigan With Biographies of State Officers, Members of Congress Judges and Legislators (Lansing, MI: Thorp & Godfrey, 1888), 680-81; U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States (1850), Kalamazoo County, MI, 87; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo County, MI, 38; Gravestone, Mountain Home Cemetery, Kalamazoo, MI.