William was born on August 6, 1854 in Brooklyn, New York to a prominent banker, James S. Wells and his wife, Elizabeth Walker. William received his degree as a metallurgist from Columbia University School of Mines. He founded the Wells Rustless Iron Company in New Jersey and held a pattern for rustless iron. This process became widely popular for plumbing and rust-free water pipes, and gained him prominence and wealth. William died on July 6, 1930 and is buried in New York.
Nora was born on May 25, 1855 in Niskayuna, New York to a wealthy family. Her father Charles Stanford was a successful businessman and Senator. Her mother was Jane Elizabeth Page. Charles brother, Leland, became Governor of California and founded Stanford University. After her marriage to William, Nora especially loved their summer home on Crown Island at Lake George, N.Y. Together they enjoyed racing on the lake aboard their yacht "Crusader". Nora died on October 2, 1933 while visiting her daughter, Gladys, in Iowa. She is buried in New York .
William and Nora were married on December 30, 1879 at the Stanford Mansion in Niskayuna, New York at 8 o'clock in the evening Rev. Dr. De Baun performed the ceremony. There were over 150 guests in attendance. An entire separate room contained gifts of silver tea sets, pitchers, goblets, diningware and many other expensive items. There was an orchestra that performed for the ceremony as well as the reception. A six course meal was then served to all of the guests. The large elaborate cake featured a couple on horseback.
Stanford was born on July 26, 1881 in New Barbadoes, New Jersey. He was 15 years old when he first came to Green Gables. He was an avid sportsman. He married Pearl L. Mitchell on April 20, 1934 in Brevard County, Florida. She was a widow from the area with three children: Lois, Gladys and Katherine. Stanford and Pearl lived at Green Gables until he died on September 9, 1971. He is buried in the Melbourne Cemetery.
Gladys was born on March 30, 1883 in Hackensack, New Jersey. She was 13 years old when they moved to Green Gables to spend the winters. She graduated from Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA. She married Frank W. Griffith on January 16, 1914 in Fort Dodge, Iowa and they resided in Sioux City. They had two sons, Stanford Wells Griffith and Frank Wells Griffith. She died on March 19, 1966 and is buried in Iowa.
Prescott was born on September 6, 1884 in Hackensack, New Jersey. He was 12 years old when he first came to Green Gables. He married Eleanore A. Hollick on October 26, 1907. Later he married Amy Stevens. They didn't stay in Melbourne. Instead they resided in Jersey City, N.J. In 1913 they had a son named William Arthur Wells. Prescott died in March 1963.
The Wells Family Generous Contributions to Melbourne
In the winter of 1896, during the peak of his business success, and while raising three teenagers, the doctor recommended to Mr. Wells that the family spend winters in the south. Nora suffered from severe and chronic pneumonia, and William suffered from neuralgia. His friends recommended that they check out Florida. They spent some time in the St. Augustine area; Winter Park; Silver Springs; Jupiter; Lake Worth; Jensen and finally to Melbourne. They both agreed that Melbourne had the most happy and friendly people, the fishing and sailing were superb and it was beneficial to their health. Therefore, they purchased a large plot of land and began construction of Green Gables.
William used his talent and education to develop a process that treated and prevented rust from forming on iron. At that time, people used iron pipes in their plumbing and rust was a serious problem. His Rustless Iron Co. factory produced these treated pipes and people were then able to drink pure water from their homes. This patented process allowed him to, not only become wealthy, but to help improve the lives of so many people.
Reading and literacy were very important to Nora. She not only began the first library in Melbourne, but they donated land to build the first library. In addition, they donated the land that is now the location of the Melbourne Fee Avenue Library.
When William and Nora arrived in Melbourne there were only elementary schools offering classes through 6th grade. Having three teenagers, higher education was important to them. Therefore they donated the land, built a high school and personally funded the teachers' salaries.
As the Melbourne area was growing, William and Nora wanted to make sure that there was a place where the community could gather to enjoy theater, concerts and cultural activities. They generously donated the land and built the first Melbourne Theater. When William became president of the Chataqua Society in New York, he invited them to Melbourne each year.
William often spoke of the unique beauty of the Melbourne area. He loved the outdoors and all it had to offer. In 1927 he donated a track of land off Hibiscus Avenue that is now known as Wells Park. It was designated for the perpetual use of the public. How fitting that the current Melbourne Auditorium was built on that same parcel of donated land.
In 1897, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church was located north of Crane Creek and just south of the waterway. It became necessary to move the Church, and the Wells generously donated property for the relocation of the Church. In 1963 the Church was moved once again and is now at its present location.
When the Wells first came to Melbourne, the city had only been incorporated for eight years. The population was growing and the primary means of transportation was by boat or horse and wagon. The Wells family, together with other prominent families, began building stretches of roads including Riverview Drive and Melbourne Avenue. Mr. Wells was instrumental in bringing the Florida East Coast Railway to Melbourne in 1893.
After the death of William and Nora in 1933, Stanford and Pearl lived at Green Gables with their family until their passing in 1971. Family members continued to live at Green Gables until 2004. Hurricane and water damage made the house no longer inhabitable. Ownership of the property still remains in the Wells Family.
The heirs of the Wells Family would very much like for their heritage to be preserved. In the same manner of generosity of William and Nora, the Wells family has offered to make a substantial monetary contribution to the purchase of the property by Green Gables at Historic Riverview Village, Inc.
Thereby securing the property for use by the community.
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