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Henry Wells was born on May 11, 1828 in Killaloe, County Clare, Ireland. Henry’s parents, originally from County Clare, shortly after his birth moved to County Tipperary, Ireland from where Henry later migrated to the United States. After migrating to the U.S. Henry worked on a farm near Muncietown, Indiana and was present there when the War Between the States began. When it became apparent after a year that hostilities were going to continue, Henry enlisted as a private into Company B of the 69th Indiana Infantry Regiment at Richmond, Indiana; on August 5, 1862 at the age of 34. Being almost six feet tall, Henry was both taller and older than most of his fellow recruits and saw action in the Western Theatre during his three year enlistment; including fighting at the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky on August 30, 1862, when the majority of his Regiment were captured by Confederate forces. He saw action again at the Siege of Vicksburg, from May 18th through July 4, 1863. Henry’s Company B was later consolidated with Company A and his regiment reclassified as the 69th Indiana Battalion. Henry continued serving with the 69th, being promoted to the rank of Corporal, in January 1865, and remained at that rank until he was discharged at Mobile, Alabama on July 5, 1865.

After his discharge, Henry returned to farming at Muncietown, Indiana for a while, before leaving for Leavenworth, Kansas in 1869; where he remained for some ten years. Leaving Leavenworth, Henry made his way to the northern coast of Tasmania, Australia and the port of Burnie; arriving there in 1879. From Burnie he travelled to the township of Somerset on the River Cam in 1889, where he decided to make his home. It was in Somerset six years later at the age of 67, that Henry met and married 46 year old Jessie Emily Wragg; on November 9, 1895. Jessie was the first postmistress of Somerset and the second daughter of Thomas Dodd Wragg, the founding father of Somerset, and Emily Harnett Wragg. At first her father eyed Henry with suspicion, him being twenty-one years older than his daughter and an outsider. A niece recalled Henry as having “had big feet and didn’t work”; not the best qualifications for the son-in-law of the founding father. It was said that younger members of the family were never allowed to refer to Henry as uncle, and were required to refer to the couple as “Aunt Jessie and Mr. Wells”. By 1907 Henry had applied for and was receiving a pension of some $20 (US) a month, which at that time was an above average income, and that coupled with his respectable behaviour eventually gained him the respect and acceptance of Jessie’s family.

Jessie passed away on January 8, 1908 and Henry Wells died four years later, in 1912, at the Latrobe Hospital; and was buried in the Somerset Cemetery beside his wife. The two shared an unmarked plot for some eighty-two years, until Henry’s gravesite was pointed out to Mr. Roy Parkers daughter by Mr. Tom Wragg, Jessie’s grandnephew, during a chance meeting at the Somerset Cemetery in 1994. Through hers and Roy Parker’s efforts, a marble headstone was acquired from the American Veterans Administration in Washington D.C. and presented to Mr. Tom Wragg, who had it erected and dedicated on Australia Day, January 26, 1996; eighty-four years after the fact.

 

“Advocate News”, Tasmanian newspaper, 1996

  Richard Muir Wilson, Community Development Officer, Waratah-Wynyard Council, Wynyard, Tasmania 

 Royal Australian Historical Society Library

 “Somerset The Cam”, A.C. Hearn, 1992

''The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies”, Govt. Print. Off., Washington

 

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