The legendary Mary Wells was a member of the “First Families of Ohio”. Membership in for “First Families of Ohio” is open only to those who can prove that their ancestors lived in Ohio before 1820. Not only a “first family”, but the very first to be confirmed through Indian lineage.
Mary Wells was actually born Mary Castleman in Pennsylvania in 1777. Her father, William Castleman, was in the vanguard of the pioneers as the frontiers were pushed westward. The Castleman family headed west and built a cabin on the eastern banks of the Ohio somewhere north of the present day Steubenville, in what is now the West Virginia Pan Handle.
One April day with the day set for “sugaring off”, Mary 13, and sister Margaret, 9 were allowed to join their uncle Jacob Castleman and a neighbor in a “sugaring” expedition across the river to a sugar camp in the forbidden Indian territory. The day went well with the girls working to tap the maples, cooking the sap and pouring the syrup into gourds. Their day was almost finished when they were startled by the war hoops of a band of Wyandottes. While the settlers scattered, Mary was captured and the neighbor was dead. Mary’s sister Margaret remained no where to be seen. While the Indians retreated Margaret called to her sister from her hiding place in a tree. Immediately a young Indian turned, scooped her up and ran with her to join the others.
The Indians took their captives on a week long journey, ending at an Indian village in Sandusky. Margaret was sold for $25.00 while Mary was introduced to the life of the village.
Eventually Mary was married by Wyandotte rites to Abraham Williams, a half breed trader and descendant to Isacc Williams, who left for the new world in 1635. Their daughter Sally was born in 1791, and son, George in 1799.
Abraham became increasingly violent, fueled by the jealousy from the many admiring glances Mary drew from the customers at the busy trading post owned by her husband . When Abraham, in a drunken rage, hurled his hunting knife at her, Mary knew beyond a doubt that it was time to flee. With the aid of a former Indian Captive, Mary fled Sandusky, leaving her children Sally and George with their father’s people.
Mary rejoined her parents in 1802 and married John Wells of Jefferson County. The couple applied for a federal land grant and were given the very land where Mary and Margaret spent their first night in captivity. Their time together was brief, and after his death, Mary disappeared from public view. The only proof that she was still alive are in the census rolls of 1860 and 1870.
In 1860, Mary Wells was listed as residing with her niece (Margaret’s daughter), Martha Roach and their family in Limaville, Ohio in Stark County south of Atwater. By census time in 1870, the Roach family and Mary, who was by then ill and blind, were living in Atwater.
Mary Castleman Wells died in 1784, and the stone marker was erected over her final resting place in Atwater Cemetary, presumably by Martha.
**Disclaimer** I am unsure how old the following information is, so before sending any monies to the address below please check with Ohio Genealogical Society in Columbus before attempting to help with this fundraiser. We cannot be held liable for any losses you may inquire**
Funds for a historical marker to be placed on the grave of Mary Castleman Williams Wells are being collected by the Portage County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society. “The Chapter is acting on Helec York Rose’s behalf in the project, which was endorsed at hte recent state meeting of the Ohio Genealogical Society in Columbus,” annouced Betty Widger, chapter president Delawares, many of them Mary’s descendants, in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and California has sent donations, as have genealogical and historical groups in Ohio. Donations, however small may be sent to: Mrs. Widger at 6252 N. Spring Street, Ravenna, 44266, and should be earmarked “Mary Wells Fund.”
Information in the above story has been obtained from the article "ATWATER GRAVE A LINK TO OHIO FRONTIER DAYS" found in Atwater Historical Society Preserving The Heritage Of Our Founders Atwater, Ohio Town 1 Range 1 In the Western Reserve Est. 1799 And Vicinity Old Records and History ***** Atwater Twp. Portage Co., Ohio For information on how to obtain a copy of this book, please use our contact us page.