William H. Wells

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William H. Wells
William H. Wells.jpg
United States Senator
from Delaware
In office
May 21, 1813 – March 3, 1817
Preceded by James A. Bayard
Succeeded by Nicholas Van Dyke
In office
January 17, 1799 – November 6, 1804
Preceded by Joshua Clayton
Succeeded by James A. Bayard
Personal details
Born (1769-01-07)January 7, 1769
Burlington, New Jersey
Died March 11, 1829(1829-03-11) (aged 60)
Dagsboro, Delaware
Political party Federalist
Spouse(s) Rachael Dagworthy
Residence Dagsboro, Delaware
Profession lawyer

William Hill Wells (January 7, 1769 - March 11, 1829) was a lawyer and politician from Dagsboro, in Sussex County, Delaware. He was a member of the Federalist Party, who served in the Delaware General Assembly and as U.S. Senator from Delaware.

Early life and family[edit]

Wells was born in Burlington, New Jersey. His family came to Sussex County when he was young, and his father began a successful mercantile business at Dagsboro, which the younger Wells continued. His marriage to Rachael Dagworthy, the daughter of Revolutionary War General John Dagworthy,[1] greatly increased his wealth, as she had inherited large tracts of Sussex County timberlands. Meanwhile he studied the law, was admitted to the Delaware Bar in 1791, and practiced at Georgetown, Delaware, eventually expanding his practice to Dover, Delaware.

Professional and political career[edit]

Wells represented Sussex County for several years in the Delaware General Assembly, initially serving in the State House from the 1795 session through the 1799 session. He was then elected as a Federalist to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Joshua Clayton and served from January 17, 1799 until November 6, 1804. During this time he joined his Federalist colleagues in opposition to the Louisiana Purchase. He resigned before the completion of his term to seek his fortune in the oil business in northern Pennsylvania. He returned to the State House for the 1811 and 1812 sessions, and spent the 1813 session in the State Senate. He was again elected as a Federalist to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of James A. Bayard, and served from May 28, 1813, to March 3, 1817. Finally, he served once more in the 1819 session of the State House.

All the while he continued the practice of law in Dagsboro and Millsboro, Delaware, and became heavily involved in the oil business in Pennsylvania.[citation needed]

Death and legacy[edit]

Wells died near Dagsboro, Delaware, and is buried in the Prince George’s Churchyard, near Dagsboro.

Almanac[edit]

Elections were held the first Tuesday of October. Members of the Delaware General Assembly took office on the first Tuesday of January, with the State Senate serving a three-year term, and the State House a one-year term. The General Assembly chose the U.S. Senators, who took office March 4 for a six-year term. In this case he was initially completing the existing term, the vacancy caused by the death of Joshua Clayton, and later completing the existing term the vacancy caused by the resignation of James A. Bayard.


Public Offices
Office Type Location Began office Ended office notes
State Representative Legislature Dover January 6, 1795 January 5, 1796
State Representative Legislature Dover January 5, 1796 January 3, 1797
State Representative Legislature Dover January 3, 1797 January 2, 1798
State Representative Legislature Dover January 2, 1798 January 1, 1799
State Representative Legislature Dover January 1, 1799 January 7, 1800
U.S. Senator Legislature Philadelphia January 17, 1799 March 3, 1799 [2]
U.S. Senator Legislature Washington [3] March 4, 1799 November 6, 1804 [4]
State Representative Legislature Dover January 1, 1811 January 7, 1812
State Representative Legislature Dover January 7, 1812 January 6, 1813
State Senator Legislature Dover January 6, 1813 January 5, 1814
U.S. Senator Legislature Washington May 21, 1813 March 3, 1817 [5]
State Representative Legislature Dover January 5, 1819 January 4, 1820
Delaware General Assembly service
Dates Assembly Chamber Majority Governor Committees District
1795 19th State House Federalist Joshua Clayton Sussex at-large
1796 20th State House Federalist Gunning Bedford, Sr. Sussex at-large
1797 21st State House Federalist Gunning Bedford, Sr. Sussex at-large
1798 22nd State House Federalist Daniel Rogers Sussex at-large
1799 23rd State House Federalist Richard Bassett Sussex at-large
1811 35th State House Federalist Joseph Haslet Sussex at-large
1812 36th State House Federalist Joseph Haslet Sussex at-large
1813 37th State Senate Federalist Joseph Haslet Sussex at-large
1819 43rd State House Federalist John Clark Sussex at-large
United States Congressional service
Dates Congress Chamber Majority President Committees Class/District
1797–1799 5th U.S. Senate Federalist John Adams class 2
1799–1801 6th U.S. Senate Federalist John Adams class 2
1801–1803 7th U.S. Senate Republican Thomas Jefferson class 2
1803–1805 8th U.S. Senate Republican Thomas Jefferson class 2
1813–1815 13th U.S. Senate Republican James Madison class 2
1815–1817 14th U.S. Senate Republican James Madison class 2

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Scharf, J. Thomas (1888). History of Delaware 2. L. J. Richards. p. 1335. 
  2. ^ elected to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Joshua Clayton, seated February 4, 1799
  3. ^ The U.S. Senate met at Philadelphia until May 14, 1800
  4. ^ resigned
  5. ^ elected to fill vacancy caused by resignation of James A. Bayard in preceding Congress, seated June 10, 1813

References[edit]

  • Martin, Roger A. (1995). Memoirs of the Senate. Newark: Roger A. Martin. 
  • Munroe, John A. (1954). Federalist Delaware 1775-1815. New Brunswick: Rutgers University. 
  • Wilson, W. Emerson (1969). Forgotten Heroes of Delaware. Cambridge, MA: Deltos Publishing Company. 

External links[edit]

Places with more information[edit]