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The Wells

Dr. Flournoy Henry came to Bloomington from Kentucky where we know he had slaves. He brought Henry and William Wells, two of those slaves, with him to Illinois and pursuant to the laws of that time, he was required to purchase a bond to guarantee his former slave would not become a burden on the state. 


William Wells (b. ~1812) appeared in the 1840 and 1850 census, along with his wife, Ann. They were both born in Kentucky. We do not know if William and Ann had children but in 1850 Charlotte Wells, age 16 was living with William and Ann. In 1870, Francis Wells, age 17 was living with William and Ann. Their real estate was valued at $3,000. William Wells died August 25, 1874. A short notice remembers him as “Uncle Billy Wells.” 


Henry Wells (b. ~1800) appeared first in the 1860 census with his wife Eliza, age 57; and children Mary, William, and Rachel. He also appeared in the 1870 census for Normal along with Eliza, age 44(!); Mary, age 20; William, age 12, and Ida, age 5. Real estate owned by Henry Wells was valued at $1,800 in 1870. In 1880 he appeared in the census along with his wife Eliza; age 49(!), and his grandson Fielding Henderson. Eliza Wells died January 6, 1888. In 1886, Henry and Eliza Wells were ejected from their home by Simon B. Malone, an African American man living nearby who had a superior claim to the house. Henry’s final days were spent at the county farm. He died June 3, 1898.


As representatives of the African American community in Bloomington, Henry and William Wells were active. In 1861 they had a notice published in the Pantagraph disputing the authority of a Mrs. H. A. Lee to speak on behalf of the African Methodist Church in Bloomington. In 1864 Henry and William were signatories on an announcement of the organization of whitewashers in the city. The whitewashers had met to agree to uniform prices for their services. This may have been one of the very first organizations of labor in Bloomington.

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