Drusilla Bukey Mcmahon Wells

Submitted by Phyllis Dye Slater.

DRUSILLA BUKEY McMAHON WELLS (Nov. 25, 1815-Feb. 24, 1898)

Drusilla McMahon was born on what is now called “The Austen Farm” in
Wells Bottom, Marshall County, W. Va. The farm was a portion of the
property which her mother, Elizabeth Tomlinson McMahon, had received
by inheritance from her father, Joseph Tomlinson II. Drusilla was
the third child of the four children born to Elzabeth and Joseph Cox
McMahon. April 10, 1817, Elizabeth McMahon died, leaving four
children, William Bukey, aged five, Eliza Ann, aged three, Drusilla,
aged eighteen months and Elizabeth, or Betsy as she was familiarly
called, a baby of three weeks. The grandmother, Elizabeth Hartness
Tomlinson who was with her daughter at the time of her death took
with her to her home in Moundsville, then Grave Creek, William B.,
Eliza Ann, the baby Elizabeth (Betsy) and the nurse. Joseph
Tomlinson III, an uncle of the children who had come to the funeral
of his sister, took with him the child Drusilla. He traveled in a
buggy from Wells Bottom to his home four miles below Williamstown
(now the house is within the corporation on the top of an elevation
overlooking the Ohio River). He cared for her all her life as if she
were his own child. Drusilla was taught at home until she was old
enough to go to school at Fort Harmer across the river. Every
morning and evening so long as the weather permitted a colored man
ferried her across the river and in severe weather she boarded at a
hotel in Harmer. November 30, 1817, Joseph C. McMahon married Ann
Hurst, of Grave Creek. Soon after their marriage they visited
Joseph Tomlinson III. Dursilla was then but two years old. At the
table the first day of their visit something occurred which
displeased the child and she left the dining room in high ill humor.
She was out of the cellar door pounding her heels and crying. There
she was found by her new mother who said, ‘If I had you, my lady, I
would take the capers out of you.’ ‘Yes,’ said Drusilla, ‘but you
haven’t got me.’ Then overcome by fear that she might get her, she
ran to her uncle. Uncle was extremely amused at the little incident
and gathering her in his arms assured her that she should stay with
him. With that assurance she was content. Often he would take her
in his arms and say ‘But she didn’t get you, did she?’ This remark
was always followed by an admonitory shake of the head by his wife
for putting such notions into a child’s head. Drusilla and her uncle
were close friends, an unusual bond of sympathy existing between
them. Joseph’s only child, Elizabeth, who married when but seventeen
years of age to George W. Henderson, left the home with no other
child but Drusilla. So about her was centered the interest of the
home. In summer she was taught cooking, sewing, spinning and the
general management of a house. While the hard work was done by the
colored servants, she helped her aunt, who was a delicate woman, in
overseeing. She was an especially good sewer. One of her special
duties was to cut the clothing for the colored people and to teach
and over-see the women in the making of the garments. One story of
her school days she delighted to tell. Surrounding the school yard
was a picket fence. When the children were playing it was their
custom to hang caps and bonnets on the fence. In those days cows and
pigs were permitted the freedom of the street. One cow in particular
seemed to take delight in chewing the garments left by the children
in their haste when the school bell rang telling them recess was
over. One day Drusilla wore a new pink sun bonnet, the old one had
been destroyed by the same cow. Uncle had admonished her to take
good care of this one and of course she promised faithfully to take
good care of this one. But alas for promises! The bonnet was hung
on the fence as before and as before was forgotten. When school was
over a search revealed no bonnet. The cow had eaten it – if one
could call it eating. Drusilla was in tears – partly sorrow, partly
anger. Upon reaching home she confided her loss into the sympathetic
ear of her uncle. He thought up a plan by which the cow would be
taught a lesson. They asked Aunt for a piece of linen, not telling
her the use for which it was intended. In it they put some red
pepper. The next morning Drusilla fastened the little bag to a
picket, not mentioning the fact to anyone. After a while when the
children were sitting quietly in school they heard an awful roar and
all the children and teacher rushed out to see what dreadful thing
had happened. They found the poor cow down by the small creek which
ran near the school house burying its head in the cool water then
rising to giveforth that awful roar. Never had Drusilla realized the
length of a cow’s tongue. That night the whole story was told to
Uncle Joe and when Aunt did finally hear of the deed, she shook her
head and said ‘Shamie! Shamie!’ The cow had learned her lesson and
never again molested the children’s garments from that day. February
17, 1836 she married Rolla Niven Wells, whose first wife was her
cousin, Mary Riggs. Lemuel Wells, Rolla’s brother had married her
sister Eliza Ann McMahon in July of the previous year 1835. Drusilla
went to reside after her marriage – which event occurred at the home
of her Uncle Joe Tomlinson – at Wells Bottom on his farm which
adjoined the farm on which she was born. Joseph Tomlinson III was
the guardian for his sisters children and when they married, he
returned to them all of the property left to them with the increase.
He had cared for them and educated them without any charge
whatsoever. Drusilla entered immediately upon the duties of the
home. Rolla had during his widowerhood left his two children,
Elizabeth D. and Mary Isabelle, with their grandmother, Lucy
Tomlinson Hoskinson. Upon his marriage he brought them home. With
these two children, aged three and one and one half years
respectively, a farm-hand and Betsy ( Joe her brother) colored people
beside her husband, Drusilla age twenty took up her duties of
homemaker. In those early times these duties were many and varied.
She dyed the wool, had women come to the home to spin the wool. Ann
Kemp was one of the last of these who came to do spinning. When the
yarn was ready she and her husband would go back on the hills to take
it to people who made it their business to weave it into cloth or
blankets. The house where she lived when she was first married, was
a large hewed log house. It was situated below where the old barn
stood (when we were children). The situation was pleasant. Nothing
now remains of this house but the foundation stones of the cellar and
some York and Lancaster rose bushes which grew beside the old
chimney. In September, 1855 they moved into the brick house where
they lived until her death. All of the children were born in the log
house except Joseph T. The new house was two years in building.
During the first year bricks were made. The clay being taken from a
nearby field. The stone was quarried from the face of the hill back
of Charles Prather Wells’ house. The cellar was dug and the cellar
wall was built. The wood was bought from a pine raft which had come
down from the Alleghany River. During this year the woodwork was
made by hand, of course. The next year the house was built and
completed by the time the winter ‘set in.’ All the working men,
masons, carpenters, stone-cutters, those who burned the brick beside
the farm hands were lodged and boarded at the Wells house. Such a
busy time. Besides this host of men there were nine children in the
family, the youngest a child of eleven months (Rachel) when the house
was finished. Joseph T. was born in the new house. Life in the new
house was much easier because of the ample space and the many
conveniences which Rolla, unlike many farmers, was always making
around the house. There was a well-sweep just off the porch 90 feet
deep, a pump on the back porch with a pipe to carry water to the pig
pen, a wash cellar was paved with brick from the old school house,
which Rolla had had built on the road when the main road was along
the Ohio River. In those days there were no public schools. After
the river road was abandoned and public schools were organized Rolla
used the brick to pave the floor of the cellar. The Wells home was
famous for its hospitality and many were the house-parties which were
made up of relatives from New Martinsville or Sistersville. The poor
relatives as well as those in more affluent circumstances were alike
welcomed. When the relatives from ‘the west’ came back to Virginia
to visit ‘Uncle Rolla’s’ was the stopping place. After the war when
many of the young men who had served in the Confederate Army could
not stay at their own homes they came to stay until the bitter
feeling had somewhat subsided. The oldest son, Ephraim Owings, spent
four years in the confederate army. He was wounded and his mother
went to nurse him. One of the Cresap boys (Quince) was also wounded
and sister Ophelia went to take care of him. Ephraim met many of his
relatives in the army and formed many strong friendships which lasted
through life. When tidings came that Ephraim was wounded Drusilla
went to Belleville, Ohio to hear further news. Another time she went
to Cameron to nurse her husbands nephew, Quincy Cresap, who had
broken his leg trying to escape from a train which was surrounded by
Federal troops. She cared for him until his sister Ophelia came to
take care of him. When Hardesty Talbot and his family came back from
Missouri in November 1864, having suffered so much at the hands of
the Union men that he could not stay in that neighborhood, he came to
stay with his wife’s father. He and his wife and five children,
Charles Prather (Wells) and his wife, Belle Leep, who was married,
Oct 24, 1864 and lived at home until their house was finished during
the next summer. The family, the school teacher, the servant girl
and the hired man made up a family of twenty-one for the winter.
There was much company during this winter for many came to hear of
the persecution in Missouri. In 1863 Uncle William Shaw from
Missouri spent the winter because of the bitter feeling. Dudley
Wells also spent the winter because of the bitter feeling with his
brother Charles Claypole Wells (Great Uncle Charles) grandchildren
called him. After the war, Joseph McMahon, a nephew from Ravenswood,
Absalom and Phillip Wells from Belleville, Hagan Wells also from down
the river, stayed at different times when the unpleasantness
following the war made it expedient for these relatives to leave
home. Lucy Virginia Wells, daughter of Dudley Wells, spent a year
visiting in Virginia. Will Ogden, Elizabeth’s step-son also visited
for a winter and summer at the Rolla Wells home. In 1861, Betsy Rice
came to her sisters home to die. After a long illness (of
consumption) through which she was tendrly nursed by her sister, she
recovered sufficiently to travel. She went to her daughter Maria
Price’s home in Quincy, Illinois. After recovering her health she
went to St. Louis to go as a nurse among the soldiers. Ephraim
Owings Wells and his wife, Virginia Simms, spent the two years
succeeding his marriage in 1866 at his fathers house. He then moved
into the house on his mothers farm on which Rolla had had built a
tenant’s house. He lived there until he moved to Nevada. In 1864
Amanda, the third child died of consumption in the twenty-fourth year
ofher age. She was a most lovable character, gentle in manner and of
great assistance to her mother in the training and care of the
younger children. She was a beautiful needle-woman and did much of
the fine sewing and embroidering for the family. Rachel always held
her in loving rememberance for it was she who taught her to read and
sew. Rachel did not go to school until after Amanda’s death and she
felt her loss during her whole life and would often speak of her with
great affection. The children were well educated for the time and
circumstances in which the family lived. They attended a
‘subscription school’ which was always taught by a well-eduated man
or woman. The older students were taught the branches usually taught
in secondary schools. Rolla Wells built a better brick school on the
bank of the river by the public road. There the older pupils
attended school. Afterward the school house was abandoned. When the
county road was moved back to its present situation Rachel McMechen
Wells, Rolla’s mother, gave 3/4 acres ‘to be used for a school or for
religious purposes. The octagonal school, was built in this form to
throw light into the room, a window put into each panel for this
purpose. The school house was built of brick covered with plaster.
Mr. John Scott, who had been reading of this new building material
was the builder. He read also of putting a certain form of pitch-tar
preparation on the roof instead of slate which was hard to obtain in
those days. Rolla, when he was building his brick house, used it on
the roof. Whenever there was need to go on the roof, the pitch
material was tracked down. Afterward Rolla had a new story or attic
and roof built but the old roof remained to my day to pester the
family whenever anyone went to the attic. I do not remember if any
religious services were held in that building but I remember that
services were held in the public school building. Georgannia H.
Wells was active in the work of looking after the Sunday School
teachers and getting Methodist ministers to come. They stay of
course at the Wells house. Many times Mr. Scott gave talks to the
pupils on good citizenship and good manners. He made a ‘stile’ for
the entrance to the school-yard instead of a gate – the first in the
neighborhood. At the road in front of the Rolla Wells house was a
platform with three steps leading up to it from which the women could
mount the horses. In those days people rode horseback, or in buggies
or walked. Among the teachers who taught in the ‘subscription
school’ were Miss Mary Black of Connecticut, Miss Kiniball from N.Y.
state, Miss Wallace from Moundsville. When the public schools were
opened the standard of the school rapidly declined, the teachers were
crude and illiterate. Then the families began to send their children
away to school. The older children were sent away to finish their
educations. Ephriam O. went to Bethany. Charles P. to New
Martinsville, where there was a good school. But he never cared to
go to school and he was especially indifferent after he hurt his eye
by striking himself with the lash of a whip. Elizabeth went to
‘subscription school’ in New Martinsville. The teachers were from New
England and were well educated. She stayed with her grandmother Lucy
Hoskinson. Mary Isabelle went to school in Wheeling and after the
death of her aunt Alivia Wells Pollack who lived in Wheeling, both
girls came to Marietta where they attended the ‘Seminary.’ In
pleasant weather they stayed with Joseph Tomlinson III and in stormy
weather they stayed at the hotel in Harmer. Georgianna H. Wells went
to Mont de Chauntal where also went Martha Nesbit and Virginia Simms
who while there joined the Roman Catholic church and reared their
children in that faith. Friend Cox Wells went to West Liberty, Maria
Camilla also went to West Liberty and while there met David H. Arrick
who she afterward married. Rachel Alivia Wells attended the Female
Seminary College at Wheeling. On her trips on ‘the Hope’, a
steamboat which went from Parkersburg to Wheeling, she made the
acquaintence of the first clerk, Arthur W. Hutchison. It was the
custom in those days for women traveling alone on a steamboat to be
placed in the care of the captain or 1st clerk and to sit at the
captains’ table. After Rachel became acquainted with Arthur
Hutchison and meeting him on her trips back and forth from Wheeling
they became engaged. Ther were engaged for three years then they
decided to marry. She stopped going to school before she was
graduated. In those days people thought a married woman did not need
an education to keep house and rear children. Rachel always
regretted the fact that she did not finish her course. And she
decided that if she had any children they would have as good an
education as the times and circumstances could afford. Her decision
to live in Marietta was made after her family returned from a short
stay in Chattanooga, Tenn. She decided upon Marietta as a place of
residence because there is a college to which she could send her
children. Joseph Tomlinson went to school at Waynesburg, Penn.
After the death of Rolla Wells from a stroke, he had several during a
spring and summer, his wife, Drusilla, took charge of the estate. He
died July 8, 1871. He was accustomed to ride horseback about his
estate watching the progress of the crops and consulting with his
tenants. Drusilla did not wish him to take these trips alone so
Rachel was the one who accompanied him. The conversations between
father and daughter during these trips made an impression upon
Rachel’s mind and heart. He drew her attention to the beauties of
nature, the turn of a leaf, the different kinds of trees, the kinds
of herbs used for medical purposes, the people on the farms. Through
it all ran his kindly philosophy of life which she could not have
learned in any other way, and it drew them very close together and
had a great infuence upon her wholesome outlook on life at a very
impressionable period of her life. Since there were so many heirs,
Drusilla decided to sell all of the household goods and buy in what
she needed and could afford. She said afterwards that she should
have bought in all of the furniture but she felt at the time that she
could not buy all that she wanted and still be independant. She sold
all the horses and farming untensils. She was very exact and careful
in all her business dealings. The clerk of the court said that
during the many years of his experience but one estate had been
settled up with as little friction as the Rolla Wells estate, and he
complimented Mrs. Wells upon her tact and business ability. The
constant work and worry told upon her health and for a number of
years she was in feeble health. Later I shall write my recollections
of my grandmother and her home when as a child, I spent a month
during the summer ihn her home. [The material in the foregoing paper
was told to J.D.H. by her mother, Rachel Wells Hutchison. The paper
was never completed]