Wells - Alfred - Montgomery InGenWeb Project

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Wells - Alfred

Source: Waveland Independent, Waveland, Montgomery County, Indiana, June 2, 1899

Coroner Ball was notified last night of the commission of a  horrible double murder near Darlington. Albert Wells, a farmer  living between Darlington and Bowers, has been showing signs of  insanity for some time, but, as is too often the case, his family  was not willing to have him placed under restraint. Yesterday he  started with his four boys, whose ages ranged from 7 to 12 years,  to a field to pick strawberries. In passing an abandoned open  well the father was seized with an insane frenzy and catching the  boys he threw them one by one into the well. The two younger  children are supposed to have been killed at once, but the older  ones attempted to climb out, when their father tore heavy stones  from the well curbing and dropped them upon their heads to drive  them back. The screams from of the unfortunate children drew  their mother to the scene, when Wells fled, and running to Sugar  Creek, about a half mile away, jumped into the stream to drown  himself. He had been followed by a neighbor who rescued him and  finally got him to Crawfordsville, where he is now in jail and  raving mad. Dr. Ball went to Darlington this morning to hold an  inquest on the bodies of the two dead boys. One of the others is  so badly hurt that he will probably die.
Source: Crawfordsville Journal, June 30, 1899

Alfred Wells, the Crawfordsville man who killed his two little  boys, and was declared insane by a Montgomery Co. jury was  brought to this city (Indianapolis News) today by the sheriff and  a deputy. An officer was on each side of him as he walked through  the station, but he attracted no attention, very few people  knowing that he was under guard or his identity. At the Central  Hospital he was very quiet and timid and had nothing to say and  the physicians there anticipate no trouble with him.
Source: Crawfordsville New Review, June 3, 1899 ? or 1919?

Alfred Wells and his family of a wife and four little boys  ranging in age from 7 to 14 years, lived happily until yesterday  on a farm of 80 acres, located 5 mi NE of Darlington. Today two  of the children are dead, two under the care of the family  physician, the mother prostrated from grief and the father  occupying a cell in the County jail. Thurs. evening Wells enticed  his four children away from the house and into a field about 30  rods from the home where there was an old abandoned well, filled  with water to within some 8 or 10 feet of the top. He removed the  covering and threw the children into the well one after the  other, unmindful of their screams which could be heard all over  the neighborhood, and reached the ears of their mother at the  house. She ran as fast as she could to the scene and was joined  by a young man named Albert Barker. When they arrived at the well  they found that Wells had climbed down the rough rock wall to the  water and clinging there was placing his feet on the children's  heads and kicking them under the water. When discovered he  quickly climbed out and ran across the field in a southwesterly  direction. The young man, Barker at once set about the rescue of  the children. The second and third boys in point of age were  taken out alive, the youngest and eldest were dead. Wells ran for  about one mile to the sw and as he passed through a corn field  was seen by Jess Guntle, a young man who was plowing there.  Guntle started after him surmising that something was wrong. When  Wells reached the banks of Sugar Creek he plunged headfirst into  the water. Guntle followed and after a terrible struggle  succeeded in dragging the half drowned man to shore and took him  home.
Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal, Crawfordsville, Montgomery County, Indiana 2 June 1899 p1

Yesterday evening about 6 o'clock occurred one of the most frightful tragedies in the history of Montgomery County. Alfred Wells, an insane man, killed two of his children and attempted the lives of two others. Wells is about 40 years of age and lived in the SE corner of Sugar Creek Twp, six miles from Darlington. A portion of his farm is in Boone County. Wells was raised there and his father still lives in Sugar Creek. He married a Miss Deck and four sons were born to them, Lee being the oldest aged 11 years and six months and Willie, the youngest, aged 5 years. Roy and Harry were between 11 and 5. Wells had an 80 acre farm and lived very well. For a number of years he taught school but after he became insane about a year ago and was treated at the asylum he never taught again although released as cured. Yesterday he and all his sons spent the day at the farm of Cal Jones, a neighbor, picking strawberries and about supper time started for home. As they approached Wells suggested that they save time by cutting across a field in which was an old stock well, 18' deep. In this well stood 10' of water. When they came up to it, Wells suddenly stooped down and seizing his youngest son threw him into the well, Roy cried aloud and started to his little brothers assistance when the now wild father threw him in. The other two lingered about shrieking with horror and the father quickly threw them in after their unfortunate brothers. Mrs. Wells from the house 300 yards away heard the criers and states that she immediately knew what had happened and by intuition. She did not run to the well but stood in the year calling frantically to the neighbors several of whom were at work in the fields nearby. Meantime the awful tragedy was continuing at the well. When all the boys were in, Wells stood about for a moment looking in and then seeing that all his victims were making efforts to climb up the round sides of the well and work about to escape, he sat down on the edge and would kick them on the heads as they came within reach. The children frantic with fear and crying out in their agony of fear and pain, made terrible efforts to escape. The father not content with kicking them, tore large stones from the sides of the well and hurled them with demonic force down upon the struggling little ones, fairly foaming with rage as he did so. All this took place within a few few moments and the children would all have been dead within three moments more had not Albert Baker rushed from his work, attracted by the mother's calls and on arriving at the scene pulled Wells from his ghastly work. Jerking the insane man out, he threw him with terrific force back on the ground, and leaving him tot he care of Eli Barker and Charley Guntle, who were close behind, he turned his attention to the children. Well, when thrown back seemed to perceive that he could do no more and started to run away, followed by Guntle, a 17-year-old boy. The Barkers gave their attention to the children and found that Willie and Lee had sunk to the bottom but that Roy and Harry, though frightfully cut and bruised, still clung to the sides of the wall. They were drawn tenderly out and carried to the home, where the mother lay prostrated by the tragedy she had witnessed from afar. A Dr. was summoned and in due time the wounds of the children were dressed. Roy's skull was mashed and both were seriously hurt but not fatally. They are reported as better this (Friday) morning. Messrs. Wm. Strain, Bowen and Richie were at the well soon after the Barkers and they assisted in bailing the water out and recovering the mutilated bodies of the two little victims. While this was going on there was an exciting pursuit in progress. The insane father continued to run straight for Sugar Creek, some distance away, and was closely followed by Guntle. Some distance from the scene of the tragedy, Wells ran past the house of a neighbor and Guntle by calls managed to attract Milt McCarty and Al Lewis to the chase. When Sugar Creek was reached Wells without hesitation jumped in and young Guntle showed his sublime nerve and grit by going right in after him. He grappled with the insane man and though a mere boy tried to bring the maniac to land. Wells was too powerful, however and had not the brawny McCarty come to his aid Guntle would have been drowned. McCarty, Lewis and Guntle were finally able to overpower Wells and to bring him to his home. The man was very violent and fought like a demon. He was securely fastened, however and when Roe Miller, who had been telephoned for, arrived he was quieter and was willing to be taken to Darlington. He seemed to realize then for the first time the awfulness of his crime and broke completely down while telling his wife the shocking details. Arriving at Darlington, he was locked up in the town calaboose and kept until 3 o'clock this morning when he was brought to Crawfordsville and placed in jail. He was in the hospital department this morning and is in a very weak and depressed condition. When locked up at Darlington he was quiet enough and stated to those who interviewed him that he had had the crime in contemplation for months. He said that he did not see how he could make a living for all and if allowed to live the boys must grow up a trial to their mother and must become poor shiftless fellow in the community. He thought that it was for the best interests of all that they die and he regretted that he had not finished them all at once. He said that his head bothered him all the time and that it had influenced him to do the deed. For some time past the neighbors had noticed that Wells was off again and there had been talk for a month past of committing him to the asylum again. Still the case was deferred with the result noted. So far as can be ascertained he had never made threats against his family, however. Of course as he is insane, he cannot be punished for his awful crime, being unaccountable. The funeral of the victims will occur tomorrow afternoon at 2 o'clock at the Lutheran Church, two miles east of Darlington.
Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 9 June 1899

Alfred Wells, who so terribly murdered two of his children near Darlington last Thursday evening continues insane in his cell at the county jail. Coroner Ball and Dr. Barcus, county health officer visited him last Friday and he told them identically the same story he told The Journal Friday morning. He has not deviated from this in the least and willingly recites it to any who question him. Sheriff Canine is very properly excluding visitors and is affording the man the quiet the doctors say he should have. Wells has not slept since his arrest and has scarcely laid down.

Turnkey Long has visited him frequently at night and invariably found him sitting on his couch with his arms folded and staring at the wall opposite him. On all subjects save his crime and its motive he talks intelligently and makes no mistakes. He has scarcely tasted food since being jailed and one morning when the regular breakfast was passed in to him he politely refused it. Said he to Turnkey Long,"I don't want any of this nor do I want anything at all except tea and crackers. I maybe could eat tea and crackers, but nothing else. If it is any trouble for you to get me these, don't do it. I don't want to make you people any trouble and if you haven't tea and crackers handy, I can make out. I don't want anything else and I don't want them if they're not convenient."

Coroner Ball held his inquest Friday and found the condition of facts set forth in the Journal last week. He examine the two children who survived and states that both of them will recover. The older one has the back part of his head cracked by a stone hurled by the maniac father but the wound is not a fatal one. The boy is young and strong and will soon recover. In fact, both of them were able to sit up Friday.
Sunday, Wells' father and his brothers-in-law together with several other friends, called on him and the meeting was in some respects an affecting one. Friday morning, Mrs. Samuel Deck, mother-in-law of Wells, came into Darlington with her son and took the preliminary steps toward having Wells declared insane. On Saturday County Clerk Sparks received from Darlington the report of the lunacy commission held there Friday.

The report is irregular, however and will have to be sent back for correction. The law provides for two justices and two doctors. The commission was composed of Justices Killen and Waugh but Dr. Ware was the only physician and he gave testimony that was hardly applicable. Judge West and Prosecutor Reeves held a conference last Saturday and decided to call the grand jury to indict Wells, said Judge West, "We shall put this matter through with all expedition. It is my intention to try the case before court adjourns for the summer term. Otherwise Wells would have to be kept in jail until fall, which would not only be a trying ordeal for him in his present condition but a heavy and unnecessary expense for the county. I shall call no special venue but will trust to the present petit jury. I understand that some of the people in Wells' neighborhood have had a lunacy commission to meet and are endeavoring to have Wells sent to the asylum. This proceeding is wholly irregular and I have instructed the clerk to notify them that an investigation of this murder must be held according to the manner the law provides. No matter what the condition of the defendant is there is a certain legal form that must be carried out."
M.B. Waugh who has known Wells since infancy said of him, "Wells is undoubtedly insane. When a boy in school he used to fall in a fit occasionally and it was then claimed that he was a victim of too hard study. He grew up all right, however and taught school for several seasons. He was one of the best boys in the township and was respected by all. Some time after his marriage maybe 8 years ago, he began to imagine that he was very wicked and thought that he was hooked for damnation and this, too in spite of the fact that he was manifestly one of the most moral men in the community. Finally, however, his friends induced him to join the Lutheran Church and I never heard anything more of his being off until a few weeks ago. He was a constable for several years, back in the 80s and was a most efficient officer. His parents are fine people and I presume this blow will kill his mother, who has been in feeble health for years. She was a Wyant and was raised right in the neighborhood of the tragedy. Mrs. Wells is a most excellent woman and was a great help to her husband. His fear that his children would come to want was utterly groundless." In company with Mr. Waugh's representative of The Journal visited the jail Friday morning at 8 o'clock and interviewed Wells. He was sitting on a couch in a cell in the hospital department and was the picture of misery. His arms were folded over his breast and his tousled hair hung down over his eyes which were wet with tears. While plainly suffering greatly he exhibited no signs of insanity in his manner or in his method of speech. He greeted Mr. Waugh as an old friend and groaned with misery, saying "This is terrible, Mr. Waugh, I never thought that I would come to this. It's terrible but I can't help it."

In response to inquiries by The Journal he told the following story of his awful crime:

"You can tell the people that I know how terrible this all is but I couldn't help it. Something urged me on to do it and although I fought against the raise that told me to do it, I couldn't resist always. I don't know whether it was the voice of God or not. Something I think it was and then again I think it wasn't. This voice always came to me in the daytime. As long as I kept lying down my mind was all right but as soon as I got up why my head became all mixed up. I think now that it was best that I killed those dear children and I am sorry that I wasn't able to kill them all. They would have been much better off, I made up my mind on this point some days ago, but whenever I would start to kill them I would back out, I loved them so. You see I had made up my mind to kill myself and I couldn't bear to leave Mary with the care of all those children. She couldn't raise them because everything was going to destruction. The place was going down and I couldn't do for them, I knew that they would grow up in want if I let them live, and I loved them too much for that. My head got wrong in January but I didn't make up my mind to kill the children until a few days ago. I kept it to myself and I decided not to spare any of them. Mary could take care of herself all right but none of the children. Yesterday I made up my mind that it had to be. It almost broke my heart and I calculated to jump in the well myself as soon as I had killed the children. When the neighbors stopped me, I knew they wouldn't let me kill myself so I ran for the creek to jump in and drown myself. I wanted to do so and I'm sorry I didn't. I want to die now and if I could get out I would certainly kill myself. I never thought of killing Mary for she could take care of herself but all those children would be better off if dead. Poor things, they will have to grow up to want and trouble. I don't want to write any statement for the people to read, as I'm too nervous but you can tell them what I have told you. I loved the little ones very much but I did what I thought was best."
Wells not infrequently during his talk came near breaking down and no one seeing him could doubt his sincerity. For the past month Wells has been taking treatment of Dr. Wehrman of Indianapolis and the testimony of that physician will doubtless show that he has been insane for some little time. So far as can be ascertained there has never been any insanity in Wells' family on either side. The grand jury met Tuesday to investigate the case. Messrs Widener and Balser of the regular panel, were not present so BB Rusk and Robert Foster were substituted. The jury was placed under ex-Prosecutor Dumont Kennedy and proceeded at once to the examination of witnesses. The following witnesses were on the original list; John Bowers; Cal Jones; Chesley Clouser; George Deck; Charley Guntle; Milt McCarter; Al Lewis; Albert Barker and M.B. Waugh.

Mrs. Wells was also summoned but was later excused. On Tuesday after the convention of the jury Roe Miller and several other parties were called in. Judge West had hoped to be able to bring the case to trial on Saturday but the Wells family felt that they will not be ready by that time to go into trial. They wish to take no chances of missing a verdict of acquittal and will take every precaution to prevent any other verdict being found. They wish all the evidences tending to show the insanity of the defendant to be given in court. It is said that Mrs. Wells and her relatives have expressed an opposition to having Wells sent to an asylum from which he may be released in a few months if cured. They feel that no matter how sane he may become under medical treatment there will always be danger of a lapse and the repetition of the awful tragedy of last week. It is said that Mrs. Wells would be much better satisfied to have him incarcerated permanently and even those who sympathize most deeply with Wells in his unfortunate condition can appreciate her feeling in the matter. Of course, if Wells is found not guilty, as he doubtless will be, he will be committed at once to an asylum and should be there be cured he must be set at liberty again. The only way he could be permanently incarcerated for a certainty would be to have him found guilty of murder and sent to the state's prison for life.
The Indictment

At 3:45 Tuesday afternoon the grand jury returned an indictment in two counts, each charging Wells with murder in the 1st degree. Having reported thus the jury was discharged. Crane & Anderson have been employed to defend Wells, and it likely that the case will be tried week after next, all next week being occupied with other cases. The foreman of the jury was James G. Swearengen. The other members were; Joseph M. Watkins, Cyrus Booher, John D. Merrill, BB Rusk and Robert Foster.
Source: Crawfordsville Weekly Journal 9 June 1899 p 5

While a sudden death a suicide or a murder is sure to attract a crowd on the day of the funeral, the funeral of the Wells children, which took place last Saturday at the Lutheran Cemetery last ? here, was perhaps the largest assembly of the kind ever in this part of the county. While their friends were many, hundreds were there through curiosity, but all were interested in the awful tragedy.
Source: Waveland Independent, Waveland, Montgomery County, Indiana. June 23, 1899

The trial of Albert Wells was begun at Crawfordsville on Monday. The state's attorneys made a great effort to prove that Wells was not insane at the time he killed his two little boys. Witnesses who saw him a few minutes before the commission of the crime, and others who saw him soon after, said he appeared perfectly sane. It was proven, however, that he had not for years been mentally strong, and at one time had been under treatment by an Indianapolis specialist.

Source: Waveland Independent, Waveland, Montgomery County, Indiana, June 30, 1899

Sheriff Canine took Alfred Wells to the insane asylum this week. Physicians say he is in a very bad shape, and he has to be constantly watched to prevent him attempting suicide.

Source: Waveland Independent, Waveland, Montgomery County, Indiana, Aug 25, 1899

The whole truth in the case of Albert Wells as learned direct from the hospital authorities is that he is a hopeless imbecile and can never be any better. He is perfectly quiet and gives his keepers no trouble whatever.
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