JAMES HAMNER WELLS
A JUNEAU COUNTY NEWSPAPER EDITOR
LAWRENCE W. ONSAGER
James Hamner Wells was editor of the Juneau County Argus in New Lisbon when he died of small pox on the afternoon of June 17, 1864. Wells was a Democrat in politics and he traded verbal abuse with the Republican editor of the Mauston Star. On February 3, 1864, the following attack appeared in the Star. "Copy of Juneau County Argus eaten by a hog. Hog went into convulsions and died."
Wells was born in Wyoming County, New York on November 19, 1822. He was in Wisconsin by 1850 when he and A. E. Cooley founded the Marquette Mercury in Berlin, Wisconsin in November of that year. It was conducted by Wells in partnership with A. E. Cooley a few weeks and with George C. Gifford from July 1852 to February 1853. The paper was suspended from February to April 1853, because in Well's absence Gifford appropriated the press and type, and established a new paper, the Northern Wisconsin. This new paper was compelled to suspend publication after one month because of legal proceedings instituted by Wells after his return. In June 1854, Wells sold the paper to J. G. Tracy and J. V. Fitch.
Wells founded the Juneau County Argus in 1857. He conducted the paper with R. B. Rice from September 1858 until the Spring of 1859. Wells sold the paper in February 1862 to N. V. Chandler. In October 1863, he repurchased the paper and conducted it until his death.
Wells was apparently an ambitious man because his obituary states that he also published the Sauk County Democrat in Baraboo, Wisconsin and in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, he published the Western Star. He had to have been publishing some of these papers at the same time.
Wells appeared in the 1860 census for New Lisbon with his wife and family. J. H. Wells, 36, b. NY, a printer with $2,000 in real estate and $1,500 in personal property, is listed as head of household # 508 in the 1860 census for New Lisbon, Juneau County, Wisconsin with Caroline, 28, b. PA, Frediricka (f), 10, b. WI, Orpha, 4, b. WI, Erastus Emmons, 15, b. PA, printer, Wm. Richardson, 16, b. NY, printer, and Mary Eddy, 17,b. WI, school teacher.
(Sources: obit; US Census, 1860, New Lisbon; Oehlerts, DE, Guide to Wis Newspapers, 1833-1957, p. 120; Griswold, AT, Catalogue of Newspaper Files, 1911, p. 407)