Abstract from Cook County Scrapbook article entitled : "Post Offices were Center of Nineteenth Century Communities", written by Linda Ward Meadows and published in The Adel News-Tribune , Wednesday, 16May 1990, page 5-A:
"…On the other side of the county[Berrien County, GA], in the southwestern corner, the post office which operated out of the home of plantation owner, Berry Wells, had a much earlier origin [earlier than 1888]. To fully understand the history of this post office, it is imperative to know a little more about its postmaster.
The Account Books of Berry Wells, Esquire, reveal much about this interesting pioneer, who came to south Georgia shortly after completion of the Coffee Road. His accounts registered transactions in Jacksonville, Telfair County, Georgia and continued in Lowndes County, where he settled near Miller's Bridge, and operated Little River ferry. His records tell of the death of his father, Jeremiah Wells, in Telfair County. There are also interesting details ofhis duties as a Justice of the Peace in Lowndes County as early as 1848.
According to Folks Huxford's Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Berry Wells was born in North Carolina in 1809.He married Henrietta Rountree in 1833.They had 11 children. It would be their daughter Stella, who died about 1865-66, for whom their post office would be named.
Berry Wells owned about 20 lots of land in Berrien and Lowndes Counties during his life, an area totaling nearly 10,000 acres. He operated a grist mill, saw mill, brick kiln, post office, and various plantation enterprises on this land.
There is plenty of evidence that the Wells family was affluent.Slave Schedules from the US Census Bureau reveal that Wells owned 23 slaves by 1850 [and 33 by 1860]. When Berrien County was formed in 1856, Wells decided that he wanted to remain in Lowndes County. The 1908 Berrien County map shows that parts of four land lots owned by Wells were, indeed, still in Lowndes County.
When Cook County was formed, an act of the general Assembly officially gave to Cook County the land Berry Wells had kept in Lowndes. Berry died in 1891, and was buried in the family burial plot purchased from John Miller on 13 October 1883. This was near Miller Bridge, where Stella was buried. His son, Weston, maintained the family properties until his death at the age of 95 in 1953.
Weston R. Wells filed no tax returns as a resident of Cecil District in Cook County until 1920. That year, he reported 980 acres valued at $17,730, with a tax due of $354.60. He and his brother, Berry Lovett Wells, claimed an additional 490 acres at $3920, for a tax levy of $78.40. Lowndes County lost this revenue to its rightful owner in 1920. The July 23, 1920 issue of the Adel News gave an account of this correction in tax receipts, as mandated by the General Assembly.
Berry Wells, then, was a man of means. His first post office, organized as Wells' Mills, operated in Lowndes County from 7 July 1860 until 7 July 1866, near the time ofthe death of his beloved daughter. His second post office, called Stella, opened 18 April 1879, almost seven years after Joel Jackson Parrish became Postmaster in Adel on 22 July 1873. So, Stella did not close when the Adel Post Office opened. Berry Wells was not operating a post office under any name in 1873.
On 12 February 1886, Weston R. Wells assumed his father's duties as Stella's Postmaster, duties which he retained until 24 July 1888, when Henry H. Sharpe took over and the postal site was changed from land lot number 470 at the Wells's home for only a short while. Mail services were "discontinued as "postage" was sent to Adel on 6 November 1888. Stella was no more.
Stella Post office ceased to exist, but the Virginia manor home still stands as a stately reminder of antebellum splendor. Mr. and Mrs. Gary Hancock purchased the home from G.J. Taylor in 1962.The original structure had five rooms and a hall. The Hancocks have added a kitchen, dining room, den, and carport. The farm lands total 500 acres, a far cry from the 10,000 that Berry Wells once claimed.
The house itself is a token of the efforts of slave labor. It was skilled craftsmen among Berry Wells's slaves who built the original plantation home using heartpine, hand tools, pegs, and bricks they made themselves. It was here that women gathered during the Civil War to make and mend clothes for Confederate soldiers.
And it was here that Stella was remembered as her father and brother operated a post office in the southwestern corner of what was really Berrien County, but what they decided would be Lowndes.
Sources consulted: 1908 Berrien County Map; Georgia County Maps prior to 1900; Interview with Gary Hancock by his grandson, Slade Ensley; Lowndes County, GA deeds; National Archives microfilm postal publications, roll 22, Berrien County, GA: Volume 42, page 284; Volume 68A, pages 37, 38, 41, and 42 and roll 24; Volume 42, page 562; Volume 26, page 126; Account Books of Berry Wells; 1850 Slave Schedules for Lowndes County, page 690; 1860 Slave Schedules for Lowndes County, page 9; "Lowndes County Loses Land Lots to Cook" in Adel News issue of 23 July 1920; Cook County Tax Digests for 1919 Cecil District, page 20, and for 1920 Cecil District, page 21."
If you are interested in this family, please let me know.