E(LEAZAR) M(ATTHEW) P(ORTER) WELLS 1793-1878
- MM 1817, St. John's (Hartford)
- Member 1835, St. John's (Boston)
- DDGM, District 1 (Boston), 1844
- WM St. Paul's (Boston), 1846
- Grand Chaplain 1832-1843, 1859, 1860
- Deputy Grand Master, 1845
From Moore's Freemason's Monthly, Vol. XXXII, No. 2, February 1873, Page 63:
HELP THE POOR.
The cold weather at this season of the year bids us remember the poor, which, indeed, the benevolence of this community is not backward to do. In this connection it is proper to state the interesting fact that our large-hearted Brother, the Rev. E. M. P. Wells, of St. Stephen's Church, daring the years of his ministry, has distributed $175,000 to the poor. This amount has come to him as freewill offerings of small as well as large sums, the widow's mite as well as the rich man's gift, and always without personal solicitation. St. Stephen's Chapel and St. Stephen's House, both of which were destroyed by the late fire, have for many years been a home where the poor, of whatever denomination, could apply for both spiritual consolation and physical relief, and from which none were ever turned aside unrelieved. Dr. Wells, though driven away from his old home, is still pursuing his benevolent labors, and may be found at No. 11 Oxford St., for the present, where donations may be sent as heretofore.
From Biographies of Grand Chaplains, compiled by John T. Heard; Proceedings Page 1873-300.
"He was born in Hartford, Conn., August 4, 1793. Was initiated into the Masonic Fraternity, 1814, at the age of 21 years, by St. John's Lodge, in his native city. He was District Deputy Grand Master of First District, Massachusetts, in 1844; Deputy Grand Master in 1845; and served on Committee on Charity in 1855, 1856, 1857, 1858, 1859, 1860, 1867 and 1868.
The following is copied chiefly from the Memorial of the Cincinnati Society: —
James A. Wells was an original member of this society. The subject of this notice, being his oldest son, succeeded his father as member of the society. He served in the State troops of Connecticut in the war of 1812; and afterwards entered Brown University, but from which he was expelled for refusing to give information respecting a poor classmate whom he accidentally saw engaged in a trifling piece of fun on a tutor. A few years after, the faculty of the University having been changed, the Degree of A.M. was conferred on him, and he was elected a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society of that institution. He was licensed as a Congregational minister, March 18, 1823, having studied theology at the Bangor institution. He officiated several months at Plymouth, Mass., but declined an invitation to become the minister of the parish. In 1824, 1825 and 1826, he was the missionary at Calais, Maine, during which time ho also gathered a congregation at Eastport.
He was ordained deacon in the Protestant Episcopal Church by Bishop Brownell, of Connecticut, the 7th of June, 1827, at Trinity Church, in Boston. After officiating six months at Christ Church, Gardner, he was invited to take charge of the House of Reformation in Boston; but while at Gardner ho organized Trinity Church at Saco, Maine. He remained at the House of Reformation during six years, until he was requested to found the Farm School on Thompson's Island, Boston, in 1834. In 1835, he established a school of his own at City Point, called "The School of Moral Discipline." Here ho worked hard for many years, until his health and strength completely failed him, when he sold out the establishment. During this period he resuscitated St. Matthew's Church, which had been long shut up, and the edifice disused. After a year's rest his health was restored, and he was invited to take charge of the City Mission in Boston, for which the Hon. William Appleton built a beautiful stone church, consecrated as St. Stephen's Chapel, Oct. 5, 1846. In connection with the chapel, Dr. Wells established St. Stephen's House for the temporary relief of the sick and suffering; obtaining for the purpose, by purchase, the house and lands adjoining the church belonging to the estate of Charles Brown, Esq. After securing the means for the payment of this purchase, he gave a deed of the property to the chapel on the 20th of January, 1847. The great fire which occurred on the 9th of November, 1872, destroyed the house and church with their contents. To show the benevolent character of Dr. Wells' mission no better evidence can be adduced than to present his last report of his ministration. It is as follows : —
REPORT OF ST. STEPHEN'S HOUSE.
To the Contributors for the Relief of the Poor: —
It is just one year this morning, Nov. 10, since the great fire of last November was controlled, and the burning besom was stayed. The House, where we had sheltered the outcasts, fed the hungry, nursed the sick, clothed the naked, and supplied the destitute, was then only a heap of ashes. Alas! alas! the dear, blessed church, too, where, ever since the day of its consecration, we had, without one day's omission, worshipped our Father, good and bad, "high and low, rich and poor, one with another; "we there had sung and prayed, taught and hearkened to God's Word, baptized and communicated with each other in the Body and Blood of Our Master, married the rising generation, and buried the bodies of those whose work was done, committing their souls to God. In an hour all was as if nothing had been, only that the story thereof was written in the books." Hardly was a shred saved from church or house for a memento. Much might have been and ought to have been saved; and I would have done it, had I been permitted. I had not believed that the fire would be allowed to cross to our side of the street. As soon, however, as I saw it was likely to do so I started to begin the removal. I had hardly begun when some friends came in and insisted that I should leave the house. I knew there was no personal danger; the gateway where they had entered would, indeed, soon have become dangerous to pass; but I had a spacious passage at the back of the house through which all that was important could have been removed safely, and where I and my men could have retired. My friends, however, were not aware of this, and with the help of a police officer they COMPELLED me to retire. I think it was cruel and unlawful; I reflected, however, that though I knew I was in no danger, they thought that I was, so I suppressed my displeasure, and, gently as I could, yielded to their kind intentions and good-will.
The silly stories that were told of my taking my Bible and prayer-book, and sitting down to die with my house, are too ridiculous to require serious contradiction. I was sorry, however, to be thought to be of those who use the Bible and prayer-book as a charm to keep off danger. For many years I had used them in hours of peace and quietness to fortify my mind against the hour of danger and trouble. Do people who know me think so wickedly of me as to suppose that I would basely commit suicide? Do they think that, after so many years of hard work and persevering endurance, I could sit down and cry like a child over a broken plaything? Please think of me as being more of a man and a Christian. The loss was a very severe one, and if it had been an enemy that had done it, I could not have borne it calmly; but, as I fully believed it to be the visitation of my ever-wise and kind Father, I had not a word or thought of complaint, nor a tear to shed. I went on with my work, and in three days after the fire I had opened a continuance of St. Stephen's House at 14 Oxford Street, where its works of mercy to the poor and the wicked have been continued to this present. Hundreds of men out of employment flocked into the city, expecting to find abundance of work where there was such a scene of destruction; but the severity of the winter soon set in and checked the work, and hundreds of sufferers were dependent for existence on public relief. During the severity of the winter, I often had to furnish one hundred meals per day, leaving the persons to get their dinners at the soup-houses. I also furnished lodgings, clothing, shoes, fuel, flour, and other groceries; rents, aid for the sick, and funerals, for my old and well-known families. This help to families I have continued, and the meals and lodgings I have furnished as necessity required.
I thank God, and I thank you, too, good friends, who have given me the means of supplying these wants. God Almighty bless you therefor. It is a great blessing to me to be furnished with the means of relieving the distress and want which I am so constantly coming in contact with. I cannot comfort myself as the French woman in the frog-market did, when Professor Silliman, of Yale College, seeing her take the live frogs by the hind legs, and cutting them in two, while the fore legs with the head hopped off from the knife, demanded of her, "Is not that cruel?" She replied, "O sir, they do not mind it, they are used to it every day." She did not reflect that it was herself, and not the frogs, that were used to it. When I began this work among the poor I was told that I should soon get used to the suffering and wretchedness of the poor, and that it would not trouble me. I answered, that if the work thus hardened my heart it would prove to me that I was not fit for the work, and I would give it up. We must feel for and sympathize with the poor if we would do them good effectually. My feelings have grown more keen rather than less so.
Your kind donations have, however, not been sufficient to continue this work until now. I have been obliged, therefore, to expend several hundred dollars from my own purse to supply the deficiency. This, as you know, has been my usual way; but it is no longer possible to continue this. I have now no income nor property. I resigned my salary on the first day of January last. I have worked on in my professional duties, and sometimes I have accepted compensation; but I have generally preferred working where making it free made it twice a blessing. Most of the means used from my own purse have been the voluntary, unexpected gifts for my own use, from my friends. 0 God, bless them in this world and through eternity!
I will now tell you what I have received, and how I have expended it. Your donations are as follows: — (Here followed a list of donations amounting to $5,395.38.) Six hundred dollars of the above was given for my own personal use, but I felt almost sure that those who had so kindly given to me would forgive me for imparting it to those who, poor as I was, were more needy than myself. If, in the foregoing lists of donations there is an omission or an error, you will do me a favor to inform me of it. Donations are not acknowledged in newspapers, except the donor requests it. A receipt is sent to each donor, if known, unless it is delivered in person. Any begging note, except for work, with my signature appended, is a forgery. The foregoing donations have been expended as follows: — (Here are inserted the expenditures amounting to $5,395.38.)
I have now showed you how much I have received, and how I have used it. None of you, I feel sure, would regret your gift if you had seen but one-quarter of the comfort it gave to the comfortless and the wretched; how many pangs of hunger it cured; how many shivering, benumbed ones it animated into activity and strength; how many sick it restored to health; how many, many it blessed. My God, I thank thee that I have thus been made the messenger of thy children's mercy to their poor brothers and sisters! I suppose this is to be my last, my farewell report. It is painful to think so. We have worked together for thirty years. It is sad to stop the work. But from the smallness of the donations this year, it may be thought that I am too old to continue the work; and if so, I will yield to your decision. I trust that in another world we may look over what we have done together, — look over our little doings here, — and praise Him who sitteth on the throne that we have been allowed to do something in the great work of Jesus Christ Our Lord, which will then fill heaven with hallelujahs. I shall never forget your aiding me in this work of "good-will to men." I have for years daily prayed to Our Father to make you happy and prosperous in doing good. I shall still be happy to act as your servant to the poor for Christ's sake, if any of you have occasion for my services, until the Master says, "It is enough."
During these thirty years that you and your predecessors have worked with me, you have sent me, to use for those for whom our dear Lord died on the cross to save, — if they would be saved, — $146,702.50. This has all been given voluntarily. Not a dollar has been asked for individually. How many thousands have been blessed thereby! Rejoice, ye givers! Ye have given — I trust ye have given to the Lord, in giving to these, least of his creatures ! Over $25,000 of this I have given by saving a little every year from my salary, and by a little gain from extra work, or from that which has been bequeathed to me by friends whose work was done, of whom I trust the Lord Jesus has said, " WELL DONE ! "
God Almighty bless you. Farewell.
Your servant to the poor for Christ's sake,
E. M. P. WELLS.
ANNIVERSARY OF THE FIRE, NOV. 9 and 10, 1873.
FROM PROCEEDINGS, 1878
From Proceedings, Page 1878-166:
"The Committee of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts appointed to prepare Resolutions relative to the decease of our venerable and Right Worshipful Brother, E. M. P. Wells, a Past Deputy Grand Master, respectfully report the following: —
"The life of E. M. P. Wells, a Past Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, terminated on earth on the first day of December, instant. It is a complete volume, filled with good works. Prolonged to the utmost verge of mortal existence, it shone brightly to the last. He was never wearied with well-doing, but labored continually and lovingly to relieve the distress and soothe the sorrow of his fellow-beings. In looking back upon his long earthly career, in which his Christian and his Masonic life were so beautifully blended, we find nothing to lament, nothing to mourn. He has fulfilled his mission. He has left a brilliant example to the Brethren; and we shall always remember with gratitude his manly form, his commanding presence, and his kindly deeds. Therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts desire to pay their sincere and grateful homage to the memory of their Venerable Brother and Past Deputy Grand Master, Eleazer Mathew Porter Wells, who for many years, by his constant attendance, gave dignity to their body and authority to their counsels; who honored Masonry by a holy and unblemished life; and who, in unaffected humility and with godly sincerity, exemplified practically in his own person the combined beauty and excellence of FAITH, HOPE, and CHARITY.
FROM LIBERAL FREEMASON, 1878
From Liberal Freemason, Vol. II, No. 10, January 1879, Page 298:
Eleazer Mather Porter Wells, distinguished in Freemasonry and distinguished in Religion, was born in Hartford, Conn., August 4th, 1793, and died in Boston, Mass., December 1st, 1878.
Between these two periods his life was so rounded out with good works that were any one even to think unkindly of him, the ungrateful thought could find no resting-place in his intelligence, but would be spurned as a dangerous and unwelcome visitor. He who came to be known as "Father Wells," was called so because of his great kindness of heart, and of the certainty of all applicants to find the richness of his sympathy freely bestowed, and his efforts to relieve the distressed, from whatever cause, sincere and earnest.
He came from a family of high antiquity, in England. Richardus de Welles, a Knight during the eleventh century, received the manor of Welles from William the Conqueror, who made him Baron, or Lord Welles. An old ballad of the 13th century, and said to have been found among the monkish legends, gives a very good Idea of the standing of the family at that period, as well as an insight into its domestic economy. We quote only two verses : —
"With loud hurrahs the Castle rang,
The banners on the walls they hung, —
The trumpets brayed, the minstrels sang;
„ De Welles with reverence bowed,
Then lightly on his charger sprang.
And vanished from the crowd.
"Old Gremesby's Castle, grim and gray,—
The scene of many a revel gay;
Dark woods, the haunts of elfin fay,
And smiling meadows fair,
Long owned De Welles' lordly sway, —
Long claimed De Welles' care."
The family was established in America by Thomas Welles, an English Puritan, who landed at Naumkeag (Salem), in 1629, and henceforward, in the Colonies, and during the Revolutionary War, the name of Welles became familiar by taking an active part in their interests and struggles. This family helped to found Connecticut, and from this branch came the subject of this sketch, his father, James A. Wells, and mother, Lucy Hull, like their son, being natives of Hartford.
In consequence of the death of his father, when Eleazer was only twelve years of age, he was obliged to do such work as he could in self-support — he was put first to a Tailor's trade, left it, and worked on a farm, and at a Tanner's trade, until he was twenty-two years old — his education up to that time, being limited to such as he could get at a common school, together with two years instruction at a private school.
When the War of 1812 broke out, he enlisted in the army, and was afterwards considered one of the "Veterans," and became a "member of the Cincinnati."
It early became a principle with him to overcome any weakness he might detect in himself, and in doing so he subjected limself to severe tests, which he endured with such stoical self-will and firmness as to attract the attention of a large business house, wherein he was offered a promising position, — but certain serious thoughts had crossed his mind, the "still small voice" awakened him, and after severe struggle, he gave up the world and applied himself to do the work of his Divine Master.
Having now settled on the great business of his life, he entered Brown University in Providence, R. I., from which, however, he was expelled under circumstances which reflect credit upon his honorable character, but none upon the University, or those whose actions led to and permitted it.
Some of the students whom he roomed with, fond of playing practical jokes, tied a sheep to one of the Professor's door knob, then rolled cannon balls down the hall-way and staircase and rang the College bell; the combination of tricks aroused the ire of the Faculty, who, though they knew young Wells had nothing to do with it, yet because of his truthfulness, summoned him, and demanded that he should expose the guilty parties. He told them that he did not consider it his duty to betray others; he said, "I cannot see, gentlemen, that it is my duty to act as a spy on my companions, I only know, and tell you frankly, that I had nothing to do with it," — and so he was expelled.
No doubt Brown University came to be ashamed of the act, which was really a piece of petty tyranny,— for in 1819 they sent him his A. M., "as a testimonial of their regard;" and he became a member of their Phi Beta Kappa Society.
In 1823 he was licensed as a Congregational Minister, and preached in Plymouth, Calais, Me., and at Bangor in 1824. In 1826, he was confirmed by Bishop Brownell of Connecticut, and ordained by him to be a deacon in the Protestant Episcopal Church — and in 1827 was ordained a priest by Bishop Griswold. In the discharge of his ministerial duties he preached also in Castine and Belfast, Me., Charleston, S. C, Eastport, Portland, Gardner, Augusta, and Hollowell, Me., Keene, and Concord, N. H., Windsor and Montpelier, Vt., Boston, Salem, Roxbury, Plymouth, Newburyport, and other towns in Massachusetts, — and filled the pulpit at various times in Providence and Newport, R. I., Hartford and New London, Conn., New York, Philadelphia, Richmond and other places — indeed, he was indefatigable as a worker in his vocation.
The House of Reformation in Boston had degenerated, when he was called to the charge of its spiritual concerns, as Chaplain, in 1831. Here, as always in his dealings with boys, his maxim was to believe in the boy's truth until a lie had been told, and thus to engender a proper pride and self-respect; and though he may have been deceived occasionally, his success is seen in the fruits borne by many whose good characters he was largely instrumental in forming.
In 1843, Mr. Wells was elected Episcopal City Missionary, which led to the erection of St. Stephen's Chapel, by the Hon. William Appleton, a free gift; and afterwards to St. Stephen's House, adjoining the Chapel, by the efforts of Mr. Wells, and which he settled forever on the "Lord's Poor." These buildings were destroyed by the great fire in Boston, in Nov., 1872, but the many prayers there offered, and the kindly voice and manner of their Director for so many years, cannot so easily be consumed, nor permit their Charities to be forgotten.
Mr. Wells always exhibited a seriousness of demeanor which accorded well with the duties of his profession, though he possessed a fund of quiet humor, which frequently exhibited itself, especially when among his more intimate friends and on social Occasions. It was therefore but a natural drift, when his thoughts turned towards the institution of Freemasonry, which foe early embraced and steadily adhered to through his long land busy life.
He was made a Mason April 23d, 1817, in St. John's Lodge, No. 4, and was exalted to the Royal Arch, December 17th of that year in Pythagoras Chapter, No. 17, both in Hartford, Conn. He was a petitioner for Wolcott Council, No. 1, the first Council of Royal and Select Masters established in Connecticut, February 7th, 1818, and received the degrees on that date, from Jeremy L. Cross.
Having gained a residence in Boston, he dimitted from the Lodge, was elected, and admitted a member of St. John's Lodge in Boston, April 6th, 1835, became its Chaplain in December following, and discharged the duties of that office for many years with his accustomed fervor and piety. He declined the honors of the Chair, although he was ready in help in any lower station whenever called upon — and in recognition of his services the Lodge elected him an Honorary Member in November, 1860.
At the organization of St. Paul's Lodge in South Boston, in 1846, and while it was under dispensation, Rev. Brother Wells officiated as Master, hut declined to dimit from St. John's, or to receive further honors.
As in the Lodge, so in the Chapter, he manifested an active interest, and gave as much of his time as his duties would permit— and though not wanting office, the Grand Chapter of Massachusetts elected him Deputy Grand High Priest in 1853.
He was created and dubbed a Knight Templar in Boston Commandery (then Encampment), January 24th, 1839, became a member, and was elected an Honorary Member, January 17th, 1872. His life could not be otherwise then in harmony with the principles inculcated in these several grades in Masonry, and happily illustrated how much a union of these with those of the Church, could accomplish.
His time was passed in labors of love and charity, and none know better than the poor how much he accomplished. His majestic presence, his grand voice, and his singularly simple manner always came like a benediction to the distressed; and his hopeful words gave consolation to the many mourners, who in his time, wept for their dead — while he pronounced the solemn rites, — according to the forms of his Church, and according to the forms of Masonry, of consigning "earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust."
Truly he gave up all things else to follow his Master Christ. Seldom has old St. Paul's Church witnessed more sincere sorrow, and more profound respect at any funeral service within its walls, than on December 5th, 1878, when all that was mortal of good Brother Wells rested for the last time within it.
The following from the Boston Daily Advertiser of that day, expresses the general feeling.
"The grave closes to-day over all that is mortal of one of the men who have most honored and most benefited Boston. He was not one of her native-born citizens, but none among them ever loved her more dearly or served her more truly. As a clergyman, a teacher from the pulpit, a teacher in school, a founder and administrator of charitable institutions, in all his offices, all his labors, a'minister to every one who needed or seemed to need his ministrations, he gave his manhood and his age to the service of this community. If we can say it of any man. we can say it of Dr. Wells, that he spent his life in doing good.
Not only was all his time, but all his heart, devoted to others. He turned to them and their wants, not with any effort or any self consciousness, but simply because it was his nature to do so. He delighted to call himself a servant of the poor, but they were far from being the only class whom he served. He knew no classes. To him the rich and the poor were all one, the same in their higher needs if not in their lower, alike dependent upon one another. He was equally at home in the most luxurious drawing room or the barest tenement; each was the home of a brother or a sister, each the scene of joys or sorrows, with which he was in overflowing sympathy.
Such a life never ends. Every act of self-forgetfulness, every word or deed that binds men closer to one another, draws others after them, and the line lengthens without breaking, the most spiritual and yet the most substantial of all earthly associations. We hesitate to speak of the higher life with which our friend was in almost visible communion. It is enough to say that he followed his Master as few of his generation have done, and that, though he was far too humble to think thus of himself, iie would not now, perhaps, deny us the consolation of thinking thus of him. 'For Christ's sake' meant everything, as he used the words, and they mean everything as we write them above his grave."