Who was Granville Wells?

This photo circa 1901 shows proud papa, Granville Wells, holding son Herman B Wells. This image and others are available for viewing at the Jackson Township Historical Society’s Museum in downtown Jamestown.

Mention “Granville Wells” in 2020, and most folks think of the elementary school on Indiana 75 in the Western Boone School District. But about 100 years ago, people knew the “other” Granville Wells who was a local farmer, school teacher and Jamestown banker.

Joseph Granville Wells was born to pioneer parents in Boone County in 1874. Both he and his wife, Anna Bernice Harting, grew up on farms less than a mile apart but did not meet before Wells began his career in education. Granville graduated from the Indiana State Teachers College (now Indiana State University) and went to work in Jackson Township School as the area’s school teacher. He was 18 years old then, and it was there that he met 12 year old Anna Bernice, who was one of his students. They married eight years later in 1901. The following year, their first and only child, Herman B Wells, was born.

By then the pair were both teaching at Jamestown, though in those days, teachers were only employed for about six months out of the year. Granville kept up work at the family farm and at times also worked as a clerk in Lebanon’s Whittaker Jewelry and Clocks. After son Herman B (just the letter, not an initial) was born, Granville focused his career on banking. As a lifelong resident and principal of the Jamestown State Bank, Granville was very much an anchor of the community.

The little family of three moved to Lebanon in 1917 so son Herman could attend LHS. The Wells family purchased the handsome home at 517 N. Meridian St. When Granville, Bernice and little Herman moved in, the house was painted a stately deep red – very popular at the time. Although the house is now freshly coated in white, it still stands.

Granville maintained both his farming interests and his position as president of the Citizens State Bank of Jamestown. His daily commute of about a dozen miles over backroads took Granville more than 30 minutes in good weather. A year after coming to Lebanon, Wells agreed to fill the position of deputy treasurer for the county. The following year, while still maintaining his position at the Jamestown bank, he served two full terms as Boone County treasurer.

Eventually, Granville and Anna Bernice gifted 20 acres of their Jackson Township farm to build a new school replacing the crumbling Jamestown and Advance schools in 1955. In appreciation for the couple’s generosity, community leaders named the new school where students attended from grades 1 through 12, “Granville Wells.”

Cookie Leeke of the Jackson Township Historical Society says her husband Bill made the big move from the old Jamestown school. The students thought they’d walked into a palace. Everything was new, bright, clean, and so very modern, she said.

When Western Boone School Jr.-Sr. High School opened in the fall of 1974, three area schools were shuttered – Washington, Pinnell and Dover – and two – Granville Wells and Thorntown – became elementary schools. Those five schools are each represented in the school’s adopted 5-point star emblem – “Western Boone Stars.”

Granville died at age 73 in 1948, but he and Anna Bernice both lived to see the career of their own “Star,” son Herman, rise quickly. When Herman B Wells became president of Indiana University at the early age of 35, he was the youngest university president in the nation.

An effort is currently underway to raise funds to place a historic marker in front of the Jamestown bank (currently in use as the Tri-Area Library) as his father’s bank was the first place of employment for the illustrious and eventual chancellor of Indiana University. Already approved by the State of Indiana, the county historical society is still in need of about another $1,500.

From the oldest schools in the western corner of Boone County to the pinnacle of higher education in Indiana, the Wells name is a longstanding staple of education.

To assist with placement of the commemorative marker, contact Eric Spall, local history librarian at the Lebanon Public Library, by emailing to eric@lelib.org.

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