Out of the depths of his mature wisdom Carlyhe has said "History is the essence of innumerable biographies," and Macaulay says "The history of a nation is best told in the lives of its people." It is, therefore, fitting that the record of the eminent and distinguished men of northeastern Kansas should find a place in this volume, and to this number belongs Hon. Abijah Wells, of Seneca, who is now serving as judge of the Kansas court of appeals. He is a most able jurist, familiar with the long line of decisions which are passed by the constituted federal powers by which the constitution has been expounded. The limitations which are imposed by the constitution upon the federal powers are well understood by him, and he is at home in all departments of law from the minutiae in practice to the greater topics wherein is involved the consideration of the ethics and philosophy of jurisprudence and the higher concerns of public policy.
Judge Wells was born in Susquehanna county, Pennsylvania, June 12, 1840, and is a son of William R. and Betsy K. (Skinner) Wells, both of whom were born and reared in Orange county, New York. They were married, in Susquehanna county, Pennsylvania, on June 2, 1832, and in 1845 emigrated westward, locating in La Salle county, Illinois. In the year 1856 they removed to Kansas, taking up their abode on Illinois creek, Nemaha county, where they resided for about nine years. Coming to Seneca on June 22, 1882, they celebrated their golden wedding. Many friends and relatives gathered together on that occasion to express their respect and love for the couple who had reached the fiftieth milestone of their married life and many suitable gifts were bestowed in token of the regard in which Mr. and Mrs. Wells were held by those who knew them.
Judge Wells was only five years of age when his parents left the Keystone state to become residents of La Salle county, Illinois. He began his education in the public schools of that locality and completed his literary course in the Kansas Agricultural College. he entered upon his business career in the capacity of teacher in 1863, and was thus connected with the educational interests of northeastern Kansas for three years. On the expiration of that period he was elected clerk of the district court and after serving one term was chosen registrar of deeds, to which position he was re-elected. On his retirement from that office he was chosen superintendent of instruction, in which capacity he served from 1875 until 1881. When only twenty-three years of age he began the study of law, and in 1876 was admitted to the bar in Nemaha county. During the early part of the year 1881 Mr. Wells was editor and proprietor of the Seneca Tribune, making it a stanch Republican journal, which he afterward sold to Governor A. J. Felt and he is the present owner and editor. He has always been an unfaltering Republican in his political faith and has labored earnestly and effectively to promote the wefare of the party. As the years passed his practice at the bar grew in volume and importance. As a lawyer he is felicitous, clear in argument, thoroughly in earnest, full of the vigor of conviction, never abusive of adversaries, imbued with highest courtesy and yet a foe worthy of the steel of the most able opponent. To an understanding of uncommon acuteness and vigor he added a thorough and conscientious preparatory training and in his practice he exemplifies all the higher elements of the truly great lawyer. In the fall of 1896 he was elected as judge of the Kansas court of appeals, eastern division, northern department. He is constantly inspired by an innate love of justice and invariably seeks to present his decisions in the strong, clear light of common reason and sound logical principles. He is the peer of the ablest members of this court, and his decisions have awakened the highest admiration and respect of the profession throughout the state.
Judge Wells was united in marriage to Miss Loretta C. Williams, and to them have been born six children, all natives of Nemaha county. Two of his sons, Frank and Ira K., are among the prominent young lawyers of Seneca, and were at the time when he was elected to the bench associated with him under the firm name of Wells & Wells and still retain the name and business of the firm. In his religious views the Judge is connected with the Universalist church, holding membership with that organization in Seneca. He belongs to Nemaha Lodge, No. 19. I. O. O. F., and is a Knight Templar Mason, prominent in that ancient and benevolent fraternity. His interest in the growth, welfare and advancement of his town and county is deep and abiding and his efforts have been signally successful in promoting many movements which have contributed to the welfare of the city along social, educational, material and moral lines. His name is now deeply engraved on the history of jurisprudence in Kansas and by his judicial career he has sustained the high reputation that has ever been borne by the court of appeals in this commonwealth.