Riverhead’s Wells family still farming 350 years later

Aquebogue, Riverhead Town, farms, local history
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Eric Wells, 21, (left) farms with his father Todd on the Wells farm on Sound Avenue in Aquebogue. Their land is part of the original parcel that was farmed 350 years ago.

On Nov. 20, 1661, William Wells was allotted three pieces of property for his family to farm near Phillips Lane on Sound Avenue in Aquebogue.

Eleven generations later, the Wells family is still at it.

This Sunday, the Wells’ will celebrate 350 years of farming the same land, and if a 1937 article in the old County Review newspaper is correct, no other Riverhead family has owned a piece of property longer.

Lynn Wells has always known she comes from one of Riverhead Town’s founding families, but she only recently discovered the 1937 story declaring them the town’s longest tenured property owners.

The County Review piece recounts the Nov. 20, 1661 Southold Town Board meeting to establish Aquebogue with 40 lots, of which three were allotted to Mr. Wells. While many other families continued to farm the same piece of land in 1937, none had kept their property under the same name.

“In practically every case the line had been broken by inheritance through the female side and a change of name by marriage,” the article states.

William Wells left his property to his wife to give to his sons, and around 1725 his grandson Daniel built a home on the west side of Phillips Lane on the property currently owned by Lynn and her siblings.

“It’s something to be proud of,” Lynn said. “I have a big family and I’m not sure everyone is aware of it, but I hope they all feel proud, too.”

To the west of Lynn is a farm owned by Todd Wells, one of three Wells families which still owns property on 325 acres passed down from William Wells.

Todd Wells, who grows potatoes and cabbage on his farm, said he’s excited about his family reaching this milestone, but isn’t planning a big celebration this weekend.

“We’re just going to have a barbecue for the staff,” said Todd, who learned about farming from his father, Vernon, who is now retired.

Todd’s 21-year-old son, Eric, said he plans to follow in his father’s footsteps and become the 12th generation to farm the land.

“I love farming,” he said. “You get to be your own boss and work outdoors.”

The third Wells parcel, Wells Homestead Acres, is located just west of Todd ‘s property and it is currently owned by Lynn’s cousin, Lyle Wells, who grows asparagus and squash there and also operates the farm owned by Lynn.

Last Christmas, Lyle, the son of former Riverhead Town Historian Justine Wells, had 60 L.L. Bean jackets made displaying the words “Wells Homestead Acres 350 Years.” He said he hopes the land continues to get passed down for generations.

But even he won’t be planning a big celebration this weekend. Instead he’ll be doing what Wells’ have always done on their land in Aquebogue.

“Work as usual,” he said.

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