Print / View Finding Aid as Single Page

New-York Historical Society logo

Guide to the James N. Wells' Sons Records
1700s-1981 (bulk, 1820s-1930s)
 MS 599

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400

New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Larry Weimer and Elise Winks

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on September 17, 2021
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Scope and Contents

The collection includes the business records of James N. Wells (1790-1860) and those of his son, James N. Wells, Jr., and of his grandsons, who operated under the name of James Wells' Sons. The collection is rich with documentation concerning Clement Clarke Moore's (1779-1863) finances and the development and management of his properties in what is now the Chelsea section of Manhattan, and that of Moore's family members and heirs. Moore family records in the collection extend back to the 1700s and geographically beyond New York City, including to the Kayadarosseras Patent in upstate New York. Among the surnames associated with Moore (and other Moores) are Clarke, Ogden, and Taylor, and records related to the finances and properties of these names appear throughout the collection.

The Wells family amassed a substantial number of documents in support of their work for the extended Moore family so it can be difficult to perceive whether any set of documents was related to the Moore family or to other matters that the Wells family handled. For example, many files relate to the senior Wells's work for arranging leases, furnishings, and other matters for Columbia College, reporting to trustee G.M. Ogden, a prominent Moore-related surname in the collection. Nonetheless, the records include many matters handled by the Wells, perhaps especially Wells senior, unrelated to Moore, such as his construction of a house for John Adriance on Grand Street in 1821-22 or his support in the 1840s for his son-in-law Abner Lee Clements's effort to build a church in Matagorda, Republic of Texas. One surname that appears frequently in the collection is Ray, as in Richard Ray, Robert Ray, Mary Ray de Courval, and the related Marie Madeleine Isabelle de Courval, with extensive documents for the management of their estates and properties ranging from the mid-1800s into the mid-twentieth century.

Documents in the collection include rental agreements/leases, deeds, and other indentures; correspondence, including to/from Clement Moore; survey maps of lots, primarily in Chelsea; specifications for buildings or aspects of buildings, such as masonry or plumbing; title abstracts; invoices/bills and account statements for construction material, cartage, fixtures, utilities, assessments for utilities, dry goods, property taxes, and more; insurance policies; lists of property owners and rent rolls; cancelled checks and check stubs; wills; legal filings; and more related principally to property acquisition, development, ownership, disposition, and wealth transfer through generations.

The collection is not processed and the contents have only been skimmed for content. The content of most of the boxes is generally the same: files with a broad mix of the document types noted above, ranging widely from the early 1800s into the early 1900s, most of which seem to relate to Moore and his family through generations and their properties, though other names, such as Ray, Southard, and Storm appear. Some attempt was made in the box level notes to identify materials of interest beyond Moore, such as those concerning Columbia College, the Protestant Episcopal Church of St. Peter, or the General Theological Seminary, but these cannot be relied on exclusively. Date ranges are approximate as they are based on skims.


The collection is unprocessed and there is no overall arrangement to it. Files on particular matters, that relate to particular properties or individuals, or that hold particular formats (e.g., checks, leases, etc.) can be found across multiple boxes in the collection. Nonetheless, the documents are foldered and accessible, and in many cases, folder content relates to a particular matter.