Bertram Whittier Wells Papers 1849; 1895-2004 (bulk 1895-2004)

Creator
Wells, Bertram Whittier, 1884-1978
Size
12.5 linear feet
Location

For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Special Collections Research Center Reference Staff.

Call number
MC 00073

These papers represent B. W. (Bertram Whittier) Wells's research interests, publications, and honors as well as Wells's personal life and pursuits, his first wife, Edna Metz Wells, his second wife, Maude Barnes Wells, and his household at Rockcliff Farm, a property on the Neuse River in North Carolina that Wells acquired before his retirement in 1954. In writing his biography of Wells, Prof. James R. Troyer amassed the majority of the materials comprising series 1 of these papers. Series 2 is composed of papers left behind by B. W. and Maude Barnes Wells at Rockcliff Farm, now part of the Falls Lake State Recreation Area in Wake Forest, North Carolina. A third series, Additional Artifacts and Books, has been added to the collection since the conclusion of an exhibit on Wells in 2007.

Bertram Whittier Wells is most widely known for his study and preservation of North Carolina's natural environment. Wells headed North Carolina State College's (later North Carolina State University) Botany Department from 1919 to 1949 and remained on the faculty until 1954. One of the first to rightly be called an ecologist, he wrote on many topics: the insect galls of plants, the effects of salt on coastal vegetation, Bald Head Island, and the formation of the Carolina Bays. However, his most extensive work focused on savannah and pocosin vegetation. First published by the University of North Carolina Press in 1932, Wells's popular book, The Natural Gardens of North Carolina, remains in print. Wells also advocated for modern scientific instruction methods, including the teaching of evolution in the 1920s. During Wells's long retirement, he became seriously interested in painting.

Biographical/historical note

During his long and active life, B. W. (Bertram Whittier) Wells (1884-1978) was keenly interested in the study and preservation of North Carolina's unique landscape. He spent time studying the Big Savannah in North Carolina's Pender County, a spot he made famous in his publications on "natural gardens." Wells also, unsuccessfully, worked to save the Big Savannah from development. In 2002, a similar ecological site was dedicated to Wells's memory. Wells's concern for the environment was evidenced in his teaching and work as the head of North Carolina State College's (later North Carolina State University) Botany Department, his writing, and his personal involvement in botanical and environmental associations. James R. Troyer rightly titled his book about Wells Nature's Champion.

Born in 1884, in Troy, Ohio, Wells studied botany at Ohio State University, received his doctorate at the University of Chicago, and taught at a number of universities before he came to North Carolina State College in 1919. Wells headed the Botany Department from 1919 to 1949 and continued teaching until his retirement in 1954. During his thirty-five years at North Carolina State, Wells had a significant impact on scientific study. His research interests included the insect galls of plants, the effects of salt on coastal vegetation, Bald Head Island vegetation, and the possible formation by meteorites of the Carolina Bays, in the eastern part of the state. Wells was also a vocal advocate of the teaching of evolution in the 1920s and helped to prevent the legislature from banning it in the public schools. His botanical interests led him to write a book titled The Natural Gardens of North Carolina. Originally written in 1932 and published with the help of the North Carolina Garden Club, the book is still in print from University of North Carolina Press. It provides an account of North Carolina plant life and has a particularly forward-looking position on ecology, advocating the study of plants in their natural environments.

Wells had a profound love for his retirement property, called Rockcliff Farm, located on a bend in the Neuse River. In the 1970s, the Falls of the Neuse Reservoir submerged much of the property and the famed Ziegle's Rock. The property was subsumed within the Falls Lake State Recreation Area, where, in cooperation with the B. W. Wells Association and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the homestead has been preserved. Initially conceived by the B. W. Wells Association as the Rockcliff Farm Interpretive Area (later called the B. W. Wells Home and Interpretive Area), the site is used to educate the public about B.W. Wells and promote his conservation ethics.

The Rockcliff Farm property, home, and personally constructed art studio provided Wells with an ideal setting in which to cultivate his interest in painting. Although his love for art had been life-long and he had been involved in the McLean Mural controversy during his years at State, Wells began teaching himself to paint in his 70s. Although he never sold any artwork, he frequently gave it to friends, and a number of pieces are on exhibit at the Wells historical site. Wells's second wife Maude Barnes Wells, who died in 2001, shared his love of the property. Wells's first wife, Edna Metz Wells, who died in 1938, was a respected local teacher and was honored with a Wake County, North Carolina, park named in her honor.

Although Wells died in December 1978, his contributions, particularly in North Carolina, have engendered a devoted following for his life and work. In addition to J. R. Troyer's biography of Wells, there remains a B. W. Wells Association to administer the historic site and site of his former property, as well as to pass on his botanical knowledge and environmental interests to new generations.

James R. Troyer gathered much of the material in this collection during his preparation for the book, Nature's Champion: B. W. Wells, Tar Heel Ecologist. Born in Goshen, Indiana, in 1929, Troyer received his B.A. at DePauw University, his M.A. at Ohio State University, and his Ph.D. in Botany at Columbia University, in 1954. After teaching at Yale University until 1957, Troyer began his career at North Carolina State College as an assistant professor of botany. During his 38 years at State, Troyer became a full professor with a focus on plant physiology and the history of botany, particularly in North Carolina. He became Professor Emeritus of Botany in 1995, and he passed away in Chapel Hill on 4 May 2014.

Scope/content

The Bertram Whittier Wells Papers are divided into two series documenting the life of B. W. Wells, a botanist, artist, and faculty member in the Botany Department at North Carolina State College (now North Carolina State University): The first series was compiled largely by Dr. James R. Troyer for his biography of B. W. Wells, and it documents the personal and professional interests of this noted botanist. A small portion of the material in series 1 was directly produced by Wells himself. The second series includes materials found inside B. W. and Maude Barnes Wells's home at Rockcliff Farm by staff members of the Falls Lake State Recreation Area (which now circumscribes all the land near the Neuse River that once belonged to Wells) after both B. W. Wells and Maude Barnes Wells had vacated the property. (Maude Barnes Wells left the house in 1978 after B. W. Wells died; she passed away in 2001.) This series contains personal and professional papers, documents and artifacts from the B. W. Wells Association and the Rockcliff Farm Interpretive Area preservation project (Now the B. W. Wells Home and Interpretive Area), materials from Wells's studio, and an array of photographs and negatives, among other items. A third series, Additional Artifacts and Books, has been added to the collection since the conclusion of an exhibit on Wells in 2007.

Physical description

13 archival storage boxes, 3 cartons, 1 legalbox, 1 cardbox, 1 oversize flat box, and 1 flat folder

Arrangement

This collection is divided into three series: (1) James R. Troyer Biography, (2) Bertram Whittier Wells and Maude Barnes Wells House, and (3) Additional Artifacts and Books.

In series 1, some materials have been divided into two categories: materials produced by Wells himself, and materials produced by James R. Troyer in the course of his research about Wells. However, the dates on the folders can be somewhat misleading. Since much of the material is made up of Troyer's notes and research, the dates emanate from the date when Troyer's research was done, not the dates or events he was investigating. For example, the date 1890 was attributed to a news article, because it was a photocopy of this article, but a transcription or notes taken from this same article would be dated 1970. Wherever possible, the materials are arranged according to subseries and then chronologically.

Series 2 originated from papers found at the Rockcliff Farm house after B. W. and Maude Barnes Wells had vacated the property and had both died. Most of the items were loose in boxes, but some original file names have been maintained where possible and practical. The materials have been divided into subseries including personal (encompassing household papers, personal correspondence, items found in B. W. Wells's studio, and other material of a personal nature), professional (encompassing work and affiliations begun before he retired in 1954 and all publications and notes regarding botany and/or ecology), B. W. Wells Association, Rockcliff Farm Interpretive Area project, and photographs.

Series 3 contains artifacts added to the collection after the conclusion of an exhibit on B. W. Wells displayed in 2007. In 2012 and 2014 additional books and atlases marked as belonging to Wells were added to the collection.

Use of these materials

The nature of the NCSU Libraries' Special Collections means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The NCSU Libraries claims only physical ownership of most Special Collections materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Bertram Whittier Wells Papers, MC 00073, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC

Related material

Source of acquisition

Initial deposit of Wells materials made by B. W. Wells in 1973. Addition made in 1981 by C. B. King. Significant addition by J. R. Troyer in 2003. Addition from Falls Lake State Recreation Area accessioned in 2006.

Gift of B. W. Wells, C. B. King, and J. R. Troyer, 1973-2003. Transfer from Falls Lake State Recreation Area, November 7, 2006. Transfer from the NCSU Dept. of Plant and Microbial Biology in July 2014.

James R. Troyer Biography 1849-2003
Size: 2 linear feet

The James R. Troyer Biography series is primarily composed of materials Troyer compiled in working on his biography of B. W. Wells, titled Nature's Champion: B. W. Wells, Tar Heel Ecologist. These papers include some authored by B. W. Wells and others, including notes, by James R. Troyer, all regarding B. W. Wells's personal and professional pursuits.

3 archival boxes, 1 flat photograph box

Personal 1919-2003
Art, List of Wells's Paintings 1981-1987
Box 1, Folder 1
Art, McLean Mural and North Carolina Art Society 1936-1989
Box 1, Folder 2
Associations, B. W. Wells Association 1982-2002
Box 1, Folder 3
Associations, North Carolina Wild Flower Preservation Society 1951-1968
Box 1, Folder 4
Associations, North Carolina Wild Flower Preservation Society 1968-1972
Box 1, Folder 5
Correspondence 1951-1960
Box 1, Folder 6
Correspondence 1962-1981
Box 1, Folder 7
Honors, Correspondence 1962-1982
Box 1, Folder 8
Honors, Honorary Degree Certificate 1963
Box 1, Folder 9
Honors, Honorary Degree Certificate Holder 1963
Box 1, Folder 10
Honors, Governor's Award 1979
Box 1, Folder 11
Wells, B. W., Curriculum Vita circa 1919-circa 1974
Box 1, Folder 12
Wells, B. W., General 1935-1992
Box 1, Folder 13
Wells, B. W., General 1977-1999
Box 1, Folder 14
Wells, Edna Metz 1938-1993
Box 1, Folder 15
Wells, Maude Barnes 1941-2001
Box 1, Folder 16
Wells Family and Associates 1978-1993
Box 1, Folder 17
Radio, WPTF Radio, "Talk with Tom" August 31, 1993
Box 1, Folder 18
Radio, WUNC-FM Radio, "The State of Things" April 10, 2003
Box 1, Folder 19
Professional 1849-2001
Research, Big Savannah, Troyer, J. R. 1951-2001
Box 2, Folder 1
Research, Big Savannah, Wells, B. W. 1949-1966
Box 2, Folder 2
Research, Blueberries, Troyer, J. R. 1929-1988
Box 2, Folder 3
Research, Conservation, Troyer, J. R. 1986-1999
Box 2, Folder 4
Research, Conservation, Wells, B. W. 1956-1972
Box 2, Folder 5
Research, Ecology, Troyer, J. R. 1849-1974
Box 2, Folder 6
Research, Ecology, Troyer, J. R. 1977-1988
Box 2, Folder 7
Research, Ecology, Wells, B. W. 1951-1971
Box 2, Folder 8
Research, Evolution, Troyer, J. R. 1922-1987
Box 2, Folder 9
Research, Insect Galls, Troyer, J. R. 1916-1984
Box 2, Folder 10
Research, Insect Galls, Wells, B. W. 1921-1966
Box 2, Folder 11
Research, Popularization, Troyer, J. R. 1922-1987
Box 2, Folder 12
Teaching, Courses circa 1980s
Box 2, Folder 13
Teaching, New College at Teachers College, Columbia University 1931-circa 1980s
Box 2, Folder 14
Teaching, North Carolina State University 1925-1987
Box 2, Folder 15
Teaching, Students 1943-circa 1980s
Box 2, Folder 16
Publications, "Discovering North Carolina," Correspondence 1933
Box 3, Folder 1
Publications, The Natural Gardens of North Carolina, Iden, Susan 1912-1986
Box 3, Folder 2
Publications, The Natural Gardens of North Carolina , First Printing 1936-1980s
Box 3, Folder 3
Publications, The Natural Gardens of North Carolina , Later Printings and Spinoffs 1932-1998
Box 3, Folder 4
Publications, The Natural Gardens of North Carolina , Troyer, J. R. 1984-1985
Box 3, Folder 5
Publications, The Natural Gardens of North Carolina , UNC Press 1931-1932
Box 3, Folder 6
Publications, The Natural Gardens of North Carolina , UNC Press 1933-1938
Box 3, Folder 7
Publications, The Natural Gardens of North Carolina , UNC Press 1942-1967
Box 3, Folder 8
Publications, Nature's Champion , Book Jacket 1993
Box 3, Folder 9
Publications, Nature's Champion , NCSU Friends of the Library Event 2000
Box 3, Folder 10
Publications, Originals of Wells's Offprints 1914-1931
Box 3, Folder 11
Publications, Originals of Wells's Offprints 1934-1976
Box 3, Folder 12
Publications, Photocopies of Wells's Offprints 1915-1981
Box 3, Folder 13
Addition, "Origin of Wet Woodland, Shrub-bog and Swamp-forest Species of the Southeastern United States," Typescript Draft by Wells, B. W. undated
Box 3, Folder 14
Photographs 1920-1994
Personal, Art circa 1981-circa 1990s
Album 4, Folder 1
Personal, Wells, B. W. circa 1960s-1977
Album 4, Folder 2
Professional, Research, Big Savannah 1994
Album 4, Folder 3
Professional, Research, Conservation 1920-1984
Album 4, Folder 4
Professional, Research, Ecology 1945-1981
Album 4, Folder 5
Bertram Whittier Wells (B. W. W.) and Maude Barnes Wells (M. B. W.) House 1901-2004
Size: 4.75 linear feet

The papers in series 2 were found and preserved by staff members at the Falls Lake State Recreation Area of the North Carolina Department of Parks and Recreation after B. W. Wells and Maude Barnes Wells had both vacated the Rockcliff Farm property.(Maude Barnes Wells left the house in 1978 after B. W. Wells died; she passed away in 2001.) They include correspondence, publications, clippings, notes, drawings, photographs, and other items related to B. W. Wells, his personal and professional pursuits, and his family, especially his second wife, Maude Barnes Wells.

Included in the papers found at the Rockcliff Farm house are records from the B.W. Wells Association, a group that works to educate the public about B.W. Wells and promote his conservation ethics. The association assists the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, the Falls Lake State Recreation Area, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to preserve, restore, and interpret Rockcliff Farm, the site of Wells's retirement after 1954. Also included are early plans and notes for the Rockcliff Farm Interpretive Area (now called the B. W. Wells Home and Interpretive Area) at Falls Lake State Recreation Area.

7 archival boxes, 2 flat photograph boxes, 1 negatives box, 1 large flat box

Personal 1922-2002
Miscellaneous, Personal 1950-1976, undated
Box 5, Folder 1
Bertram Whittier Wells, Birth Certificate 1963
Box 5, Folder 2
Bertram Whittier Wells, Dedications and Preservation Projects 1979-1983
Box 5, Folder 3
Bertram Whittier Wells, Clippings 1954-2002, undated
Box 5, Folder 5
Edna Metz Wells Park, Raleigh, NC 1938-1996
Box 5, Folder 6
Correspondence, Personal 1966, 1976-1978, undated
Box 5, Folder 7
Correspondence, Personal 1968-1972
Box 5, Folder 8
Correspondence, Personal 1975-1976
Box 5, Folder 9
Correspondence, Personal 1976
Box 5, Folder 11
Address Files undated
Box 5, Folder 12
Travel Diary undated
Box 6, Folder 1
Genealogy and Gravesites undated
Box 6, Folder 2
Southport House 1946-1976
Box 6, Folder 3
18 Enterprise Street 1953, 1972
Box 6, Folder 4
Falls of Neuse/Falls Lake Dam Project, Notes on Rockcliff Farm 1965-1972, undated
Box 6, Folder 5
Falls of Neuse/Falls Lake Dam Project, Clippings 1960-1974
Box 6, Folder 6
Research Triangle Development 1957, undated
Box 6, Folder 7
Household, Rockcliff Farm 1955-1970, undated
Box 6, Folder 8
Farming, Plants, and Pesticides, Rockcliff Farm 1922-1957, undated
Box 6, Folder 9
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Farmers' Bulletins 1944-1972
Box 7, Folder 1
"Trees of North Carolina" and "Trees of Florida," Pocket Manuals 1922, 1943
Box 7, Folder 2
Studio, Pictures Given to Friends Painted by B. W. Wells undated
Box 7, Folder 3
Studio, Clippings 1937-1972, undated
Box 7, Folder 4
Studio, Painting Techniques 1956-1966, undated
Box 7, Folder 5
Studio, Still Lifes 1943-1964, undated
Box 7, Folder 6
Studio, Drawings undated
Box 7, Folder 7
Studio, Pictures on Studio Walls undated
Box 7, Folder 8
Studio, Oversize Art Publications 1954-1965, undated
Box 7, Folder 9
Oversize Photographic Portrait undated
Box 7, Folder 10
Professional 1908-1978
Certificates and diplomas: B. W. Wells and Edna Metz Wells
Flat folder 1
North Carolina State University, Dept. of Botany 1975-1978, undated
Box 8, Folder 1
Lecture Notes undated
Box 8, Folder 2
Publications 1910-1928
Box 8, Folder 3
Publications 1929-1976
Box 8, Folder 4
Natural Gardens of North Carolina , Book 1959-1973
Box 8, Folder 5
Natural Gardens of North Carolina , Film 1971-1976
Box 8, Folder 6
"Biological Individuality," Paper, with Notes 1961-1969, undated
Box 8, Folder 7
Molecular Biology 1967-1970, undated
Box 8, Folder 8
Grass Balds 1958-1960
Box 8, Folder 9
Local Plants, Raleigh, North Carolina, undated 1958-1960
Box 8, Folder 10
Baldhead Island 1969-1975
Box 8, Folder 11
Baldhead Island, Clippings 1937-1975, undated
Box 8, Folder 12
North Carolina Wild Flower Preservation Society 1949-1975
Box 8, Folder 13
Correspondence, Professional 1951-1971
Box 8, Folder 14
Miscellaneous, Professional 1931-1966
Box 9, Folder 1
Miscellaneous, Professional 1971-1976, undated
Box 9, Folder 2
Checklist of the Plants of Gray's Manual , 7th Ed., Personal Copy 1908
Box 9, Folder 3
Geology, North Carolina undated
Box 9, Folder 4
Maps, General 1967-1976, undated
Box 9, Folder 5
Travel Brochures 1963, undated
Box 9, Folder 6
B. W. Wells Association 1929-2004
B. W. Wells Association, Miscellaneous 1929-1998
Box 9, Folder 7
B. W. Wells Association, Finances 1982-1993, undated
Box 9, Folder 8
B. W. Wells Association, Pamphlets undated
Box 9, Folder 9
B. W. Wells Association, Correspondence, General 1982-2001
Box 9, Folder 10
B. W. Wells Association, Membership 1982-1998, undated
Box 9, Folder 11
B. W. Wells Association, Legal Documents 1976-1982, undated
Box 10, Folder 1
B. W. Wells Association, Newsletters 1982-1991
Box 10, Folder 2
B. W. Wells Association, Clippings 1955-2004
Box 10, Folder 3
B. W. Wells Association, Clippings 1955-2002
Box 10, Folder 4
Rockcliff Farm Interpretive Area Project 1950-1994
Rockcliff Farm Project 1950-1951
Box 10, Folder 5
Rockcliff Farm Project 1985-1991, undated
Box 10, Folder 6
Rockcliff Farm Project 1979-1985, undated
Box 10, Folder 7
Rockcliff Farm Project 1978-1986, undated
Box 10, Folder 8
Rockcliff Farm Project, B. W. Wells Biography 1981, undated
Box 10, Folder 9
Rockcliff Farm Project, Correspondence 1975-1994
Box 10, Folder 10
Rockcliff Farm Project, Original Building Survey Notes and Building Plans undated
Box 11, Folder 1
Rockcliff Farm Project, National Historic Designation 1979-1991
Box 11, Folder 2
Rockcliff Farm Project, Grant Applications 1985-1988
Box 11, Folder 3
Rockcliff Farm Project, Schematics 1981-1986, undated
Box 11, Folder 4
Rockcliff Farm Project, Wells Guided Trail Write-up 1981, undated
Box 11, Folder 5
Rockcliff Farm Project, Maps undated
Box 11, Folder 6
Rockcliff Farm Project, Wells Cemetery and Outhouse undated
Box 11, Folder 7
Rockcliff Farm Project, Objectives and Priorities undated
Box 11, Folder 8
Rockcliff Farm Project, Inventories and Key Distribution 1989, undated
Box 11, Folder 9
Rockcliff Farm Project, Wells Trail #3 undated
Box 11, Folder 10
Rockcliff Farm Project, John Lawrence Notecards undated
Box 11, Folder 11
Photographs 1901-1987
Early Photographs 1901, undated
Album 12, Folder 1
Hocking County, "The Big Pine Biological Laboratory" 1911
Album 12, Folder 2
Bertram Whittier Wells 1926-1964, undated
Album 12, Folder 3
Photographs of Individuals 1926, undated
Album 12, Folder 4
Photographs of Sybil and Others undated
Album 12, Folder 5
Photographs of Groups 1926, 1964, undated
Album 13, Folder 1
From Helen Myer undated
Album 13, Folder 2
Dedications 1973, undated
Album 13, Folder 3
Houses, Plants, and Landscapes 1926-1987, undated
Album 13, Folder 4
Fieldwork 1937, undated
Album 13, Folder 5
B. W. Wells Association, B. W. Wells Interpretive Area 1986
Album 13, Folder 6
Negatives and Slides 1925-1939
Negatives undated
Album 13, Folder 7
Slides undated
Album 13, Folder 8
Glass Plate Lantern Slides and Large-Format Negatives (3" x 4") 1925-1939, undated
Card box 14
Additional Artifacts and Books 1895-1974
Size: 5.75 linear feet

Contained in this series are artifacts added to the collection after the conclusion of the B. W. Wells exhibit that was displayed in NCSU's D. H. Hill Library in 2007. The artifact materials may have originated with the Falls Lake State Recreation Area. In 2012 and 2014 additional books and atlases marked as belonging to Wells were added to the collection.

R. B. Auto Graflex camera and carrying case 1920s
Carton 15
Plaque with invitation to B. W. Wells's 90th birthday 1974
Carton 15
John Kunkel Small, Manual of Southeastern the Flora [book] 1933

Inscribed "B. W. Wells, Dec. 11, 1933."

Carton 15
Wooden box for lantern slides, stamped "Wells"
Legal box 16
Books
Carton 17
Books
Carton 18
Atlases (9, each inscribed or stamped "B.W. Wells"): USDA Atlas of American Agriculture and USGS Geologic Atlas of United States - Knoxville Folio and Cranberry Quadragle 1895, 1902, 1924
Oversize flat box 19

Access to the collection

This collection is open for research; access requires at least 48 hours advance notice.

For more information contact us via mail, phone, or our web form.

Mailing address:
Special Collections Research Center
Box 7111
Raleigh, NC, 27695-7111

Phone: (919) 515-2273

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Bertram Whittier Wells Papers, MC 00073, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC

Use of these materials

The nature of the NCSU Libraries' Special Collections means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The NCSU Libraries claims only physical ownership of most Special Collections materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.