HOPKINTON – It is estimated that out of every 1,000 births in America, 32 of them are twins. At one time, Hopkinton was home to the oldest set of twins in Rhode Island.
Peter Clark Wells, a farmer, and his wife Eliza (Stillman) had three daughters and a son before welcoming their twin girls, Emeline Lewis Wells and Adeline Clark Wells on Feb. 15, 1847.
The family resided on their homestead farm on Chase Hill Road and attended the First 7th Day Baptist Church of Hopkinton. After Peter died of kidney disease on Sept. 29, 1874, and the older children married and moved away, the two girls remained living there on the farm with their widowed mother.
Adeline’s responsibilities were great. Her twin had fallen ill in 1867 and Adeline provided the care it took over the next decade of her recovery. Healthy again, left Rhode Island for a short time to study music in New York. She then returned to her mother’s home to live with Eliza and her widowed older sister Hattie (Wells) Clark. Adeline, who had married dentist John Barbour, had relocated to South Kingstown.
Eliza succumbed to the effects of paralysis and died on May 31, 1889. Emeline and Hattie remained there at the house, Emeline working as a music teacher for their support.
After John Barbour’s death in 1925, Adeline moved back home with her twin. Sister Hattie had died the year before and their niece Mabel (Ellis) had moved in with her husband Robert Coon and their children. Robert was a fruit farmer and Mabel was the daughter of the twins’ older sister Maria, who had died in 1922.
On the afternoon of April 8, 1935, the beautiful and historic Wells family homestead was totally destroyed by fire. The blaze, having originated in the attic, was propelled through the house by the wind and consumed everything in less than half an hour. The loss was estimate to be valued at $3,500 and was only partially covered by insurance.
The twins, who were in their late eighties by this time, were safely hurried out of the burning house by Robert and Mabel. They were ushered to the neighboring home of Charles Peckham.
While neither twin was physically harmed in the blaze, the tragic experience took a toll on Adeline and her health began to fail. She died on April 26, 1936 and was laid to rest in Oak Grove Cemetery in Ashaway.
Emeline was buried near her sister when she passed away three years later on May 9, 1939 at the age of 92. Neither twin left any children to carry on their individual branches of the Wells family tree.