Rulon S. Wells
Rulon Seymour Wells was one of the First Seven Presidents of Seventies from 1893 until his death in 1941. He was born July 7, 1854, in Salt Lake City, Utah, inside the stone wall just east of the Deseret News corner. He was the son of Pres. Daniel H. Wells and Louisa Free.
In 1861 that part of Pres. Wells' family of which Rulon was a member moved across the street south, to the Wells home (formerly occupied by Apostle Ezra T. Benson), where Rulon lived until his marriage in 1883. He was baptized by his father when about eight years of age, and confirmed by Elder John V. Long. Brother Rulon attended the various common schools of his boyhood. He also attended the Morgan & Macauley night school for penmanship, and finally the Deseret University, then under the direction of Elder David O. Calder as a commercial college. He was a student at that institution when Dr. John R. Park came and inaugurated the change by which the Commercial College was transformed into a collegiate institution. Dr. Park was ably assisted by Professor Bellerive, Dr. Benedict, Professor Monch and later by Dr. Karl G. Maeser. Under the tuition of these educators he took a scientific and classical course, such as was at that time being offered.
He was ordained an Elder by Elder W. J. Smith Aug. 15, 1868, and he left school April 1, 1871, to accept of his first employment with a party of engineers who, with Jesse W. Fox, sen., as chief engineer, started from Salt Lake City to locate and survey the route of the Utah Southern Railroad, now a part of the Oregon Short Line system.
In the winter of 1873-4, Brother Wells was chosen by the Utah legislature as engrossing clerk. In 1874 he was employed by Elder John R. Winder in the assessor and collector's office for Salt Lake City. In 1875 he was employed at the saw mills "E" and "F," Big Cottonwood canyon, belonging to his father, in the capacity of book-keeper.
It was while in this employment in October, 1875, that he received the call for his first mission. The following incident as related by himself is of interest: "I was measuring lumber as it came from the mill and was being stacked near by, when I was seized with a peculiar feeling over which I had no control, and which impelled me to descend from the pile of lumber and go to the office, a little board shanty which served the purpose of office, store and bedroom combined. It was situated about 300 or 400 feet from where I was working. After entering the door and locking it, I knelt down and prayed to the Lord 'to send me where He wanted me to go.' This was the whole burden of my prayer which lasted only about one minute. The whole proceeding was to me a very strange one, for I did not understand the meaning of it, and it was so unusual and out of the ordinary. On this very day, and probably at the same moment, my name was being called in the Tabernacle at Salt Lake City, where the conference was then being held, for a mission. The first intimation I had of this call was when my mother, then fifty-one years old, rode on horseback, in company with Archibald Livingstone, who was superintendent of the mills, on the following day to mill F and apprised me of this fact."
On Oct. 22, 1875, Brother Wells was ordained a Seventy, and set apart for his mission to Europe by Pres. Brigham Young, assisted by Pres. Daniel H. Wells. On arriving in Liverpool Brother Rulon was assigned to the Swiss and German Mission, whither he journeyed in company with Elder Martin Lenzi. In 1876 he assisted Elder Theodore Brandley in holding a public meeting in the city of Berlin, which was attended by dignitaries of the German empire, there being present members of the reichstag and the royal police and several representatives of the state church. Returning home again in company with Elder Lenzi, with a company of emigrating Saints, Elders Lenzi and Wells having charge of the Swiss and German branch of the company, they held meeting on board the steamer "Wisconsin," and arrived in New York, July 7, 1877, where Elder Wells was met by his mother and his sister, and after visiting with his father's relatives in the State of New York, he continued his journey home, where he arrived July 23, 1877.
He was afterward active as a home missionary for a number of years. Brother Wells was in the employ of Z. C. M. I. from 1877 until 1880, and for a few months kept books for Mr. John Brooks who was running the Chicago Smelter at Rush Lake, Tooele county. In 1881, he accepted a position from Hon. John W. Young, having charge of his books and clerks in Arizona on the line of the Atlantic and Pacific Railway Company, where Brother Young had a contract for building one hundred miles of road, besides getting out ties and timber.
Brother Wells returned home in December, 1882. Jan. 18, 1883, he married Miss Josephine E. Beatie, daughter of Hampton S. and Marion T. Beatie, by whom he has had seven children, two sons and five daughters. During this year he built his home in the Eighteenth Ward and moved in on Jan. 9, 1884. He at once identified himself with the Ward, and served in the several capacities of teacher in the Sunday School, Ward teacher, president of the Mutual Improvement Association and second assistant superintendent of the Sunday School.
On returning from Arizona he was again employed by Z. C. M. I. until March, 1886, when he accepted the secretaryship of the Co-operative Wagon & Machine Company, then known as Grant, Odell & Company. He served as secretary and treasurer, also as director of this institution until 1896, excepting for about a year, 1891-2, during which time he had charge of the office work of Heber J. Grant & Company. He was secretary of Zion's Benefit Building Society, and was elected secretary of the Home Fire Insurance Company of Utah; this latter position he also held until 1896.
April 5, 1893, he was chosen to fill the vacancy in the First Council of Seventies caused by the death of Pres. Jacob Gates, and was ordained on the same day to that position by Pres. George Q. Cannon, assisted by Pres. Wilford Woodruff and several of the Apostles. May 8, 1896, he was called on a mission to Europe, having been unanimously chosen by the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles to succeed Apostle Anthon H. Lund in the presidency of the European Mission. He departed for this mission in company with Elder Joseph W. McMurrin, June 29, 1896. During this mission he visited the various conferences of Great Britain five or six times, and those of the continental missions three or four times, mostly in company with Elder Joseph W. McMurrin, his co-laborer in the presidency of the mission.
He returned home on Christmas eve, 1898, having been met in New York by his wife and eldest daughter, and accompanied by Pres. McMurrin. Soon after he took up the insurance business, and on Dec. 1, 1899, was installed as manager at Salt Lake City of the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York. After returning from Europe he visited many of the Stakes of Zion at the quarterly conferences, and labored with his associates among the Seventies.
He wa also one of the General Board of the Y. M. M. I. A. In November, 1900, he was elected to the lower house of the fourth legislature of the State of Utah, and served the term from Jan. 14th to March 14th, 1901.
Elder Wells died May 7, 1941 in Salt Lake City, Utah after serving as a General Authority for almost half a century, well respected and well loved by those who knew him best.