More on the South Wellfleet Areys

The second Reuben Arey, born in 1778 as the son of Reuben Arey (1) and Lydia Ward Arey, was also a distinguished  citizen of Wellfleet.  He was a successful businessman and is referenced as “Esquire” and “a Gentleman” in various records.  In 1799 he married Sara (Sally) Brown of Wellfleet whose father, David Brown, was a Congregational minister. They had eleven children. From recent conversations with the South Wellfleet homeowner, and records at the Wellfleet Historical Society, it appears that Reuben (1) built a second home in South Wellfleet for his son, next to his own.  Eventually, that home was owned by Isaac (Ikey) Paine who sold it to the family of the present owner.

Beginning in 1797, Reuben (2) served for five years as the town’s representative to the Massachusetts General Court.  He was a Wellfleet Selectman for eight years beginning in 1819.  In 1820 he was chosen as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention revising the Massachusetts Constitution.  He became Postmaster at South Wellfleet in 1829, operating the Post Office from his home.

As evidence of his role as a trusted member of the community, Reuben Arey (2) was appointed as a guardian to aging Revolutionary War veterans Elisha Ward and Lemuel Newcomb, and is named as such in their petitions for veteran support, prepared in the 1820s.

Reuben and Sally Brown Arey’s children are:

Reuben (3) (1801).

Ruth (1803) who lived to age 3 years.

Asa Packard (1805).

Benjamin Brown (1807) married Martha Chipman of Wellfleet.

Richard  (1809).

Elbridge Gerry (1811) became a Master Mariner, marrying Sophronia Lathrap of Sandwich, Mass., and relocated to New Bedford. He also had a son named Reuben.

Sally  (1813) married George Chapman.

Miranda  (1815) married Dr. Daniel Davis.

Oliver Cromwell (1817).

Ruth  (1820) married Parker Dodge.

Charles  (1822) was only fifteen when his father died, so his brother, Richard, was appointed his guardian.  His obituary noted that he was educated at the “Academy in Orleans and at Phillips Andover.” He attended Harvard and graduated from Kenyon College. He became a Congregational minister.

Reuben(2) died September 30, 1837. In 1839, his estate was appraised at $5,275.87, of which $2,456.87 was personal property. His Will mentioned real estate — salt works, and interest in Enterprise Wharf – plus pews in both the First and Second Congregational Churches. His Will lists the real estate, plot by plot, and in the description of each piece of land, gives us a list of other property owners in South Wellfleet — although not everyone listed may have had  a home there. Many property owners had a woodlot, or a piece of salt marsh to grow salt hay, or a salt works.  Interestingly, there were several owners of the Cedar Swamp, now in the National Park where we take nature walks.

The Reuben Arey home — one presumes the second house – was divided between Elbridge Gerry Arey and Oliver Arey – half to each, including the dwelling house, the barn, the corn house, the chaise house, the woodhouse and the garden. While both brothers inherited the house and grounds, it appears that Elbridge gave up his part, perhaps when he re-settled in New Bedford. In several places in the Will, an “Edmond’s Island” is mentioned — could this be Mill Hill Island or some other piece of land now called by another name?

The son, Asa Packard Arey, is of special interest to the Old Wharf Road/Prospect Hill area of South Wellfleet. His story is part of the Barker family tale, and is saved for that blog piece.

Another son’s life story,Richard Arey, led me to more research. Richard, grew up in South Wellfleet, and become an “important citizen” in the style of his father. Richard was President of the Wellfleet Marine Benevolent Society, established in 1836. He was the agent of the “Boston men” Leonard Battelle and Robert Little, who purchased Major John Witherell’s land to create the South Wharf on Blackfish Creek, around 1830.  Richard also had a salt works on Blackfish Creek. According to the 1938 South Wellfleet Neighborhood Association brochure, the salt works was at the foot of Cannon Hill, on the north side of Blackfish Creek. Despite this activity, Richard picked up and moved to Rapids City (now Rock Falls), Illinois.  I wondered why. By chance, I noticed a reference to Richard as an “insolvent” in a deed I found. Then I found a reference to the South Wharf burning in 1840, and in the early 1840’s the ownership changed.  Through an acquaintance – one source said a brother in law — he picked up his family, five children by this time, and moved to Rapids City in the western part of Illinois, arriving in May, 1844.

The family’s trip lasted 30 days —they traveled across New York on the Erie Canal, took a steamship through the Great Lakes to Chicago, and then by “team and wagon” to the Illinois prairie.  He purchased a large wooden home that had been a hotel (there was a business operating in the area)  and settled his family, planting trees on the property. The Illinois historian notes that “pioneer life” was difficult and strenuous, especially for his wife, Martha. She had three more children – and died after eight years living there.  The oldest four boys all went off to fight in the Civil War but only three returned. In the federal census in 1850 and 1860, Richard Arey is listed as a farmer.  But this leading citizen of SouthWellfleet became a leading citizen of Rapids City — later named Rock Falls — and was called “Deacon Arey.”  His daughter, Martha, told this story in 1929, after all the family members had died, and the local historical society preserved it. It’s a long way from South Wellfleet, but a sort of American story of the 19th Century when financial difficulties could be overcome by heading west and starting over.

Richard’s brother, Reuben Arey (3), married Jerusha Holbrook December 2, 1824.  They had nine children.  Many of them left Wellfleet when the fishing economy faded in the later years of the 19th century.  His son, Waterman Holbrook Arey, became a currier in Boston, and lived in Chelsea. His son, the 4thReuben, was a leather dealer, and lived in Cambridgeport. The youngest son, Edwin, was the bookkeeper for Reuben’s company.  Edwin’s son, Bertram Arey, lived with his wife Louise through the 1970s in South Wellfleet, on Arey Lane, off Old Wharf Road.

Reuben Arey (4) portrait at Wellfleet Historical Society

Reuben (4)’s obituary in the July 7, 1892 Boston Journal notes how he left home at 18 years, and came to Boston on a Wellfleet packet with few possessions. He found a position in the leather business, and by age 31 his name was part of the firm’s:  Arey, Maddock and Locke. In the Wellfleet Historical Society’s report on historical structures (to the Massachusetts Historical Commission) the oil portrait of ‘Reuben Arey’ hanging in the WHS headquarters is acknowledged to be this Reuben Arey (4), an item left by some of his descendants.  That document also notes that he worked with ‘glauber salts’ used in leather tanning from the family’s salt water evaporation facility, so his entry into that business isn’t too much of a surprise.  Reuben Arey (4) was one of the organizers of the South Wellfleet Cranberry Bog Association, and the Barnstable Patriot notes a meeting at his home in Cambridge in December, 1891. His wife Nellie was on the Board when the group met in 1895. The Association is noted on the 1910 Wellfleet map near the location of the former Fresh Brook Village.

Another brother of Reuben (3) was Oliver Cromwell Arey, born in 1817.  A biography of his life is available through the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, where he established and served as the first President of the ‘Normal School’, as schools preparing teachers were known.  Like his brother Reuben (4), he grew up “farming and helping in the manufacture of salt by solar evaporation.” He spent some time at sea, but before he was 20, he bade farewell to Wellfleet. He studied at Phillips Academy, got a degree from Union College, and subsequently became a teacher, and then a principal at several institutions. He held posts in Buffalo, New York, and Cleveland, Ohio.  In his biography, the writer speaks of the deeply religious influences on Oliver Arey’s life, and of his pact with two other Wellfleet boys to refrain from ”…profane language, tobacco, alcohol and all other practices that make war on the highest form of manhood.” While the writer was undoubtedly putting Oliver Arey on a pedestal as the school’s first president, this comment shows us a bit of Wellfleetian thinking in the 19th Century. Albert Arey was Oliver’s son and was the Arey family member selling the oldest Arey home to Professor Hicks in 1936.



Chamberlin, Ralph Vary. “Richard Arey of Martha’s Vineyard and Some of His Descendants” New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volumes 86 and 87. Issue Date 1932 (pages 391-406) and 1933 (pages 5-27)

South Wellfleet Neighborhood Association 1938 booklet, on line at

Reuben Arey (2) Will, 1839

Sterling –Rock Falls Historical Society website:

Newspaper search on  (subscription)

Arey search on

Freeman, Frederick. The History of Cape Cod: The Annals of The Thirteen Towns of Barnstable County, (two volumes), W.H. Piper & Co., Boston.  1869.   Wellfleet chapter on line at

Deyo, Simon. History of Barnstable County, New York, 1898.   Wellfleet chapter on line at

Barnstable Patriot (various) online  archive:











Family history researcher living in New York City.
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