Smith column

Dennis and Irene Herbert of Decatur County shared information with Daily News columnist Pat Smith about the Wells brothers.

DECATUR COUNTY – Spending a couple of hours with Dennis and Irene Herbert at their home south of Greensburg is something I’d recommend.

I did that a few weeks ago and it was a really fine time. We talked of many things. Knowing that Saturday is Pearl Harbor Day, it was great to talk with Dennis about the Wells brothers.

When writing about the Harris City Quarry Dennis said he drove a lime truck for them so farmers could spread lime on their fields. Irene’s father, Oliver Tichenor, worked as a foreman at the Harris City Quarry. Of course, that was long after B. B. Harris owned the quarry.

Dennis, Irene and I knew many of the same people and there were way too many to mention here. Dr. Dickson, Ed and Alma Vanderbur. I remembered Dennis from when I was writing about the Lake McCoy; he told me that he saw the Wells Brothers Acrobat Team many times at the lake. I told them that I thought I remembered writing about the Wells Brothers many years ago, but asked Dennis to tell me what he remembered about them.

Irvin and Bertie M. Pitts Wells had eight children, seven boys and one girl.

Herman B., 1909–2000; Oakley O. Wells, 1911-1944; Irvin “Hartsel” Wells, 1913-1995; Clevie Wells, 1917-1999; Selma D Wells Menefee, 1923-2008; Oren C. Wells, 1925-2002; Quentin E. “Shorty” Wells, 1928-2013; and Delmar Wells, 1931-1999.

Dennis said to keep in shape the brothers would sometimes find a place in the woods and practice some of their act on tree limbs. They did their act all over the country, so it was special when they would come to Lake McCoy where their act was extremely popular. While with the circus, the brothers played in all 48 states, several South American countries and throughout the Caribbean Islands.

Oakley, the second oldest brother, was killed in World War II. He served in the U.S. Army in Company D., 120th Infantry. and was killed Oct. 12, 1944 in action near a town called Pfaffenholz, Germany. From what I could learn about the 120th, they fought in the Normandy campaign, the Rhineland Campaign, Ardennes Alsace Campaign and the Central Europe Campaign.

Oakley was first buried in Henri Chapel France and later buried at the National Cemetery in New Albany, Indiana.

All of the brothers served in the Armed Forces. Hartsel served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1943 through 1946. He was one of the brothers who had been in the Wells Brothers Trio as a circus performer in parallel bars, acrobatics and trapeze.

Oren C. “Bill” served in the Army Air Force during World War II.

Clevie enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1940 at Ft. McDowell, Angel Island, California, and achieved the rank of Technician 4th Class.

Delmar served in the Armed Forces, was a member of the American Legion and AMVETS Post in Versailles.

Herman served in the Indiana Army National Guard during World War II. His government stone reads: TEC 5 US Army World War II.

Quentin “Shorty” was only 13 when the war started, but as soon as he was old enough he joined serve in the Armed Forces toward the end of World War II. When he came home from serving in the Army he joined his brothers in the Wells Brothers Trio circus act, performing on the parallel bars and doing acrobatics.

During the early years of World War II, a magazine printed pictures of all the families in the county that had four sons or daughters in the service at that time. It was titled “Greensburg’s War Mothers,” but went on to say, “Decatur County, Indiana has set what may be a record for starred mothers. There were pictures of the four in the service. Later, sons or daughters were added to that list. The Wells brothers were pictured while Oakley still lived. All seven Wells brothers served in the Armed Forces.

It was such a pleasure to spend time with Dennis and Irene!

Decatur County resident Pat Smith may be contacted via this publication at

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