By Corey Poole
“Good news travels fast, bad news travels faster.”
I have found that this saying doesn’t hold true in Natchitoches. In a town overflowing with culture and history, the residents are more apt to spread news of the wonderful things that happen here.
Case in point: I was covering an event when I was told that I had to drop in and meet Carol Wells, who was celebrating her 100th birthday on Feb. 21.
I’m not usually one to show up uninvited, but I follow news tips wherever they may lead me. So I drove over to the Tauzin-Wells house, historically known as the Buard-Wells house and properly named the DeMeziere House.
One thing you must know about Carol is that she has a passion for history and genealogy. She traced records for the construction of the house back to 1742. It was originally built by Athanase DeMeziere, a minor French noble who served as the lieutenant governor of Natchitoches in 1769. He first came to Louisiana in the early 1730s and in 1746 he married Marie Petronille Feliciane de St. Denis, daughter of Louis Juchereau de St. Denis.
Back to the party in this historic home, I walked up on the porch and introduced myself. The family immediately welcomed me and took me straight to a back room where Carol sat debating French versus English colonial fences with two fellow historians: family friend Carolyn Breedlove and Mary Linn Wernet, head archivist at NSU’s Watson Memorial Library.
Carol worked as the library’s head archivist after she received a master’s in colonial architecture from NSU in 1976. After her retirement she’s continued her genealogy research and has published 31 genealogical index books, mostly on her husband’s family.
Carol was originally born in Summerton, PA in 1918. She attended Penn State where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1940. She was also a founding member of a Phi Mu Chapter at the university. In 1942 she graduated among the first class of women Naval officers. She soon met her husband, Naval Lt. Tom H. Wells and had to resign because at the time the Navy didn’t allow women to serve if they were married.
After the war ended, the couple travelled around the world and had six children, one in every port, according to their son Chris Wells. In 1962 Tom retired and earned a PhD from Philadelphia University.
In 1964 they moved to Natchitoches and bought the DeMeziere House, beginning restoration and historical research. Tom passed away in 1971.
“I’m amazed Carol is still going strong in her research,” said Breedlove, a fellow Phi Mu alumna. “I’ve enjoyed her hospitality, fascinating conversations and the encouragement she’s given me in my writings. I think the world of her.”
One of Carol’s most enduring memories is coincidentally her earliest memory. When she was a little over 2-years-old her mother took her along to the poles. Women had just been granted the right to vote, and Carol’s mother was voting for the very first time.
“She called it ‘casting her ballot.’ We walked down to the corner grocery store and she left me sitting on the front step. The edges of that chunk of rock were worn soft with age.” said Carol.
She also remembers growing up in the city, hearing the gas lighter lighting the gas lamps along the street and the popping sound the lighter made.
One friend, Glenda Humphries, said Carol is “sweet as pie.” Her son Chris said, “It’s obvious how proud I am of her. I’m proud to know her.”
It was also obvious how endearing Carol is to the family and friends that gathered around her as she celebrated a century of life. There was plenty of food, fascinating conversations and champagne.
“I’m starting on my second hundred,” said Carol heartily. “Here’s to day one.”