George W. Welles

Of the men whose collective energies and enterprise have built up the fortunes of Duluth as a great market and distributing center of the northwest an important place must be assigned to George W. Welles, a resident of the city for nearly thirty years and with progressive responsibilities in some of the city’s largest mercantile establishments.

Mr. Welles was born in Michigan and came to Duluth in April, 1892.

His first business service here was as auditor in the old Chapin-Welles Company, now the Marshall-Welles Company. In 1895 he and associates bought the old J. J. Costello Hardware Company, which in June, 1896, became the Kelley Hardware Company and is now the Kelley Duluth Company. In 1902 the Kelley-How-Thomson Company was organized, Mr. Welles participating in that organization, and he is now secretary and manager of this corporation, one of the largest wholesale houses in the northwest.

Mr. Welles was born at Hortonville, Michigan, July 17, 1872, and had a public school education, coming to Duluth shortly before his twentieth birthday. He is a son of Nelson and Achsah (Graves) Welles, the former a native of New York and the latter of Connecticut. George W. Welles was left an orphan at the age of five, and from that time until he was seventeen lived with his mother’s sister, .Mrs. Edward Sleeger. His opportunities have been largely of his own making, and good natural abilities, combined with continuous hard work, have been responsible for the gratifying measure of success he has achieved.

Through many years Mr. Welles has had a part in the civic development of modern Duluth. He is a member of a number of local clubs and organizations and is a Republican in politics. During the World war he was chief of metals and heavy hardware procurement, Branch No. 1, General Supplies Division of the Purchase, Storage and Traffic Department of the War Department. As an expert in his line he rendered valuable service in this work from June, 1918, until February, 1919.

September 4, 1901, Mr. Welles married Jane M. McLennan, a native of Duluth, where her parents, W. L. and Julia (McLeod) McLennan, were pioneers. The two sons of Mr. and Mrs. Welles are George W., Jr., and Donald R.


  • Van Brunt, Walter, ed. Duluth and St. Louis County, Minnesota Vols. 1 – 3. The American Historical Society. Chicago: 1922.
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