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Williams News | Williams, Arizona

home : features : community news April 28, 2016

3/6/2012 10:53:00 AM
Centennial celebration: Wells family at the helm of the News 99 years
Ryan Williams/WGCN
Doug Wells displays letter press blocks bearing his name.
Ryan Williams/WGCN
Doug Wells displays letter press blocks bearing his name.
Williams-Grand Canyon News

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - The Williams News and the name "Wells" has been synonymous over the past 99 years. Current publisher Doug Wells has been at the helm of the Williams News for the past 33 years, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. The Wells family ownership began with the October 1913 arrival of Frank Evarts Wells, his wife Ruth, and their 13-month-old son Evarts Jr. Taking Horace Greeley's advice to "Go West" the Wells family had left Lawrence, Kan. in order to settle in a new state and a small town.

Frank Wells' sister Ruth Gold had encouraged him to Williams, informing him that the local newspaper was for sale. Frank Wells, a budding journalist who had been managing a newspaper in Lawrence, saw the opportunity and headed after it. About the new venture he wrote, "Our chief assets were youth, ambition and hope. We chose to match these with those of the pioneer town."

Mr. Wells would need these qualities as his initiation into journalism in Williams was full of surprises. Wells purchased the newspaper from Cormick Boyce, an early pioneer and businessman of Williams. However, when F.E. Wells turned the key in the lock of the Williams News office, the door was already open. A man was seated in the office. When questioned about his presence, the stranger related how the previous editor (who had abruptly left town with a $600 "loan" from Boyce) had promised to pay him $30 a week to produce the paper. He had fulfilled this for three weeks and wanted to collect payment. When Mr. Wells demanded that the man leave the office, words were exchanged Wells was preparing himself to use physical force when the irate stranger pulled out a gun. Looking down the barrel of a shiny .38 and not used to this type of "Wild West" negotiation, Wells went to see Mr. C.E. Boyce. After a hearty laugh over the incident, Boyce gave Wells the $90 to pay the man, Mr. Wells did just that, and sent him out of town.

Frank Wells was able to laugh over the incident later, and embarked upon a notable career as publisher of the Williams News for over 50 years. He was named "Dean of Arizona Newspaper Men" and actively editorialized over water issues and other civic improvement policies.

The second generation began when F. Evarts Wells Jr., started working at the newspaper at a young age, and continued being a part of the weekly publication throughout most of his adult years. After serving in the Navy during World War II, Evarts Wells returned to Williams to work at the newspaper alongside his father.

F. Evarts Wells, Jr., and his wife Cecil had four sons and it was their youngest, Doug, who was drawn to the family tradition of newspapering. Working alongside his father many nights, weekends and summers in his youth, Doug returned to the newspaper after graduating from Northern Arizona University in 1976. Upon his father's death in 1978, Doug assumed management and became the third generation to publish the Williams News.

In 1981 Doug Wells expanded the Williams News by starting the Grand Canyon News, the official newspaper of Grand Canyon and Tusayan. Doug also initiated the Tourist Guide publications to promote Williams and the Grand Canyon to the many tourists who visit the area annually.

In 1992, the Williams-Grand Canyon News was sold and became a publication of Western News&Info, Inc.

"It made great economic sense to join a larger newspaper group and has helped us to keep up with technology and blend with other publications in the state," noted Doug. WNI has a long tradition of newspapering in Arizona and is owned by the Soldwedel family. The Soldwedel family today have a their third generation of Arizona newspapering in their family with Kelly Soldwedel, an associate vice president of WNI and publisher of the Prescott Courier, and Brett Soldwedel, Prescott Newspaper's Marketing Manager and Project Manager of the Community Directory.

Doug Wells was retained by Western Newspapers to continue publishing the Williams-Grand Canyon News, and he also serves as publisher for the Navajo-Hopi Observer in Flagstaff. During this 99th year of the Wells family heading the Williams-Grand Canyon News, and during the Arizona Centennial, Doug Wells commented, "I am proud in what we have accomplished with the paper and the wide-ranging support we have had from the business community and our readers. In this time of challenges facing the newspaper industry, the Williams-Grand Canyon News still stands strong in bringing quality community journalism to Williams and the surrounding areas."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Article comment by: Butch Martin

Great quality paper! Great writers! Better than the Flagstaff papers! Enjoy it so much.

Posted: Sunday, November 17, 2013
Article comment by: Larry Steinmetz

Congratulations Doug. I remember fondly my time working for your father at Williams News. It was a very unique experience and I'm glad that I was part of the long history of this newspaper!

Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2012
Article comment by: Barbara Quijada

Doug, I so enjoyed reading the history of the Williams-Grand Canyon News and your family in the paper last week. Makes me proud to say I was your classmate all those years ago! Keep up the good work.

Posted: Sunday, March 11, 2012
Article comment by: Mike Smith

Congratulations! Your steadfast role of success shows you are doing things right!

Posted: Friday, March 9, 2012
Article comment by: tom bell

I know that my Dad was appreciative to have Doug as one of his scouts while being the scoutmaster in Williams in the 60's. He talked fondly of Doug and considered him on of the pillars for Troop 29.
Job well done Doug. I know that Dad would be proud of you too.

Tom Bell

Posted: Thursday, March 8, 2012
Article comment by: Kelvin Jones

What a great article about a terrific family. Congratulations Doug, you are an inspiration!

Posted: Thursday, March 8, 2012
Article comment by: Amy Christman

Congrats Doug! Great to see others keeping tradition alive, very proud of you!

Posted: Thursday, March 8, 2012
Article comment by: Lindsay Downs

Wow! What a huge accomplishment! Congratulations to Doug and the Wells family!

Posted: Thursday, March 8, 2012
Article comment by: Gina C

Congratulations! What an achievement!

Posted: Thursday, March 8, 2012
Article comment by: Holly Jones

Congrats!! No one could have done it better! Very proud of you!

Posted: Thursday, March 8, 2012
Article comment by: Mary Jo clardy

Spending summers in williams when I was a youngster, I thought I had heard most of the
Williams News history but found there was a lot I had missed. What a lovely trip down memory lane. I am very proud of you, Doug. Many happy years ahead!
Aunt Mary Jo

Posted: Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Article comment by: Courtney Wells

Congrats Dad! I really appreciate all the hard work and dedication I have seen you put in over the years! I'm proud of you and thankful to have such a great person as a Dad!

Posted: Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Article comment by: Kurt Davis

Congrats to Doug and the entire Wells clan. Great family who has left a major mark on Northern Arizona!

Posted: Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Article comment by: Rowdy Walker

Congratulations, Doug, on 33 years at the helm! What a tremendous accomplishment for the Wells family, 99 years!

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