Wells is at the junction of U.S. Highway 69 and Farm Road 1247, twenty-three miles south of Rusk in extreme southern Cherokee County. It was established in 1885 as a stop on the newly-constructed Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad and was named for Maj. E. H. Wells, a civil engineer for the railroad. A post office opened in 1886, and by 1890 the town had a sawmill, a hotel, a Methodist church, three general stores, and a population of fifty. Shortly after the railroad was completed, the state penitentiary established a satellite camp just outside the town to produce charcoal for the state-run iron works at Rusk. The presence of the prison camp discouraged many potential settlers, and the town's population remained small until after 1900, when the charcoal camp was closed. During the 1910s, however, the town boomed; the First State Bank of Wells opened in 1913, and the following year the population reached 300. During the 1920s the community incorporated, and in 1936 Wells reported 475 residents and twenty businesses. The population continued to grow after World War II, rising to 761 by 1990. Over the same period, however, the number of businesses has gradually declined, falling from twenty-six in 1952 to seven in 1990. Farming, cattle ranching, and lumber are the principal industries. In 2000 the population was 769 with twenty-six businesses.