My mother's father's father, Stephen Avery Kells, was born 15 Jan 1844, the sixth child out of twelve. I'm not sure where he was born but probably in Cairo, Greene, New York where his parents lived. His parents were Henry Kells and Caroline Avery. At some point between 1848 and 1850 the family moved to Mukwonago, Waukesha, Wisconsin. Stephen would've been six or so at that time.
When the Civil War broke out Stephen enlisted in the Union Army on 19 Nov 1862. He enlisted as a Corporal and he mustered out as a Corporal on 8 Jul 1865 as a Corporal in Louisville, Kentucky. He fought in Co I, 31st Infantry Regiment Wisconsin. Although another reference says he enlisted as a private and was mustered out as a Corporal. His brother, Lucas,had enlisted earlier on 20 Aug 1862 in Co F, 28th Infantry Regiment Wisconsin. Stephen's Co was under General Sherman and he took part in the burning of Atlanta and Sherman's march to the sea. In his pension application, David Wilson, who fought with him at the time says, "Stephen A, Kells was a big healthy young fellow to all appearances and perfectly sound. He enlisted as a private and was made a corporal afterwards in the said company. (He) was disabled in the line of duty by exposure by lying on the ground nights taking a cold and rheumatism following...we crossed streams and through swamps on our march from Atlanta to Savanah, sleeping on the ground nights without sufficient protection from the inclemency of the weather and storms. I know this because we marched and crossed together. He was quite unwell this time most of the time. He kept up with us although he had a cold and complained much. Then again on the march from Savannah to Goldsboro NC and in South Carolina we crossed a stream wading up to our armpits in March 1865. When he took more cold which made him still worse. He had a bad and severe cough all the time. When I first knew him at our enlistment he was perfectly well. Sound and healthy." So his days in the army had lasting repercussions on his health.
After the War, Stephen went to Minnesota. He took advantage of the Homestead Act and in 1868 and 1870 obtained land in Melrose, Stearns County. In the 1870 Census his sister, Parmelia, and her son and his brother, Lyman, are living with him and his first wife. In the 1875 Minnesota State Census his sister, Phoebe, is living with him and his two children, apparently helping out after the death of his wife, Martha. The family was close, his brothers Lyman, Lucas and Robert all moved to Sauk Centre. His sister Phoebe married and stayed in the county. His oldest son, Henry Avery Kells, worked for his brother William in Delafield, Wisconsin. His brothers-in-law, Henry and Leonard Daniel both were witnesses for him in his pension application. His oldest brother, Jacob Henry Kells, moved to Goodhue County not far from Stearns.
Stephen married Martha Ruggles on 16 May 1870 at the age of 26. They had two children, Henry Avery and Bertha. She died on 24 Dec 1874 leaving him with the two children. He married Isabella Duncan, the local school teacher, on 27 Mar 1877. They had eight children. It must have been a struggle for him to run the farm with his ill health and support his family of 12! His wife died of cancer in Feb 1897 and he did not live much longer, succumbing on 4 Dec 1898.
It seems to me that he must've had a strong personality to have brought much of his family to be near him in Minnesota. He married two women and raised ten children. My grandfather didn't talk about him much but my mother said that he always emphasized the importance of being healthy and taking care of ones self that way. She feels he got this from his Dad. I don't know if my grandfather, Luke, even knew that he was on Sherman's march to the sea. When I discovered that and told my family my Uncles were very proud to be descended from him. And so should we be!