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Briant Harris Wells military certificates and other material

Identifier: MSS 6171

Scope and Contents

Collection contains letters, certificates, biographical sketches, and other material related to the life and career of Briant H. Wells. The certificates document his military service in the Spanish American War and the First World War. Also includes information about the Wells family and the donation of military papers to Brigham Young University. Materials date from 1894 to 1937, with additional materials from 1991.


  • 1991
  • 1894-1937


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from Briant H. Wells military certificates and papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical History

Briant Harris Wells (1871-1949) was an American military officer from Utah.

Briant Harris Wells was born on December 5, 1871 in Salt Lake City, to Daniel Hanmer Wells and Martha Givens Harris. His father was a military man and commanded the guard "Legion" of the Mormon migration in 1848. He continued to serve as the Lieutenant General once they arrived in Utah. Because of his father's career, it was no surprise when Briant Wells entered the United States Military Academy at West Point. It was not easy because his previous schooling was behind many of the other young men, but he worked extremely hard to make his way in West Point, and at the end of four years graduated in 1894. He was stationed in an infantry unit in Fort Omaha after, but returned to Salt Lake City in 1896 to "recruit" someone to join him in his earthly post. He married Mary Jane Jennings on December 30, 1896 in Salt Lake City. They would have three children together.

The year 1898 brought the start of the Spanish-American War. Lieutenant Wells went to Cuba and fought at San Juan Hill where he would later receive the silver star for his gallantry in action. He was promoted right away and also later received the purple heart for taking a bullet that would stay in him for 50 years. That same year he also served in the Philippines. After the Philippines he served in places such as Governors Island, Fort Douglas, Panama, and other places until 1916 when he was stationed at the Mexican border. When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917 he was called to the War Department General Staff. He trained troops in Virginia and then was sent to France in the American Section of the Supreme War Council. He served as the American Liaison Officer to the Supreme Commander, Marshal Foch. In 1918 he was sent to be among the troops to gain promotion as a brigadier general. While out in the field he also received the Distinguished Service Medal and was put on the "Initial General Staff Eligible List." After the war, he was put on the War Plans Division of the General Staff of the War Department, where in 1921 he would become the chief of his entire division. In 1923 he became Commandant of the great Infantry School at Fort Benning, the highest infantry proficiency recognition possible, where he served for three years. Later the new field house at the school would be named after him. He was recalled to the War Department again in 1926 and was promoted to major general in 1928. In 1930 he began his last assignment in Hawaii as the commander of the First Division. He retired there and became the Executive Vice-President and Secretary of the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association. He became the president of the first Honolulu Community Theatre in 1935 and remained so until his death. He was also a member of the Hawaiian Historical Society, the Social Science Club, the Oahu Country Club and the Pacific Club.

Wells died on June 10, 1949 in Long Beach California on his way to a class reunion at the age of 77. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on June 17, 1949.


3 oversize folders (0.5 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



This collection contains the military certificates of Major General Briant Harris Wells. Included are the certificates that span his military career from his first rank as second lieutenant in 1894 to major general in 1928. There are also certificates for awards he was given, including a Silver Star certificate for action in the Spanish American War, 1898; a Distinguished Service Medal certificate for service in World War I; and the "Ordre National de la Legion D'Honneur" from the French President in 1919. 15 certificates total, dating 1894-1937. Also includes other miscellaneous papers concerning biographical information about Wells and relatives up until 1991.

Custodial History

Donated by Thomas J. Wells in 1991.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; Thomas J. Wells; 1991.


Utah and American West and LDS cultural, social, and religious history (19th-20th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts collection development policy, 5.VII, 2007).

It contains the signatures of US Presidents and shows designs of military certificates. It also contains insights into the Wells family as a great military and LDS family.

Processing Information

Processed; Melissa Cowles, student processor and John Murphy, curator; 2008.

Register of Briant Harris Wells military certificates and other material
Melissa Cowles, student processor and John Murphy, curator
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States