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Our History

Members of the Raleigh-Wake County Audubon Society and other friends and admirers formed the B.W. Wells Association shortly after Dr. Wells’s death in 1978.The association was incorporated in 1982 as a nonprofit organization. Its purpose, according to Wells’s biographer James B. Troyer, was “to assist the state in developing and maintaining the Wells farm as an area for the study of living organisms in their natural environments.”

The association membership numbered about one hundred people, but most of the activity fell to about a dozen stalwarts including John Lawrence, Ray Noggle, Ed Bradley, and Bill Ellis. Troyer noted that this smallc adre of individuals “restored and developed trails, landscaped the farmhouse area, removed a decrepit barn, established new plantings of native wildflowers and carried out maintenance work on the grounds and remaining buildings.”

As association members grew older, their activity diminished, and eventually the association seemed to slip into dormancy. It was fortunate that a young park ranger, Brian Bockhahn, was assigned to the B.W. Wells section of the Falls Lake State Recreation Area in 1997. He became very curious about Wells. His research led him to caretaker David Ray, who still lived on the property, Maude Wells, Benson Kirkman, and others, and he developed guided tours of Rockcliff Farm based on the information he had gathered. The tours increased in popularity, and more information about the Wellses and Rockcliff Farm was gathered as former friends, neighbors, and colleagues heard about and joined the tours.

In 2000, the Wake Forest Garden Club toured Rockcliff Farm and took on the project of revitalizing the association.Their efforts have borne fruit in that the association was brought back to life starting in about 2002 and has been building momentum during the ensuing years. Ranger Brian Bockhahn has been instrumental in this revitalization through his unflagging enthusiasm, hard work, and leadership.


The Association’s Accomplishments

  • Placement of Rockcliff Farm on the National Register of Historic Places
  • Heritage Day held annually on the last Saturday in March
  • Annual member meeting held on third Sunday in September
  • Increasing the educational program by scheduling guided tours throughout the year
  • Becoming an official Friends Group of the Falls Lake State Recreation Area
  • Completing major repairs of the buildings to preserve them
  • Continuing to maintain the grounds and hiking trails
  • Partnering with the North Carolina Botanical Garden to establish a wildflower management plan
  • Stabilizing association membership and then increasing new members in the B.W. Wells Association
  • Outreach to more people about Wells and his legacy through publication of The Natural Gardens of Rockcliff Farm (2009) and other promotional activities.


B.W. Wells Association

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