The site of Wells began as a place called Humboldt Wells along the trail to California. It was subsequently founded as a railroad town along the original Transcontinental Railroad, and was once a stopover for passenger trains. The Humboldt River has its source in springs and a swampy area just west of the city that today is called Humboldt Wells. In the late 19th century, Humboldt Wells was burning down, and in a frantic plea for help, a telegraph was sent that said, “Wells is burning”. After this the town was rebuilt and simply referred to as ‘Wells’.