Buena Vista County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Extracted from:  Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. 
 Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa
Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 494-96.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  James S. Bell

James S. Bell is now practically living retired in Storm Lake, deriving a gratifying annual income from his landed possessions.  While he has no business affairs that are making constant demands upon his lime and energies at the present, he is filling the office of supervisor and is also one of the officials in the church, so that he is by no means an idle man.  Mr. Bell is a native of Meigs county, Ohio, born in the year 1845, of the marriage of Thomas and Mary Jane (Burch) Bell.  The father was a native of Washington county, Pennsylvania, and of Scotch descent.  His father, William Bell, joined the colonial army from Pennsylvania and gave valiant aid to his country during the Revolutionary war.


Thomas Bell was reared to the occupation of farming and devoted his life to general agricultural pursuits and stock-raising.  When twelve years of age he removed with his parents to Ohio, the family home being established in Monroe county and for many years thereafter he was closely associated with farming interests in that state.  He was a good business man and very successful in his undertakings.  In 1857, hoping to benefit by the opportunities offered in this new but rapidly developing country, he removed to Scott county, Iowa, and soon afterward purchased land in Cedar county.  There he engaged in the tilling of the soil until 1880, when he retired to Wilton Junction, Muscatine county, where he lived for nineteen years.  He next purchased land in Cherokee county and in 1900 he established his home in Storm Lake, where he resided until his death, which occurred in January, 1905, when he was eighty-two years of age.  He belonged to the Methodist Episcopal church, was one of its officers and one of its most active and influential workers.  His political views were in accord with the principles of the whig party in early manhood but from the organization of the republican party he was one of its stalwart and inflexible advocates.  He lived an upright, active, useful and honorable life and all who knew him entertained for him warm regard.  His wife, who was born in Chautauqua county, New York, in 1828, and is of English descent, now lives at Storm Lake.  She, too, is a consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal church and her Christian faith has guided her in all her relations with her fellowmen.


Unto Mr. and Mrs. Bell were born eleven children, of whom James S. Bell was the eldest.  Farm life early became familiar to him in its various phases, for, from his youthful days, he assisted in the work of the fields, taking his place behind the plow at the time of early spring planting and continuing his work until after crops were harvested in the late autumn.  He attended the district schools and also the Davenport Commercial School.  He was but eight years of age when the family arrived in Iowa and upon different farms of the state he lived until 1893.  In 1882 he became a resident of Cherokee county and there he resided for eleven years, when he took up his abode in the city where he now resides.  His farm there comprised four hundred acres of land that was rich and productive and yielded golden harvests for the care and labor he bestowed upon it.  As opportunity has offered he has made various purchases from time to time and now owns land in Washington township, Buena Vista county, constituting a large and well improved farm.  He also has a half section in Elk township and farming land in both South Dakota and Minnesota.  In fact his holdings are very extensive and he is one of the most prosperous landowners of this part of the state.  His possessions have been largely acquired through his own labor, and his life record indicates what may be accomplished if one possesses perseverance and diligence.


In 1870 Mr. Bell was united in marriage to Miss Mary Jones, who was born in North Wales in 1850 and was brought to the United States in 1867 with two brothers, who located with her mother's brother in Scott county, Iowa.  Her father was keeper of a lighthouse in Wales and was killed in a storm.  Unto Mr. and Mrs. Bell were born five children:  Charles, deceased; Eva, the wife of E. C. Willcutt, a farmer of Buena Vista county, Iowa; Essie, who has departed this life; John C, who conducts a restaurant in Storm Lake; and "William H., who is a bookkeeper in the First National Bank at Villisca, Iowa. The parents are both members of the Methodist Episcopal church and in its work take an active and helpful interest.  Mr. Bell is now serving as superintendent of the Sunday school and is also a member of the board of stewards.  He does all in his power to promote the growth and extend the influence of the church and is in hearty sympathy with its purposes and its teachings.  His political endorsement is given to the republican party and in 1906 he was elected county supervisor.  His record is that of a man who has made good use of his opportunities and placing his capital in the safest of all investments—real estate—he is now one of the large and prosperous landowners of the county.