Crawford County, Iowa, IAGenWeb


Thomas W. Bell

For almost four decades the name of Bell has been an honored and prominent one in Crawford county and Thomas W. Bell, whose name introduces this record, fully sustains the reputation that has always been borne by his father.

He was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, September 5, 1862, a son of Samuel and Jennie (Allen) Bell, both of whom were natives of Scotland. The father was a cloth finisher, and in 1854, believing that America offered better opportunities for making a livelihood, he emigrated to the new world. He first located in Lawrence, Massachusetts, spending a number of years there and then located near Island Pond, Vermont. He there followed farming for a time but eventually decided to try the broader opportunities of the middle west and accordingly, in April, 1873, came to Crawford county, Iowa. At that time much of the land was still in its wild state and the homes of the settlers were widely scattered, there being but two houses between his home in East Boyer township and the village of Vail.

However, he began working diligently and persistently and as the years passed, success came to him so that at the time of his death, which occurred in May, 1892, he was the owner of five hundred and twenty acres of valuable land in Crawford county. He was one of a family of three sons and two daughters, but was the only member who came to the United States, one sister now living near Glasgow, Scotland, while his two brothers when quite young started for Australia and were never again heard from.

The mother of our subject, who was also born and reared in Scotland, gave her hand in marriage to Samuel Bell in Lawrence, Massachusetts. She, too, has departed this life, her death occurring in Crawford county in 1901, and both she and her husband lie buried in the Vail cemetery. Their family numbered three sons and three daughters, as follows: Mary, the wife of C. N. Baker, of Bridgeport, Washington; Lizzie, the wife of George Lyon, a resident of Denison; David, who follows farming in East Boyer township; Thomas W., of this review; Robert, a farmer of Lyman county, South Dakota; and Jennie, the wife of George Albert, of Nevada, Missouri.

Thomas W. Bell was a lad of eleven years when he accompanied his parents from New England to Crawford county. His education, which was begun in the country schools of his native state, was continued in the schools of Crawford county, and his training at farm labor was received under the direction of his father. He remained at home until he was twenty-seven years of age and then began farming on his own account in Hayes township, where he made his home until 1904. He next removed to Manilla, Crawford county, and was there proprietor of the hostelry known as the Bell House, for four years. He also was engaged in the draying business for one year and followed carpentering to some extent. After a time he returned to the home place and again engaged in farming, now owning two hundred acres in East Boyer township, this formerly constituting a part of the homestead property.

He likewise owns two hundred and forty-seven acres in Hayes township and forty-two acres lying inside the corporation limits of Denison. He has one hundred and sixty acres in Lyman county, South Dakota, so that his landed possessions are now quite extensive. Mr. Bell engaged in general farming and stock-raising and was formerly a breeder of Poland China hogs. His land is in a good state of cultivation, while the place is improved with modern and substantial buildings, and his property is considered as valuable as any to be found in Crawford county. In the spring of 1911 he removed to his place in Denison, where he is now living.

It was on the 26th of January, 1889, that Mr. Bell was united in marriage to Miss Addie Baker, who was born in Cedar county, Iowa, a daughter of William and Jane (Stone) Baker. The parents were born in Pennsylvania and are of Dutch extraction. The father was taken to Indiana when but two years of age and during his youth went to Ohio, but eventually came to Crawford county, where he engaged in farming throughout the remaining years of his active business career. Both he and his wife are still living and they now make their home in Manilla, this county.

Their family numbers six children: Henry, a resident of Scranton, Iowa; Addie, now Mrs. Bell; Libbie, who makes her home in Los Angeles, California; Clayton, a resident of Manilla, Iowa; Emma, who has departed this life; and Louise, the wife of Cass Wood, residing near Olin, Iowa.

The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Bell has been blessed with two sons and one daughter, all still at home; Myron; Clarence, who in June, 1911, was graduated from Denison College; and Queen, who is attending school in Denison.

Mr. Bell's study of the political issues and questions of the day has led him to give stalwart support to the republican party, yet he has never been active as an office seeker, for his time is fully occupied with his private business affairs. He holds membership in the Presbyterian church and is a Mason, while both he and his wife are members of the Order of the Eastern Star at Manilla. He has ever been alert for opportunities that will win advancement, and along this line he pursued his way until he occupied a foremost place among the substantial agriculturists of Crawford county.

Source: History of Crawford County, Iowa. Vol. II. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1911.