White Deer Land Museum

Bell Family Among Early County Settlers

On November 13, 1891, George Tyng wrote, “Another family … from Kentucky … has just located on Survey 208 Block B2. Look like people who will get along. Name, Bell.”

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

John Montgomery Bell, Sr., a successful planter near Reynoldsville, Kentucky , lost a great deal of his wealth when a business partner failed to pay off some debts. He took his family to Hillsboro, Texas, where a relative had purchased land for as little as three dollars an acre. After finding that the best land around Hillsboro was already taken, Bell came on a prospecting trip to the Panhandle.

At Clarendon, Bell met a trail rider who spoke in glowing terms of the Staked Plains and especially of Block B2. Bell returned to Hillsboro to bring his family to Gray County . Besides Mrs. Bell there were six children: John, Jr. Myrtle, Minnie, Suda, Ashby and Billy. (Feland was born later.)

The trip from Hillsboro was made in a carriage. At one stop an old man tried to persuade Bell not to take his family to that “wild country” — the Panhandle. As the Bells drove away to continue their journey, the children saw the old man wave and heard him say, “Fare thee well, little children, fare thee well.”

The Bell family arrived at Pampa in the fall of 1891 when the boarding house of White Deer Lands was under constructi6n. The first person Minnie Bell saw was Hallie Case, a little red-cheeked girl standing in front of the house.

The Bells felt fortunate to get even one room in which to live temporarily. Mrs. Bell and Minnie helped Emily Case with the cooking when extra help was needed. One of the boarders was George Tyng who was very particular about his coffee. The women rode the train to Canadian to get an earthenware pot to use for him. When they told Tyng that they wanted to make his coffee just right, he said, “I’ll tell you — just be generous with the coffee.”

The Bells spent the winter of 1891-92 in a small one-roomed house on Frazier Hill. The house was owned by the cattle company for which Billy worked. Mr. Bell worked for the railroad. He would cut across the prairie and the train crew would pick him up. This was before the post office was established at Pampa , and Mr. and Mrs. Bell took turns in delivering the mail which was put off at White Deer. They always saw that the mail went through unless the snow got too bad.

The Bells eventually settled in Block B2, south of present Kingsmill. Bell filed on a section of land and built a dugout in which the family lived until a small frame house was built. Through the years Bell bought more land until he owned 1600 acres.

Bell and A.J. Dauer were trustees for the first school in the Bell community. Built in 1895, the school was thought to be in Carson County . Nine years later, in 1906, it was learned that the school was actually in Gray County .

John Montgomery Bell, Sr. died in 1924. Mrs. Bell died in 1940. Minnie, who remembered the social life of a planter’s family, often thought of the jewels she had possessed and the beautiful gown she had worn to a governor’s ball in Kentucky . While working at the boarding house, she shed many tears when she thought of the servants her family had in previous years.

However, Minnie had some social life as well as hard work. Billy Carter would lead a horse with a side saddle and take her to dances at the N Bar N headquarters. When the Bell school opened in 1895, Minnie was the first teacher She was very glad to get the job and the money. Later Minnie married Russell.

John Bell, Jr. married Ava McConnell. Their children were Lela Mae (Mrs. D.W. Swain) and Julia Marie (Mrs. Glenn Dawkins).

Myrtle married Wylie Bowen Holland of White Deer.

Suda married Marvin Edgar Hodges of White Deer on August 7, 1911. They had one daughter, Hazel Cordelia. Many items from the estate of Suda Bell Hodges are in the White Deer Land Museum at Pampa .

William Robert (Billy or Willie) Bell was ten years old when his family came to the Panhandle. On the way from Hillsboro in 1891, they stopped at Claude. When Billy expressed a desire to see a cowboy, he was told to go to Booger Bill’s camp on McClellan draw 15 miles northeast.

Booger Bill was not at home, but Billy went on in as he had been told to do. He saw a fireplace and a pile of prairie wood (buffalo chips). He opened a can of tomatoes and ate them with some sourdough bread. Then he went to sleep unaware that he was lying over $1,700 buried in a can in the ground.

Later he learned that Booger Bill quit his job with the Matadors to go logging in the northwest and hired a man to go with him. In No-Man’s-Land (Oklahoma Panhandle), the man killed Booger Bill and took his money.

The morning after Billy slept over Booger Bill’s money, he decided to go to the main headquarters 15 miles away (probably N Bar N near White Deer). After going seven miles, he saw a bunch of antelopes that began to circle around him. Thinking that they were wolves, he began to run when he saw an opening.

Over 200 Articles, written by Eloise Lane, were published in the Pampa News. These articles may be accessed by clicking on each section below. A list of articles will be revealed that are linked to a page containing the text of the article.

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