Hillsborough County, Florida
History




ALEXANDER BELL

1827 - 1898



Alexander Bell, a son of Daniel and Mary (Cone) Bell, was born in Hamilton County, Florida, June 2, 1827. Daniel Bell settled in what is now Hamilton County about 1825 and his son Alexander is generally considered the first white child born there. Alexander's mother died when he was young and his father subsequently married Evalina Brickell.

Alexander grew up in well-to-do circumstances and "read law", but never became a lawyer. On August 8, 1849, he enrolled at Alligator (now Lake City) as a private in the militia company commanded by Captain Joseph J. Knight. He was discharged from service on October 27, 1849.

On August 17, 1853, in Hamilton County, Alexander Bell was married to Susan Amanda Stewart, daughter of Israel M. and Antionette Stewart. Susan was born in Florida on September 18, 1834. Alexander and Susan Amanda (Stewart) Bell had the following children:


1. James Stewart Bell, born August 25, 1854; died March 23, 1917; married Emily Lagow, July 25, 1879.

2. John Franklin Bell, born September 9, 1856; died April 2, 1921; married Eloise Hendry, June 16, 1878.

3. Daniel Bell, born c. 1859; died young.

4. Annie Ella Bell, born July 19, 1861; died December 18, 1929; married 1st, Timothy Gage, February 2, 1887; married 2nd, Frank Black.

5. Alice Evelyn Bell, born August 11, 1866; died January 22, 1940; married Wallace T. Harbin, June 24, 1895.

6. Matella Alma Bell, born July 26, 1870; died April 22, 1939; married John Bibb Meriwether.

7. Lillian Bell, born August 8, 1873; died September 28, 1955; married 1st, Jeter Lane, March 23, 1896; married 2nd, Robert Gorman, April 8, 1907.


(Family sources indicate that there were two other children: a son named Montgomery who died at age four and an unnamed infant son who died at four months. The son, Daniel, listed above may actually have been one of these two sons.)

During the Third Seminole War, Alexander Bell commanded Company No. 3 Infantry, Special Battalion Florida Volunteers, commanded by Col. M. Whit Smith. The company served from June 24th to September 30th, 1856. From the years 1859 until 1864 Alexander Bell was Sheriff of Hamilton County.

Alexander did not believe in slavery and opposed the Civil War. The Bells and Stewarts served in the Confederate army but Alexander could not bring himself to do so. He stayed at Cedar Key, on the West coast, during part of the war and while there contacted yellow fever and was the only survivor in a ward of twelve men.

Needless to say, following the war Alexander Bell was not popular among his kinsmen or the citizenry of Hamilton County because of the stand he had taken during the War. About 1867 Alexander and his family left north Florida and began their long journey which would eventually take to the southern part of Brevard County on the east coast.

In 1870 when the daughter Matella Alma was born, the family was living west of New Smyrna in Turnbull Hammock. In 1871 the Bell family arrived at Fort Pierce, in Brevard County. They first located near the old fort where Alexander operated a store with one Frank Smith. He later bought out Smith and ran the store until the debts on the books exceeded the stock, then closed it out. During the period that Bell operated the store he had a schooner which carried hides and green turtles to Jacksonville or Savannah and brought back supplies. On one occasion the Bells captured a manatee and sold it to P. T. Barnum. By 1878 the store was no longer in operation.

By the year 1878 the Bells had a homestead located south of Taylor Creek, just north of Fort Pierce. They also had about 160 acres of land in the Ten Mile Creek section southwest of Fort Pierce. On May 23, 1879, Alexander Bell was commissioned County Commissioner for Brevard County for a term of two years. In the 1880 Brevard census, Alexanderr is listed as a farmer, living with his wife and four daughters. Next door are the two married sons, James S. & John Franklin Bell.

The following deeds recorded in Brevard County involve Alexander Bell:

  1. State of Florida to Alexander Bell, February 9, 1878; 42 acres in Section 3, T35S, R40E, tax deed; Taylor Creek area.

  2. United States to Alexander Bell, August 13, 1883; Homestead Certificate 2953; 118.10 acres: Lots 2 and 3, Section 3, T35S, R40E; Taylor Creek area.

  3. Internal Improvement Fund of Florida to Alexander Bell, April 4, 1887; 160 acres: E 1/2 of NE 1/4 of SE 1/4, and SW 1/4 of NE 1/4 of Section 27, T35S, R39E; Ten Mile Creek area.



In 1885, Alexander Bell represented Brevard County in the Constitutional Convention in Tallahassee which drew up a new State Constitution. He was also one of the signers of the document.

The 1885 Brevard Census shows Alexander Bell engaged as a "fruit grower". In 1886, the Government opened a House of Refuge at Indian River Inlet on the Atlantic Ocean. The eldest son, James S. Bell, was first keeper. The Bells were always friends to the Indians and treated them with fairness. While James Bell was keeping the House of Refuge, a number of settlers came over the river in great excitement. Somebody had been killing the Indians' hogs and stealing their cattle and they were threatening to go on the warpath and kill all the whites unless they were paid for their loss. The people wanted Alexander, James and Frank Bell to meet with the Indians and try to make peace. They did get the Indians to hold their tempers but the Indians demanded $200, a large payment for that day and in that isolated locality, and they also set a time limit for its payment. But it was raised from various settlers along the river and peace was maintained. The Indians trusted Alexander Bell. Once a visiting photographer wanted to take a picture of a number of the braves but they were leery of that black box and the cloth under which the photographer hid his head and wouldn't pose until Mr. Bell stood up in the group with them. That was the only known photograph made of Alexander Bell---and he and his family did not get a copy.

On September 18, 1898, at his home on Taylor Creek, Alexander Bell died. He was buried in the Fort Pierce Cemetery. Incidentally, Mr. Bell had earlier donated the cemetery land to the community. A tombstone on Alexander Bell's grave indicates that he served in the Confederate Army from Florida. However, an inquiry to the National Archives has failed to show any Confederate military service. One source says that his widow received a State pension for Confederate service but the Florida Archives reports that no such pension file exists.

In the 1900 census Susan Bell, age 65, is shown residing in Brevard County next door to daughter Alice and son-in-law Wallace Harbin. On July 12, 1902, Susan Amanda (Stewart) Bell applied for a Federal pension based on her husband's service in the Seminole Wars. She stated that at the time Alexxander enlisted in Captain Knight's company in 1849, he was 5 feet, 7 inches tall, with black hair, black eyes and dark complexion. The pension application was approved and she received payments until her death. Mrs. Bell died June 12, 1913 and was buried in the Fort Pierce Cemetery.


SOURCES: Census-1850 & 1860 Hamilton County, Florida; 1880, 1885 & 1900 Brevard County, Florida; information & notes provided by Maxwell Walker; My Pioneer Days in Florida by Emily Lagow Bell, 1928; Pioneers of Wiregrass Georgia, Vols. 3, 5; Story of Florida by Cash; East Coast of Florida, Vol. 1; tombstone inscriptions Fort Pierce Cemetery; Brevard County deed records; Indian war pension file of Susan Bell; Brief History of Hamilton County, Florida by Cora Hinton, 1976. Compiled by Kyle S. VanLandingham and Maxwell Walker.


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