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Biographies
Page 4


 

Daniel Bell
Black Smith Striker
circa   1804 -1877


Furnished by : John G. Sharp

Introduction:
      In 1848 Daniel Bell ( AKA Beall) a black freeman and former slave employed in the Anchor Shop of Washington Navy Yard played important role in helping to organize one the greatest and most daring attempts to free enslaved African Americans during the whole antebellum era . Daniel Bell was born circa 1804, in Prince Georges County, Maryland; his owner had rented him out to the Washington Navy Yard where he worked as a laborer in the Anchor Smith's shop. Bell had worked for twenty years as a blacksmith striker wielding a heavy hammer to fashion metal anchor chain, anchors and other nautical items. Daniel Bell married Mary (maiden name unrecorded) probably in a slave ceremony where the young couple would have promised to love, honor and remain till death or distance drove them apart. The couple had six children who became the property of Mary Bell's owners Robert and Susannah Armstead (also spelled Armistead). Robert Armstead was Master Ship Caulker at the Washington Navy Yard. Working at the ship yard Daniel Bell came to know Robert Armstead better and was able to persuade him on 14 September 1835 to manumit Mary and the couple's six children. Their manumission is an example of prospective freedom since the document states that Mary Bell was to be set free at Robert Armstead's death while the children would be set free when they reached specified ages as set forth in the manumission document; e.g. Andrew Bell then sixteen was to be set free at age forty while his sister Mary E. Bell then age 8 was to be set free at age 30, etc. Mary Bell was apparently allowed her provisional freedom prior to Robert Armstead's death as to work for wages. When Daniel Bell's owner heard of the couple's nominal good fortune he became angry and fearful that Daniel might now runway. Moving quickly Daniel's owner sold him to a salve trader who came to the anchor shop while Bell was at work, and without warning he was knocked down, manacled and carried to a slave pen on 7th Street.
After many trials and tribulations he was finally able to buy his freedom from his owner in 1847 for $ 1,630.00.

      Robert Armstead died in 1838 and on his death an inventory of his estate reflected his total assets as: $1, 299.25 but almost the entire amount enumerated was the market value of Mary Bell and her six children. Robert Armstead's widow, Susannah, moved to contest the Bell family manumission and in the District Court she stated that she and her own children secured their sole support from renting out the Bell children for wages. After lengthy court proceedings Susannah Armstead finally prevailed and received a judgment in her favor, the judgment set aside the manumission and gave her the legal authority to sell the Bell children. Daniel Bell perceiving Mrs Armstead would try to sell his children was desperate to do something to prevent the breakup of his family. Although we do not know all the details Daniel Bell sought help from agents of the underground railway to assist them in their flight north. Because these escape arrangements were made out of necessity in secret it is uncertain exactly who the leaders of this venture were. Scholars who have closely studied the Pearl escape such as: Josephine F. Pacheco author of The Pearl a Failed Slave Escape on the Potomac and Mary Ann Rick's author of Escape on the Pearl, the Heroic Bid for Freedom on the Underground Road, believe that the plot to gather a large group of enslaved African Americans on the Schooner Pearl and make a brake for freedom was the product of the cooperation of northern abolitionists supplying financing who worked closely with members of the black community in the District of Columbia. Both Pacheco and Ricks believe Daniel Bell was actively involved in the plot and both scholars acknowledge that Anthony Blow an enslaved worker also employed in the Washington Navy Yard Anchor Shop was most likely knowledgeable of the plot. Many other members of the black community including some employees at the Washington Navy Yard probably knew of the plan (Michael Shiner's Diary does not mention the Schooner Pearl given the size and number of African Americans on the Yard we can safely surmise that Michael Shiner knew both Daniel Bell and Anthony Blow but for obvious reasons did not record any mention of their acquaintance or the escape plan.)

      The result was that the Mary Bell and the Bell children were to attempt a dangerous and clandestine passage on the Schooner Pearl. On the evening of 15 April 1848, seventy-six enslaved African Americans (38 men, 26 women and 13 children) and three white crewmen attempted one of history's most audacious escapes. The Schooner Pearl was docked at the foot of 7th Street on the Anacostia River within the present grounds of the Washington Navy Yard but then a comparatively isolated area of open fields sheltered by steep earthen bank. After loading the fugitives, the Pearl got under way, slipped out of Washington, D.C., and sailed down the Potomac River. The night was calm, and only the current propelled the ship downstream. After traveling about half a mile, the Pearl met the incoming tide and anchored. Near dawn a breeze rose from the north, and the ship and her cargo once again proceeded toward freedom. At the mouth of the river, the ship encountered strong northerly winds that prevented it from sailing up the Chesapeake Bay, and again it anchored.

      About noon on next day, an armed pursuit party aboard the steamboat Salem left Washington in fast pursuit of the fugitives. Early in the morning of 17th, as the passengers and crew on board the Pearl slept, engine noise and footsteps on the deck awakened the expedition's leader, Daniel Drayton. As they had no weapons, Drayton advised the crew and passengers not to resist. The Pearl's crew and fugitives were now placed on the Salem under close guard and were returned to Washington. They where then paraded down Seventh Street not far from the Washington Navy Yard where Daniel Bell had worked while white mobs screamed "lynch them!" Eventually Mary Bell, the Bell children and the other fugitives and the ships crew were all placed in the city prison and the crew held on $ 76,000 per individual and the slave owners advised to reclaim their property. After the Pearl escapees were recaptured, most of the apprehended slaves were resold and transported to the Deep South.
See : Bruin's Slave Jail

      Fortunately for Daniel Bell (as a freeman) he was not aboard the Pearl and consequently was not incarcerated, although he was most likely interrogated as was his workmate Anthony Blow. Susannah Armstead and other slave owners reclaimed their property and made arrangements with slave traders to sell the fugitives. All the while Daniel Bell had to endure the horrible knowledge that his wife and children were now in jail or in the hands of slave dealers. Daniel Bell sought to purchase his family with the help of abolitionists and other sympathetic individuals, but he was only able to raise enough money to secure Mary and two of their younger children
(The U.S. Census for the District Of Columbia records that Daniel Bell's household consisted of Daniel Bell 46 a laborer, his wife Mary Bell age 48, Thomas Bell age 5. )

      Based on available records four of the Bell children were returned to bondage. Carolina and Eleanora Bell were finally freed in the 1862 District of Columbia Emancipation Act. Daniel Bell's son Daniel Bell junior was sold south to with other Pearl fugitives by the firm of Bruin and Hill slave dealers and eventually came to New Orleans where he is recorded on the 1880 census.

      The 1860 U.S. Census for the District of Columbia enumerates Daniel Bell age 58 and his wife Mary age 58 living in the 7th Ward with real estate valued at $ 1,500 and personal property worth 100.00. Daniel Bell's last years were probably spent searching for his children and the daily struggle to know there uncertain fate.

      At the time of his death in 1877 Daniel Bell was able to leave a modest estate to his wife Mary and their surviving children and grandchildren. Daniel Bell had taken a daring bid for freedom and his family had suffered greatly. His last will and testament is an eloquent and poignant reminder of slavery's toll in human misery, scattered families and crushed hopes that lingered well beyond the Emancipation Proclamation.

 

Bibliography
      First a special note my thanks and admiration to Josephine F. Pacheco author of The Pearl a Failed Slave Escape on the Potomac and Mary Ann Rick's author of Escape on the Pearl, the Heroic Bid for Freedom on the Underground Road for their superb histories. Each of these fascinating accounts is excellently researched, well written narrative of one of the greatest attempts to free enslaved African Americans. Both Josephine Pacheco and Mary Ann Ricks provide remarkable and insightful historical detail and each helped me greatly to appreciate and understand Daniel Bell, and his heroic attempt to rescue his family and help them escape a life of slavery.

Master Caulker Robert Armistead's name is listed on the Washington Navy Yard April 1829 Employee Listing
Washington Navy Yard 1829 Employees

Manumission of Mary Bell & Children District of Columbia Manumission and Emancipation Record 1821 -1862
District of Columbia Archives Vol. 2, pages 404-405 dated 14 September 1835
also See Dorothy Provine District of Colombia Free Negro Registers 1821 -1861
Volume 2 page 279 Registration Number 1312 Heritage Books Inc Bowie MD 1996.

Blessingame, John W. Slave Testimony Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches and Interviews
Louisiana State University Press Baton Rouge 1977

Bordewich, Furgus M. Bound for Canaan The Underground Railroad and the War for the soul of America
Amistad Publishers, New York 2006.

Drayton, Daniel Four Years and four Months A Prisoner for Charity Sake in the Washington Jail Including a Narrative of the Voyage and Capture of the Schooner Peal
American and Foreign anti- Slavery Society, New York 1853.

Daniel Drayton, Captain of the Schooner Pearl wrote this important narrative of the voyage capture of the fugitives and his long imprisonment in the Washington Jail which is available on line at Google Books.

Green, Constance Mc Laughlin. Washington Village and Capital.
Vol.1: 1800-1878. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962-63.

Green, Constance Mc Laughlin. The Secret City: A History of Race Relations in the Nation's Capital. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967.

Pacheco, Josephine F. The Pearl a Failed Slave Escape on the Potomac.
Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

Ricks, Mary Ann. Escape on the Pearl, the Heroic Bid for Freedom on the Underground Road.
New York, Harper Collins, 2007

Daniel Bell junior and may of the other Pearl fugitives were sold to Joseph Bruin of the firm Bruin and Hill ran a highly lucrative slave dealing operation from a federal style building located at 1707 Duke St., in Alexandria, Virginia.     http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/underground/va1.htm
The Building is currently used as business offices, and is not open to the public. Duke Street also houses the building used by most notorious of slave dealers Armfeild and Nichloson as a slave jail see for photo of this important building.
Reward Notices for Runaway Apprentices and Runaway Slaves

 

Transcription
      This transcription was made from a copy of the holographic manuscript of the Last Will and Testament of Daniel Bell, 1877 Box 63, filed in the District of Columbia Orphan's Court (Probate Court). The spelling, capitalization, punctuation e.g. dash instead of periods and use of ampersands are those of the original document. The last page (signature page) of Daniel Bell's will is missing. My thanks once again to Mr. Ali Rahmann Archivist, District of Columbia Archives, for generously providing a copy of the Daniel Bell's last will and testament for this transcription
John G. Sharp                   November 11, 2008

 

[ Last Will & Testament of of Daniel Bell ]
In the name of God, Amen - I Daniel Bell of the City of Washington in the District of Columbia being of sound and disposing mind, memory and understanding, but weak and failing in body and health and having in view the certainty of death and the uncertainty of the time thereof, and being desirous to arrange, settle and dispose of my worldly affairs, estate and property, do make publish and declare this is my last will and testament, hereby revoking and annulling all other and former wills and testaments by one heretofore made, and first commending my soul to God and my to my friends and relations for decent burial, I do give, devise and bequeath as follows, that is to say:
After the payment, out of my personal estate, of my just debts, funeral expenses and the expenses of the settlement of my estate I do give bequeath to my well beloved and devoted wife Mary Bell, in the event she shall survive me, all my estate and property real personal and mixed of which I may die sized or possessed, where so ever the same may lie or be situated; to be used, controlled, managed and enjoyed by her for and during her natural life -
Secondly: I desire and direct that, in the event my said wife Mary Bell does not survive m. or if she does that at her decease and the termination of the life estate therein hereby created in her favor, all my real estate as also all such of my personal property, personal or mixed as may in either case remain and be existing undisposed of shall be sold by the executors of this my last will and testament upon what may in his judgment be the most advantageous terms as to price, time and manner of payment so as to have said property produce in the shortest period of time the largest possible amount of money, and I give and bequeath of the proceeds that shall be realized from such sale an equal one fifth part thereof to my daughter Caroline; an equal one fifth part to my son Daniel; and equal one fifth part to my daughter Mary Allen; an equal one fifth part to my grandchildren the sons and daughters of my deceased daughter Harriet share and share alike and the remaining equal one fifth part to my granddaughter Caroline Bell the daughter of my now deceased daughter Norah to his, her and their several use and benefit absolute and forever-
      But in the event either of my said daughters Caroline and Mary Allen or my said son Daniel shall not be living when the time for making such sale shall arrive but shall have left child or children of such deceased son or daughter the equal one fifth part of the said proceeds that would by virtue hereof go his, her or their father or mother were such father or mother alive to receive the same, share and share alike, if their be more then one such child, his, her or their use and benefit absolutes and forever-
      And I desire and direct, that at the time the proceeds of the sale of my said property shall be ready for distribution any one of my grandchildren entitled to a proportional share thereof under the provisions of this will, whether it shall be the said granddaughter Caroline Bell or the children of my deceased daughter Harriet or the surviving child or children of my said daughters Caroline and Mary Allen or of my only said son Daniel, shall be a minor or unmarried that the portion of such proceeds to which such child or children will be entitled under the provisions of this will shall be invested under the direction of the Probate Court of the District of Columbia for his or her sole and exclusive use and benefit until he or she arrive at the age of maturity or shall marry whereupon the same shall be immediately paid over and delivered to him or her as the case may be.

      But whereas I have not for three years last past had or received any knowledge or information in regards to the whereabouts or life or death of my hereinbefore married daughter Mary Allen the bequest herein made for her or to her surviving children is made upon the condition precedent that she or her surviving children present herself or themselves to receive the same within two years next after my death, if my said wife shall survive me or within two years after the death of my said wife if she shall survive me-
And I do make, constitute and appoint my friend Peter Bacon of the said City of Washington to be my executor of this my last will and testament hereby requesting that he not be required to give bond -

[Here the manuscript breaks off as the last page is missing]

 

DISTRICT of COLUMBIA  }       SUPREME COURT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA 
	              }to wit              HOLDING A SPECIAL TERM 
County of Washington  } 
							July 31st 1877

This day appeared                 John N. Oliver 
one of the subscribing witnesses to the foregoing last will and testament of
 Daniel Bell late of Washington County aforesaid deceased and made oath on the Holy 
Evangels of Almighty God, that he did see the Testator therein named, sign and seal this 
will; that he published, pronounced and declared the same to be his last will and 
testament; that at the time of so doing he was to the best of his apprehension, of sound 
and disposing mind, memory, and understanding , and capable of executing a valid deed 
or contract, and that his name as witness tot he aforesaid will, was signed in the presence 
and at the request of the Testator and in the presence of Luther H. Pike and R.E. 
Hamilton, the other subscribing witnesses. 

			TEST:  M.E. Eastin
				Register of Wills  


DISTRICT of COLUMBIA   }       SUPREME COURT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA 
		       }to wit              HOLDING A SPECIAL TERM 
County of Washington   } 
						August 1st 1877

This day appeared                 Luther H. Pike 
one of the subscribing witnesses to the foregoing last will and testament of
 Daniel Bell late of Washington County aforesaid deceased and made oath on the Holy 
Evangels of Almighty God, that he did see the Testator therein named, sign and seal this 
will; that he published, pronounced and declared the same to be his last will and 
testament; that at the time of so doing he was to the best of his apprehension, of sound 
and disposing mind, memory, and understanding , and capable of executing a valid deed 
or contract, and that his name as witness tot he aforesaid will, was signed in the presence 
and at the request of the Testator and in the presence of John N. Oliver and R.E. 
Hamilton, the other subscribing witnesses.

			TEST:  M.E. Eastin 
				Register of Wills  

 

 


Enoch George Bell
1815 - 1878

Furnished by : John G. Sharp

Enoch George Bell (1815 - 1878) a son of George and Sophia Bell was born a slave on the plantation of Rachel Pratt. In essence George Bell in order to free his children had to buy each of them from the Pratt family. The law then required George Bell if he chose to manumit his children, in each instance, he had to go before a District of Columbia Magistrate and demonstrated his legal ownership of the child, he would then be allowed to manumit or free them from servitude for the nominal sum of one dollar as in the above instance.
See my Biography of George Bell for the details as to how George Bell and Sophia Browning Bell were able to manumit all their children and grandchildren.

1835 - Manumission
                                         

 

1840 US Census of the District of Columbia US Census enumerates Enoch Bell head of household "free colored" and lists 6 others in the household Ann E. and five children.

1850 US Census for New Bedford, Massachusetts 3rd Ward. Enoch Bell is enumerated as 34 years of age. He is living in boarding house and working as waiter no family is listed on this census.

1863-1865 US Civil War. Enoch Bell listed as: Private, 112th Regiment U.S. Colored Infantry. NARA

1867, Records of the Freedmen's Bank Washington DC

Below is an image from the National Archives and Records Administration, of the Freedman's Bank record, of 1867, for depositor Enoch G. Bell. The account was opened when Bell was residing in Washington DC. The Freedman's Savings and Trust Company, popularly known as the Freedman's Bank, was incorporated by Congress on March 3, 1865, and the bank maintained some 37 offices in 17 states, including the one in the District of Columbia that Enoch Bell opened his account at.

Because of mismanagement, abuse, fraud, and other economic factors, the Freedman's Bank failed in 1874, leaving tens of thousands of its depositors in economic ruin. The original records of Freedman's Bank are housed at the National Archive facility in College Park, MD, and are available on microfilm at College Park and the National Archives Building downtown.

While the failure of the Freedman's Bank was tragic and left many African Americans with feelings of distrust of the American banking system, the records created by the bank are a rich source of documentation for black family research for the period immediately following the American Civil War. It is unclear how much, if any money, Enoch Bell lost in the Banks failure.

What make these records so important are the thousands of signature cards that contain personal data about the individual depositors. In addition to the names and ages of depositors, the files can contain their places of birth, residence, and occupations; names of parents, spouses, and children, here, Enoch Bell lists two of his children: Lewis A and Anna P., there also in some records listing names of former slave owners though Enoch Bell had been free since 1835. These records however, are not indexed; thus making research in them time consuming and frustrating, however they are now on Ancestry.com The following is a transcript of the original Freedman' Bank record.

Account opened April 4, 1867

Name Enoch G. Bell       No, 711
Height and Completion: 5ft 3 Yellow
Name of Children: Lewis A. Anna P.
Place of Birth: Washington DC
Residence: Washington DC 337 15th Street SE
Occupation: Laborer

Remarks: $ 200

Signature: Enoch G. Bell [signed] 


1860 US Census for New Bedford, Massachusetts 3rd Ward enumerates Enoch Bell as 46 years old a Occupation Rope Maker with real property worth $2,000.00 and personal estate worth $100.00 His wife Ann E. Bell is age 41, son Lewis A. Bell is 19 years of age, daughters Catherine P. is 14 while Ann is age 7. Ann was born in Mass.

The 1870 US Census for the District of Columbia 4th Ward, enumerates: Enoch Bell as 58 years of age with real property worth $ 5, 000.00 and personal estate worth $2,000.00, occupation laborer; his wife, Ann E., Age 57; Lewis Bell, age 28 occupation clerk; Sebastine Bell female age 23; Hamilton Bell age nine months; Annie P. Bell, age 19 teacher and Albert Crouch age five.

At his death in 1878, Enoch Bell, left considerable other property to his family See Dorothy S. Provine,
District of Columbia Free Negro Registers Volume 1 page 266

Death 1878 Last Will and Testament of Bell Enoch G., Box 65

George Bell
1762 -1844

Furnished by : John G. Sharp

one of the founders of
"The Bell School",
the first school for African Americans in the District of Columbia.

 

Introduction:
     
George Bell (1762 -1844)1 as born enslaved in Virginia; his owner was Anthony Addison a wealthy planter. George Bell married Sophia Browning (1770-1853), a slave of Rachel Pratt who was the mother of the Governor of Maryland, Thomas George Pratt (1804-1869). Very little is know of George Bell's early life or childhood, but he was probably born on the Anthony Addison plantation, not very far from the District of Columbia. We do not know when Bell met Sophia Browning but possibly the two met at a local market or on a visit to one of the nearby plantations. They most likely married, in a slave ceremony, and together the couple had at least seven children2 who reached maturity. George and Sophia also may have met African American mathematician and astronomer Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) when Benneker was with a survey party near their cabin and was measuring the boundaries of the nation's new capitol.

      George Bell received training as a carpenter, perhaps while growing up on Anthony Addison's estate. It appears that Addison later allowed Bell to work some time on his own as carpenter.3 George Bell continued to work as a carpenter for much of his life. It is unclear where his workshop was located, although most trade's people worked near their homes.4

      George's wife, Sophia Browning Bell, grew up as slave to Rachel Pratt, and she may have lived on the neighboring plantation for much of her life. Sophia kept a small garden where apparently, with the consent of her owner, she was able to grow produce for her family and more importantly she was able to sell any extra vegetables in the local markets of Alexandria and the District of Columbia. After a time she was able to gather enough money to purchase her husband George's freedom from the Addison's for $400.00. George Bell was later was able to buy Sophia's freedom for $5.00. Sophia Bell's low price, was said to have been based on Sophia being very ill at the time, and Rachel Pratt becoming convinced that Sophia was near death; thus Mrs. Pratt was amenable to grant Sophia her freedom for the nominal sum. Gradually the couple was able to buy freedom for their children,5 with the exception of their daughter, Harriet who like her mother was a slave to Rachel Pratt. Mrs.Pratt would not countenance a sale but finally manumitted Harriet in her will some years later.

      George and Sophia Bell were quickly recognized as leaders in the early African American community of the District. The Bells, like many Black families, were attracted to the Methodist Church and worshiped early on at the Ebenezer Methodist church, on Capitol Hill. The first Methodists were critical of slavery, and as Methodists they held with their founder John Wesley, that there was an essential equality of all believers before God. Over time, however, most white congregants retreated from their earlier egalitarianism and most African Americans resented being confined to the galleries of the church, as they found that the church itself no longer welcoming. It's worth emphasizing that this church segregation process was not unique to Washington, D.C. or to the Methodist Church. Indeed, similar processes were going on throughout most denominations and in most American cities. In the 1820's, George and Sophia Bell along with other Black parishioners, decided the time was right for them to move to another church of their own. As a result, they helped found the Israel Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

In addition to their striving for equality within the church, the Bells were much concerned with education. In 1807, George Bell, Nicholas Franklin and Moses Liverpool announced they were starting a school for Black children. The school which became known as "the Bell school," was the first in the District of Columbia open to free Black children. Bell, Franklin, and Liverpool were most likely illiterate,6 yet each knew from their own personal experience how important education was to attaining equality and economic prosperity. George and Sophia Bell are said to have been the school's principal financial supporters. At the time, Nicholas Franklin and Moses Liverpool7 worked as ship caulkers at the Washington Navy Yard. The school was led by a white teacher, Mr. Lowe.

      The Bell School survived for just a few years due to lack of steady funding and the fact that in 1807, the District of Columbia's "free colored" population consisted of only 494 individuals. Thus the small student base probably doomed their venture from the start. Still the Bell family and Sophia Bell's remarkable sister, Alethea Browning Tanner, combined with other daring members of the community and made another try in 1818 with the Resolute Beneficial Society School.8

In their announcement for the new school, the sponsors made considerable efforts to placate white fears of the Black population learning to read and write. The sponsors also made clear their policy of never assisting slaves to write any type of communication less they be implicated in assisting slaves to evade capture by forging travel passes and like documents. The Resolute Beneficial Society School eventually succumbed to the shear realities of a segregated society. The District's Black population never gave up and their support efforts along with sympathetic white support, continued to open private schools for black children.

      By 1840 George and Sophia Bell were most likely semi-retired. They are both enumerated on the 1840 Census for the District of Columbia9 as "Free colored Persons". George Bell is listed as over 55 (he was then about 78 years of age). Sophia is also listed as over 55 years of age (she was about 70 years of age). With the couple are two others: one male under ten and one female age 10-24 years; most likely their grandchildren. Living near them is their son, Enoch Bell, and his family.

      As reflected in his will, George Bell, was able to accumulate property and had some saving to pass on to his wife and children. By the time of his death in 1844, George Bell, could look back on a life filled with achievements and hard work. He and his beloved wife Sophia had managed to obtain, by their long labors and perseverance, and in spite of all obstacles, not only their own freedom, but they had also purchased the manumission of their children and grandchildren. George and Sophia Bell had also in their long and productive lives helped the larger community by sponsoring the first two schools for Black children in the District of Columbia and by their financial support had made it possible for many hundreds of young people to gain access to education. Finally, George and Sophia Bell had contributed and promoted the new African American Methodist Episcopal Church as a place of refuge and dignity for their community. Their impressive legacy was truly "a goodly heritage."

All these were honored in their generations,
and were the Glory of their times."                 
Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 44: 1 - 15
National Intelligencer
August 29, 1818
 
A School
Founded by an association of free people of color called the "Resolute Beneficial Society" situated near Eastern Public School and dwelling of Mrs. Fenwick is now open for the reception of free people of color and others that ladies or gentlemen may think proper to be instructed in reading, writing, arithmetic, English grammar or other branches of education apposite to their capacity, by a steady active and experienced teacher, whose attention is wholly devoted to the purpose described.
It is perceived that free colored families will embrace the advantages there presented to them, either by subscribing to the funds of the society or by sending their children to the school.

An improvement of the intellect and morality of colored youth being the objective of this institution; the patronage of benevolent ladies and gentlemen by donation or subscription is humbly solicited in aid of the fund thereon being heavy and the means at present much too limited for the satisfaction of the public the constitution and the articles of the association are printed and published. And to avoid disagreeable occurrences no writing are to be done by a teacher for a slave, neither directly nor indirectly to serve the purpose of slave on any account whatsoever. Further particulars may be known by applying to any of the undersigned officers.

WILLIAM COSTIN, President 		          ARCHIBALD JOHNSON, Marshall 
GEORGE HICKS,10  Vice President 	           FRED LEWIS,11  Chairman of the Committee
JAMES HARRIS, Secretary          	          ISAAC JOHNSON } Committee
GEORGE BELL, Treasurer	        	          SCIPIO BEANS12 } Committee 

N.B. An Evening school will commence on the premises the first Monday in October and throughout the season.

The managers of the Sunday Schools in the eastern district are thus most dutifully informed that a Sabbath day the school-house belonging to the society will be uniformly at their service.

August 29th

 

Transcription
      This transcription was made from a copy of the holographic manuscript of the Last Will and Testament of George Bell, 1845 Box 17, filed in the District of Columbia Orphan's Court (Probate Court). and the original article that appeared in the August 29, 1818 edition of the National Intelligencer The spelling, punctuation and the use of ampersands are those of the original documents. My thanks to Mr. Ali Rahmann Archivist, District of Columbia Archives, for generously providing a copy of the George Bell last will and testament for transcription
John G. Sharp                  July 27, 2008

 

 
[Last Will & Testament of George Bell (abt. 1762-1844)]
In the name of God Amen
      I George Bell of the City of Washington in the District of Columbia being weak of body but of Sound and disposing mind memory and understanding Considering the certainty of death and the uncertainty of the time thereof and being desirous to settle my worldly affairs and thereby be better prepared to leave this world when it shall please God to take me hence Do therefore make and publish this my last will and testament in Manner and form following / First and principally commit my soul into the hands of Almighty God and my body to the Earth to be decently buried Item I give and bequeath to my wife Sophia during her natural life my frame house and lot situated on square numbered Seven hundred and ninety nine ( 799) lot eighteen ( 18) in the City of Washington and after her death I give and bequeath said house and lot to my daughter Margaret Lee    Item I give and bequeath to my my daughter Harriet and her children the house in which I now live and thirty three front feet of the lot on which the house stands running back that middle the full depth of the lot it being the south part of lot ten ( 10) in the square eight hundred and forty five ( 845) and fronting on sixth street East    Item I give and bequeath to my son Enoch the North part of said lot ten in Square eight hundred and forty five ( 845) fronting thirty one feet three inches on Sixth Street East    Item    I give and bequeath to my daughter Betsey Simms wife of Basil Sims and her children half of the lot three and improvements thereon in Square Seven Hundred and thirty four( 734) Item I give and bequeath to my son Lloyd his choice of the two houses on Square number seven hundred and ninety seven with the ground attached to the same the other house and ground attached to the same to be sold after my death by executors hereinafter named and the proceeds after paying the cost and expenses of sale to be appropriated to the payment of my debts funeral expenses and the legacies hereinafter mentioned and should there be a balance remaining in the hand of executors the balance to be paid over to my wife Sophia Item I give and bequeath a legacy of five dollars each to the following named Grand Children Mary Jane    Mary James and Marcellinus Children of my Son James Bell deceased which legacy shall be paid to them respectively at my death by my executors Item my personal property I give and bequeath to my wife Sophia and Lastly I do hereby constitute and appoint Basil Simms13 and Frances Datcher14 to be the executors of this my last will and testament hereby ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last will and testament revoking all others by me heretofore made and confirming this

In testimony Whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this twenty ninth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty four
Witnesses as to George Bell15

James Marshall 					      his 
J. Carberry16  					George X  Bell  {SEAL}
James A. Gordon 				      mark 
Signed sealed and delivered and declared by George Bell the above testator as and for his last will and testament in the presence of us who at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other have subscribed our names as Witnesses thereto
							James Marshall   
							J. Carberry
							James A. Gordon 
District of Columbia Orphans Court Washington County to wit : } January 21, 1845 this day appeared James Marshall & James Carberry the subscribing witnesses to the forgoing last will & testament of George Bell late of Washington County aforesaid deceased - & Severally made oath on the Holy evangels of almighty God that they did see the Testator therein named Sign & Seal his will ( by making his mark thereto) that he published pronounced & declared the said will to be his last will & testament that in so doing he was to their apprehensions of sound & disposing mind memory & understanding that they together with James A. Gordon the other subscriber witnessed respectively subscribing their names as witnesses to this will in the presence & at the request of the Testator & in the presence of each other-
						Ed N. Roach 
      I have examined the Will of George Bell. It is clearly good description of real Estate and description of several pieces of property in respective courses appears to me quite sufficient

      If Lloyd Bell has by any art or declaration made his choice under the desire to him, the authority of the Executors to sell the other cannot be questioned -

      Having sold they must apply the proceeds of sale first ot payment of his funeral expenses; the residue they must retain until the period has elapsed where there are to make a distribution. They must then pay his debts, and the legacies left in his will, and the balance they must pay over to his widow.

      All the personal estate having been left by the will to the widow, will carry with it bills, debts, notes and everything else -

      After having paid the debts and legacies they should take from the widow a release and that will enable them to close their account -

      They are entitled to commission on the sales of the real estate, and on the full amount of the personal both property and notes and for this purpose they should be able to satisfy the Court on the sum total.

				Jos Bradley 
					21 Oct 1845

 

 

 

National Intelligencer & Washington Advertiser

Washington D.C.

June 19, 1809


EIGHTY DOLLARS REWARD

 

RANAWAY from the subscriber on the 5th inst. a mullato lad - JIM - who is about seventeen years of age, he has straight black hair, lately cut , and black eyes He had on when he absconded from me, a short blue Jersey jacket and blue pantaloons patched with white, a large pair of laced shoes, and old hat, osaburg shirt, withhold handkerchief round his neck – he has a father living in in the city of Washington , near the Navy Yard , by the name of George, or George Beall, who served his time with Mr. John Addison, Jr. and a mother by the name of Sophy , who I sold to her husband a few years past, and expect he will make to them or probably to Baltimore as has some friends and relations there also. I will give forty dollars for securing said lad in jail so that I can get him again, or the above reward if taken out of the District of Columbia or the State of Maryland.

 

RACHEL PRATT. Prince George’s County. June 18th , 1809

June 19 -

Notes: James, “Jim” Bell or Beall, the son of George Bell 1762 -1844) and Sophia Browning Bell 1770 -1853. James Bell’s freedom was eventually purchased with the help of his Aunt Alethia "Lethe" Browning Tanner circa 1785 – 1864. The exact date of James Bell’s death is unknown. He is mentioned as deceased in George Bell’s will dated 1844.

For biographies of


Sophia Browning Bell http://www.genealogytrails.com/washdc/biographies/bio4.html#Sophia_Browning_Bell


George Bell http://www.genealogytrails.com/washdc/biographies/bio4.html#George_Bell


Alethia "Lethe" Browning Tanner http://www.genealogytrails.com/washdc/bio_tanner_a.html

Rachel Pratt was a large landowner and had an estate near Patuxent River, Maryland Rachel Pratt was the mother of a Governor of Maryland, Thomas George Pratt (1804-1869).


See also : Biography and Last Will & Testament of Sophia Browning Bell

 
Endnotes

1 Much of the above information regarding George Bell, Sophia Browning Bell and their remarkable family is derived from District of Columbia, Department of Education, Special Report of the Commissioner of Education on the Condition of Public Schools in the District of Columbia, submitted to the Senate, June 6, 1868, and to the House, with Additions June 13, 1870. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1870,
See pages 195 - 198. The Special Report published in 1870 is notable for its candor and that individuals who knew the Bell and Browning families apparently provided much of the information used in this report. The last wills and testaments of both George Bell and Sophia Browning Bell are also useful as they contain valuable insights into the Bell family's economic situation and are also useful l to establish the number and names of their surviving children and grandchildren. Their wills were filed in the District of Columbia Orphans Court (Probate Court) see Bell, George1845 Box 17, and Bell, Sophia 1853 box 22.

2 The surviving children are: Lloyd, Rachel Ann, Enoch, Margaret, Harriet Betsey and James. James Bell apparently died young and his parents George and Sophia took a special interest in his children. The names of the children are derived from the last wills and testaments of George and Sophia Bell and the District of Columbia Free Negro Registers 1821 -1861 volumes 1 & 2 by Dorothy S. Provine, Heritage Books, Bowie, Maryland 1996. See in particular Volume 1 page 204 and Volume 2, pages 65-66

3 See the Diary of Michael Shiner
for further information on how African Americans were able to earn their freedom "working out" in the District of Columbia during the years prior to the Civil War.

4 George Bell is sometimes referred to with Nicholas Franklin and Moses Liverpool as working for the Navy Yard as a caulker, yet there is no documentation to support this, it is unlikely that he ever worked at the Yard as a carpenter since blacks were confined, almost exclusively, to the caulking and blacksmithing trades. Bell though may well have worked as caulker at the Yard, since all labors and mechanics at WNY were per diem labor. Here and at Ebenezer Methodist Church he may have come into contact with Nicolas Franklin and Moses Liverpool.

George Bell is listed as "(col'd man) carpenter, 6e btw D and Es" in The Washington Directory 1822 by Judah Delano publisher William Duncan, Company Washington DC.

5 Two of the Bell son's ran away from their owner Rachel Pratt, yet George and Sophia Bell, were somehow able to purchase their son "running" that is to buy the young men free prior to their capture by the sheriff or slave catcher from the Pratt family. The National Intelligencer for June 19, 1809 contains the reward notice for James Bell (also Jim Beall)

"Ranaway -Jim, mulatto lad; his father lives in Washington City near the Navy Yard by the name of George Beall, who served his time with Mr. John Addison jr & a Mother , Sophy, who I sold to her husband a few years past they have relatives in Baltimore.

Rachel Pratt, Prince Georges County Maryland"

6 For more on Nicholas Franklin and Moses Liverpool were both ship caulkers, working a hard and demanding trade at the Washington Navy Yard but paid the same rate as their white counterparts $1,75 per day see
1808 Reduction in Force - Washington Navy Yard

7 Moses Liverpool a caulker was active in the Black community and was one of the sponsors of the Bell School. An Apprentice Indenture of Moses Liverpool's apprentice Thomas Dunlop is at:
Apprentice Indenture of Thomas Dunlop

8 The National Intelligencer article, of August 29 1818, regarding the Resolute Beneficial Society School, reflects that some white families within the District of Columbia looked favorably on the school. This period of good will lasted to the Nat Turner rebellion after which restrictions on the movement of the District's Black population grew ever more restrictive.

9 The 1840 U.S. Census for the District of Columbia page 130.

10 George Hicks owned four lots in the District of Columbia and paid taxes on each. Free Negroes In the District of Columbia 1790-1846, by Letitia Woods Brown , Oxford University Press, New York 1972 p.153. George Hicks was also active in the Methodist Church and helped other Black pay for their manumission see Woods p. 117.

11 This is probably Frederick Lewis, listed in the 1822 Washington Directory as "Lewis, Frederick, (col'd man) ass't messenger navy dept."

12 Scipio Beans is listed in the 1822 Washington Directory as "Beans, Scipio, (col'd man) carpenter , s side As btw 1 and 2e Cap Hill"
Frances Datcher, is listed in the 1822 Washington Directory as "Datcher, Francis, ( col'd man) messenger, In btw 15 & 16 w" Francis Datcher owned four lots in the District of Columbia and paid property substantial taxes. See, Free Negroes In the District of Columbia 1790-1846, by Letitia Woods Brown , Oxford University Press, New York 1972 p.152 .

13 Basil Simms operated a rope walk on First Street near Pennsylvania Ave. George Bell most likely knew Basil Simms through their attendance at the Ebenezer Methodist see Special Report 1870 page 219.

14 George Hicks left the Ebenezer Church the same time as George and Sophia Bell Special Report 1870 page 219.

15 The exact date of George Bell's death is unclear but his death must have been sometime after his will was signed on 29 October 1844 and before the beginning of will probate proceedings on 21 January 1845.

16 James Carberry, Inspector of Timber, Washington Navy Yard was the brother of Thomas Carberry (1791-1863), Mayor of Washington DC 1822-1824. In 1844 Thomas Carberry was made Justice of the Peace for Washington County.

 


Sophia Browning Bell
circa   1770 -1853
Furnished by : John G. Sharp

Sophia Browning Bell

 

      Sophia Browning Bell (circa 1770-1853), was born enslaved on the plantation of Rachel Pratt, a wealthy and powerful Maryland landowner who was the mother of a future Governor of Maryland, Thomas George Pratt (1804-1869). Information on Sophia Browning's parents or her early life and childhood, is meager as documentary records for this period especially for enslaved individuals is rare but Sophia and her two remarkable sisters, Laurena Browning Cook (dates unk) and Alethia Browning Tanner (circa 1785-1864) all grew up to be hard working intelligent women. About 1790, Sophia Browning married George Bell, ( 1762 -1844) again no documentation survives as to when she met Bell but possibly the two young people came together at a local market or on a visit to one of the nearby plantations. George Bell too was enslaved he lived on the nearby plantation of Anthony Addison. The couple most likely married, in an unrecorded slave ceremony, where they would have promised to love and care fore each other until death or distance drove them apart. Together the couple went on to have at least seven children who reached maturity.

      Sophia and George Bell lived in small cabin near the Pratt family plantation where they may have met African American mathematician and astronomer Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) when Benneker was with a survey party near their cabin measuring the boundaries of the nation's new capitol. Sophia and George Bell may well have seen through Benneker's accomplishments and attainments that education was the key to the advancement of their children and their community. Sophia and George's first objective was to win their freedom. Sophia kept a small garden apparently, with the consent of the Pratts , she was able to grow produce for her family and more importantly she was able to sell any extra vegetables in the local markets of Alexandria and the District of Columbia. After a time she was able to gather enough money to purchase her husband George's freedom from Anthony Addison's for $400.00. George Bell was later was able to buy Sophia's freedom for $5.00. Sophia Bell's low price, was said to have been based on Sophia being very ill at the time, and her owner Rachel Pratt becoming convinced that Sophia was near death; thus Mrs. Pratt was amenable to grant Sophia her freedom for the nominal sum. Gradually the couple was able to buy freedom for their children, with the exception of their daughter, Harriet ( AKA Harrieta) who like her mother was also enslaved to the Pratt family. Perhaps realizing that she had been hoodwinked Rachel Pratt would not countenance or agree to a sale and Harriet only manumitted in Rachel Pratt in last will some years later.

      Sophia's husband George Bell had received training as a carpenter, perhaps while growing up on Anthony Addison's estate. It appears that the Addison family later allowed George Bell to work some time on his own as carpenter. A trade which George Bell continued to work in for much of his life, it is unclear where his workshop was actually located, although most trade's people worked near their homes.

      George and Sophia Bell were quickly recognized as leaders in the early African American community of the District. The Bells, like many black families, were attracted to the Methodist Church and worshiped early on at the Ebenezer Methodist church, on Capitol Hill. The first Methodists were critical of slavery, and as Methodists they held with their founder John Wesley, that there was an essential equality of all believers before God. Over time, however, most white congregants retreated from their earlier egalitarianism and most African Americans resented being confined to the galleries of the church, as they found that the church itself no longer welcoming.

      It's worth emphasizing that this church segregation process was not unique to Washington, D.C. or to the Methodist Church. Indeed, similar processes were going on throughout most denominations and in most American cities. In the 1820's, George and Sophia Bell along with other black parishioners decided the time was right for them to move to another church of their own. As a result, they helped found the Israel Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

      In addition to their striving for equality within the church, the Bells were much concerned with education. In 1807, George Bell, Nicholas Franklin and Moses Liverpool announced they were starting a school for black children. The school which became known as "the Bell school," was the first in the District of Columbia open to free black children. George Bell, Franklin, and Liverpool were most likely illiterate, ( Sophia too probably never had an opportunity to learn to read and write) yet each knew from their own personal experience how important education was to attaining equality and economic prosperity. George and Sophia Bell are said to have been the school's principal financial supporters. At the time, Nicholas Franklin and Moses Liverpool worked as ship caulkers at the Washington Navy Yard. The new school was led by a white teacher, a Mr. Lowe to avert the concerns of the white community that education would result in a slave insurrection. .

      The Bell School survived for just a few years due to lack of steady funding and the fact that in 1807, the District of Columbia's "free colored" population consisted of only 494 individuals. Thus the small student base probably doomed their venture from the start. Still the Bell family and Sophia Bell's remarkable sister, Alethea Browning Tanner, combined with other daring members of the community and made another try in 1818 with the Resolute Beneficial Society School.

      In their announcement for the new school, the sponsors made considerable efforts to placate white fears of the Black population learning to read and write. The sponsors also made clear their policy of never assisting slaves to write any type of communication less they be implicated in assisting slaves to evade capture by forging travel passes and like documents. The Resolute Beneficial Society School eventually succumbed to the shear realities of a segregated society though the District's Black population never gave up and their support efforts along with sympathetic white support, continued to open private schools for black children. Sophia and George Bell must have send their children to school as their is documentation which reflects their ability to read and write.

      By 1840 George and Sophia Bell were most likely semi-retired. They are both enumerated on the 1840 Census for the District of Columbia as "Free colored Persons". George Bell is listed as over 55 (he was then about 78 years of age). Sophia is also listed as over 55 years of age (she was about 70 years of age). With the couple are two others: one male under ten and one female age 10-24 years; most likely their grandchildren. Living near them is their son, Enoch Bell, and his family.

      As reflected in his will, George Bell was able to accumulate property and had some saving to pass on to his wife and children. By the time of his death in 1844, George Bell, could look back on a life filled with achievements and hard work. He and his beloved wife Sophia had managed to obtain, by their long labors and perseverance, and in spite of all obstacles, not only their own freedom, but they had also purchased the manumission of their children and grandchildren.

      Following George Bell's death, Sophia most likely lived with her daughter Harrieta and her grandchildren. On April 22, 1846 the Bell family would have heard of the arrest of Sophia's son, Enoch George Bell in Baltimore. Enoch was working at the Baltimore Navy Yard as a porter he was charged with "having been concerned in the abduction of a slave woman named Sophia the property of Governor Pratt." The trial was held in Baltimore with Phillip Barton Key (Phillip was the son of Francis Scott Key the author of the National Anthem) serving as prosecutor) and Joseph Bradley a successful and prominent Washington D.C. lawyer ( In 1848 Bradley would represent some of the fugitives on the Schooner Pearl after their failed escape Phillip Barton Key would prosecute in this case as well) a contemporary reporter for the Baltimore Sun newspaper, states, "the court room is crowded to excess - several members of Congress present - The affair has created an unusual interest amongst the colored portion of our population- I have never seen so many within the court house at any one time." The charge of kidnapping was routinely used against those who offered to help or assist enslaved persons to escape and could be punished by years in a penitentiary. The Baltimore Sun reporter's account confirms status of the Bell and Browning families. The loans made to Enoch Bell which are recounted in Sophia Bell's last will and testament may have been made to assist with payment for his defense and legal counsel. Who the slave Sophia was and what Enoch Bell's actual relationship with her is not clear, it is possible that this Sophia was related to the Bell family. Since other members of the Browning families were owned by Rachael Pratt it is possible that Enoch may have acted to free this enslaved women out of love and familial duty. From the accounts in the Baltimore Sun, Enoch was apparently allowed bail and appears to have fled to New Bedford Massachusetts where he lived with his family for some years. In New Bedford Enoch would be secure from retaliation by the Pratt family or further legal action initiated by Thomas Pratt in his role as Maryland State Governor. Enoch's departure for New Bedford probably meant that Sophia and other members of the Bell family had to keep a low profile until interest in the case diminished.

      Sophia Bell and her husband George led long and productive lives with many of their actions directed to the service of larger community such as sponsoring the first two schools for Black children in the District of Columbia and by their financial support which made possible education for many hundreds of young people.

      Finally, Sophia and George Bell had contributed and promoted the new African American Methodist Episcopal Church as a place of refuge and dignity for their community. Their impressive legacy was truly "a goodly heritage."

All these were honored in their generations,
and were the Glory of their times."                  Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 44: 1 - 15

Transcription
This transcription was made from a copy of the holographic manuscript of the Last Will and Testament of Sophia Browning Bell, 1853 Box 22, filed in the District of Columbia Orphan's Court (Probate Court). The spelling, capitalization, punctuation e.g. dash instead of periods and use of ampersands are those of the original document. Part of the signature of Sophia Bell's will is missing. My thanks once again to Mr. Ali Rahmann Archivist, District of Columbia Archives, for generously providing a copy of the Sophia Bell's last will and testament for this transcription
John G. Sharp                  November 23, 2008

[Last Will & Testament of Sophia Browning Bell (circa   1770-1853)]
In the name of God Amen I Sophia Bell of Washington City in the District of Columbia having a sound disposing mind memory and understanding knowing the certainty of death and the uncertainty of the time thereof and being desirous of settling worldly affairs before I go hence I therefore make and publish this my last will and Testament in the manner and form following to wit. First and principally I commit my soul into the hands of Almighty God who gave it and my body to the earth to be decently buried at the discretion of my Executor hereinafter named and after all my just debts and funeral charges are paid I will and bequeath as follows.
Item 1, I will and bequeath to my Daughter Margaret Lee all my wearing apparel that I may die seized with.
Item 2, I will and bequeath to my son Lloyd Bell Ten dollars that is providing he returns to Washington and if he does not then the Ten dollars to be paid to his son George Bell.
Item 3rd I will and bequeath to my son Enoch G. Bell the four notes I hold against him fifty dollars each with interest thereon.
Item 5, I will and bequeath to my daughter Harrieta Cornish the east half of lot D in square seven hundred and ninety seven with all and singular improvements thereon to her and her heirs forever, also I give and bequeath to the above named Harrietta Cornish and her heirs the residue of my estate both real and personal & mixed
Lastly, I do hereby constitute and appoint George W. Dunlop Executor of this my last will and testament revoking and annulling all other wills by me acknowledging and confirming this and none other to be my last will and testament in Testimony whereof I have set my hand and affixed my seal.

Signed sealed and published and declared to be the last will and Testament of the above mentioned named Testatrix in the presence of us and who the request Sophia Bell and in her presence and in the presence of each other here present Subscribed our names as Witnesses thereto this 15th Day of May one Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty two.

J W.Beck             {SEAL)
W. A, Mulloy       {SEAL}
James Combs       {SEAL}

District of Columbia
Washington County, to wit                 September 16, 1853
      This day Joseph W. Beck & William A. Mulloy of the subscribers witnesses to the foregoing last will and testament of Sophia Bell late of Washington County aforesaid deceased do severally make oath on the Holy Evangels of Almighty God - that they did see the Testatrix therein named sign this will by making he mark thereunto that the subscribers pronounce & declare this to be the last will & testament that in so doing so she was to the best of their apprehension of sound & disposing mind memory & understanding - and that they together with James Combes the other subscribing witness

[ page breaks off here ]

 


Endnotes

Much of the above information regarding George Bell, Sophia Browning Bell and their remarkable family is derived from District of Columbia, Department of Education, Special Report of the Commissioner of Education on the Condition of Public Schools in the District of Columbia, submitted to the Senate, June 6, 1868, and to the House, with Additions June 13, 1870. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1870, See pages 195 - 198. The Special Report published in 1870 is notable for its candor and that individuals who knew the Bell and Browning families apparently provided much of the information used in this report. The last wills and testaments of both George Bell and Sophia Browning Bell are also useful as they contain valuable insights into the Bell family's economic situation and are also useful l to establish the number and names of their surviving children and grandchildren. Their wills were filed in the District of Columbia Orphans Court (Probate Court) see Bell, George1845 Box 17, and Bell, Sophia 1853 box 22.

The surviving children of George and Sophia Bell are: Lloyd, Rachel Ann, Enoch George, Margaret, Harriet ( AKA Harrieta) Betsey and James. James Bell apparently died young and his parents George and Sophia took a special interest in his children. The names of the children are derived from the last wills and testaments of George and Sophia Bell and the District of Columbia Free Negro Registers 1821 -1861 volumes 1 & 2 by Dorothy S. Provine, Heritage Books, Bowie, Maryland 1996. See in particular Volume 1 page 204 and Volume 2, pages 65-66

For additional information on Sophia Browning Bell see biography of her husband George Bell 1762 -1844
Biography & Will of George Bell
and her son Enoch George Bell 1815 -1878
Biography and Manumission of Enoch George Bell

Additional information on the Bell and Browning families is found in the biography of her sister Alethia "Lethe" Browning Tanner circa 1785 -1864
Biography of Alethia "Lethe" Browning Tanner

The information regarding the arrest of Enoch George Bell is from the Baltimore Sun April 24, & 26 1846, May 2, 1846

 

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