John Bell

 

John S. Bell

In 1882, John S. Bell was the sole owner of the ‘Bell’s Addition’ of the original plat of the village which contained the area that borders Church, Commercial, and Lincoln Streets and Rutland Avenue. He sold separate lots but kept the Bell Hotel on Commercial Street. There, upstairs, the Brooklyn Lodge #251 held their meetings, hosted balls and social events for the community. John was six years old when his parents, Almon and Mary (Shampnor) Bell traveled from New Jersey to their new farm home in Rutland.

Growing to manhood, he enlisted in the Civil War at Camp Randall in Madison, WI. He was rejected because of his small stature. Determined to contribute his support for the cause, Bell went to Janesville to enlist again. Accepted, he participated in the Bull Run Battle where he was shot in the head. Carried by Rebels to a prison in Manassas where he laid for twelve days; never receiving any care. Then, he was transferred to Libby Prison where his skull was trepanned with silver. During his recovery, he was sent to Tuscaloosa, Alabama for an additional four months. From there Bell was forwarded to Salisbury, North Carolina where he was released. Returning home, he was ordered to Benton Barracks, St. Louis. When Indian troubles broke out in Minnesota, Bell was sent with his regiment, the Second Wisconsin, to Bayfield near Ashland to protect the settlers. The following spring his regiment was ordered to go to Philadelphia to protect the city against the advancing Rebels under Lee. There, the Battle of Gettysburg was fought. The Second Wisconsin unit united with Sixth Wisconsin and fought in the Battle of the Wilderness. John was wounded in the head again at the second battle of Hatcher’s Run and landed in the field hospital for a short time. During the final movements of the war that forced Lee to surrender, John’s regiment was continually on the march; not stopping more than two hours at a time. After the surrender on April 9, Bell and others divided their rations with the hungry Rebels.

When peace smiled on the land, John worked on the home farm for a year, then sold it and rented another for about a year. For a few months, he worked at a flouring mill at Steubenville, than at Dunkirk Mills. He returned to the area to purchase a farm in Rutland. In 1881, Bell launched a depot of agricultural implements in the settlement of Brooklyn. Bell’s inventory included equipment for horse drawn farming , plus repairs of agricultural machinery. In the 1891 Patrons Directory, J.S. Bell was listed as a dealer in choice confectionery, domestic; California and tropical fruits, carbonated beverages, tobacco, ice cream and oysters; when in season. Leather, lace, belting, temple pumps and fixtures were available too. Bell rented stable space with feed too. These businesses were located on the west side of the tracks, across from the cheese factory. Having twelve years of success, Bell managed the hotel; earlier mentioned for three years.

In the years following, John suffered a considerable financial loss through several fires. John Bell lived in the Brooklyn settlement for twenty-five years. Beginning June 15, 1897, he officiated as the postmaster at Brooklyn while attending to his 100-acre farm in Rutland. He was married to Elnora B. Colburn (daughter of Hobart and Catherine ‘Prouty’ Colburn) on November 4, 1873 at Madison. Earlier making their home in Rutland, they eventually moved into Brooklyn. They had five children; Bertha (Albert) Winkler, Dr. Hugh Bell, Harvey Bell, Leslie Bell and Legrand Bell. Elnora passed away in 1937. John was one of the charter members of the Brooklyn Lodge #251 and the Modern Woodmen Fraternity of Brooklyn. He was the First Master of the Masonic Lodge in Brooklyn for its first five years and belonged to the T.L. Stevens Post #41 G.A.R. at Evansville and the Wautoma Lodge #90 at Cooksville where he became a Mason in 1871. John passed away in 1910 and laid to rest in Graves Cemetery.

All documents and photo’s are property of Sharon George, who has graciously offered to share them.