Samuel Bell I (hereafter SBI) was born about 1710 probably in Scotland or Ulster. (1.2.1) His father may have been James Bell as indicated above or possibly Matthew Bell. (126.96.36.199) SBI appears in the Cumberland Vally of Pennsylvania in 1736 (188.8.131.52.1) and in Nelson County, Virginia in 1752 (184.108.40.206.3). From here SBI moves, first to Caswell County North Carolina about 1759 (220.127.116.11.1), then to Guilford County North Carolina about 1762 (18.104.22.168.2).
Robert Bell I (Bell-884, hereafter RBI), born in 1736 in Cumberland Valley, Bedford, Pennsylvania was, very likely, the son of SBI by a first wife whose name is unknown (22.214.171.124). The first wife died before 1746, when SBI married Mary Blackner (possibly Montgomery). (126.96.36.199) They had seven children, born in Virginia and North Carolina.
SBI was a landowning farmer who joined in purchasing land for the Presbyterian Church in Nelson County, Virginia. (188.8.131.52.3) He served as elder of the Church in Guilford, North Carolina and as member of the Committee of Public Safety (184.108.40.206.2).
SBI dies about 1781 in Guilford County, North Carolina (220.127.116.11.2).
Locations are present day counties.
Details + Evidence
Evidence for the account if SBI's life presented here is in good part circumstantial. Some questions remain unresolved (1.2.3). Ultimately, there remains some doubt that all the account pertains to the same person.
Octavia Donnell  says Samuel Bell I (SBI) is born 1710 ± 10 in Scotland or Northern Ireland. G. G. Bell  says Ireland . Edmundson & Related Families  has "1722 in Chester County, Pennsylvania". Hardman-Pike Families  has "1726 at Pa". Octavia Donnell writes earlier than the others and had access to family sources. We think she is most likely to be correct.
A search of parish birth / marriage records for Scotland reveals:
A search of parish birth / marriage records for Ireland reveals:
These records suggest  marries in his birthplace 1733 and has a child there in 1746. They show no evidence that  and  are in Scotland after their birth. Perhaps worth noting, is that John Walker III (Walker-157), the (likely, but not certain) father of Catherine Walker (Walker-163) (RBI's first wife), was born in Wigtown, Scotland, 1707. He was about the same age as SBI. Family ties in the "old country" could connect  with John Walker III.  is just marginally old enough.
These records are transcriptions of originals provided by the LDS Family Search website. They are admittedly "incomplete". Whether this means the originals are incomplete, the transcription coverage is incomplete, or both is not clear. Those for Scotland would probably be more complete than those for Ulster.
Dates are are "baptism / christening date" so the actual birth date is earlier. How much earlier this might have been for early 18th century Scotch Presbyterians is not evident to us.
None of these look like an obvious candidate. But, of these,  looks most probable.
We sketch SBI's movements in America with little supporting evidence and then provide a more detailed discussion of the evidence.
County Residence + County Location Maps
These maps may be helpful in understanding the following discussion:
SBI comes to Pennsylvania ~1730 without family. Octavia Donnell  tells us SBI was "the firest of his family in America".
It is possible that SBI can be identified as Samuel among four brothers, James II (Bell-3890), Thomas (Bell-3886), Joseph (Bell-3888) and Samuel. who appear in Pennsylvania and Virginia sometime before 1742. Thomas Bell appears in Franklin County, Pennsylvania in 1742. Joseph Bell appears Augusta County, Virginia about 1740, moving from Lancaster County Pennsylvania. At least three, possibly all, appear together in Nelson County and nearby Augusta County, Virginia in 1752. Thomas moves from Nelson County, Virginia to Woodford County Kentucky where he dies in 1795. James II and Joseph remain in Augusta County Virginia where they die: James II, in 1792; Joseph after 1796 . These are possibly the sons of a James Bell I (Bell-3885). Thomas and Samuel appear to have immigrated from Scotland via Ulster. James II and Joseph may have been born in Pennsylvania.
A speculative narrative explaining the above is this. Four sons of James Bell I, James II, Thomas, Joseph and Samuel, arrive in Pennsylvania about 1730. They come ultimately from Scotland via Ulster. John Walker III (Walker-157) whom the Bells have known in Scotland arrives about the same time. Possibly all or some travel together.
Joseph Bell and John Walker III go to Cecil County Maryland / Lancaster County Pennsylvania, arriving there before 1740. The other Bells, James II, Thomas and Samuel, go to Franklin County Pennsylvania arriving there before 1742. All marry there; Thomas, Elizabeth Weir; Samuel, Mary (Blackner or Montgomery). Robert Bell I, son of Samuel and Mary, is born there in 1736.
Joseph Bell and John Walker III move to Augusta County Virginia about 1740. By 1752 James II has also moved to Augusta County Virginia; Thomas and Samuel to adjacent Nelson County, Virginia.
Thomas Bell moves from Nelson County, Virginia to Woodford County Kentucky where he dies in 1795. James II and Joseph remain in Augusta County Virginia where they die: James II in 1792; Joseph after 1796 .
Samuel Bell and John Walker move, first to Caswell County North Carolina about 1759, then to Guilford County North Carolina before 1762. Robert Bell I marries John Walker III’s daughter, Catherine (Walker-163) in Caswell County about 1762. Samuel Bell dies in Guilford County in 1780. John Walker III (Walker-157) dies 1787 in Walker's Creek, Fincastle, Washington County, Virginia.
Evidence linking linking James II (Bell-3890), Thomas (Bell-3886), Joseph (Bell-3888) and Samuel Bell, probably brothers, possibly the sons of a James I, to SBI (Bell-3884) is provided below by a chronology of the documented location of the individuals in question.
The possible path of SBI described above roughly conforms to the general pattern of Scotch-Irish movement from Pennsylvania toward the South described in
Dunaway, Wayland Fuller, The Scotch-Irish of colonial Pennsylvania. Chapel Hill , University of North Carolina Press, 1944.
A free download is available here.
We have no documentary evidence of any of the Bell brothers prior to 1736. It appears likely that they arrived in Philadelphia about 1730.
Draper  as related to him by RBI's son Rev. Robert Bell II (Bell-920) locates SBI “in Penn” at the birth of his son RBI in 1736 and for 12 succeeding years. E. H. Bell  locates him in “the Cumberland Valley in Pennsylvania” at the birth of this son.
Thus, it appears that SBI marries in Cumberland Valley, Bedford, Pennsylvania ~ 1735-6 and RBI (Bell-884) is born there 12/1736. RBI's mother dies before ~1746 when SBI marries for a second time.
It is possible that there are other children by the first wife. But, no source mentions others. This suggests that RBI's mother may have died shortly after his birth, perhaps in childbirth.
This assumes that SBI was the father of RBI and resident at the time / place of his birth. (18.104.22.168) The Cumberland Vally is a big place. Chambersburg, Franklin County, Pennsylvania (below) is about in the middle of it.
Railey  says the Bell brothers arrive in “near Canacadig, Pennsylvania” in 1740 and all marry soon thereafter.
This locates all Bell brothers in Franklin County, Pennsylvania ; no documentary evidence is provided. Draper  says SBI was there four years earlier. Samuel does not appear in the account of Railey  after this point.
Peyton  tells us:
- “Joseph Bell came from Lancaster, Penn., [to Augusta County Virginia] about 1740. He was one of several brothers born in Penn., whose father emigrated from the north of Ireland to America some years previously...The other brothers of Joseph Bell settled in Ohio, Ky., and Tenn., and have left descendants in those States; among them was the late Hon. John Bell of Tenn., a candidate for the Presidency in 1860”
SBI was the great grandfather “Hon. John Bell of Tenn" (Bell-924). This strongly suggests that Joseph was the brother of SBI. See below 1748.
Coke  locates Thomas Bell in Canacadig, Pennsylvania “near present day Chambersburg, PA”.
This suggests that Thomas Bell and SBI could have both resided in Franklin County, Pennsylvania ~1740. Google does not know about Canacadig, Pennsylvania.
Aaron McWilliams, archivist with the Pennsylvania State Archives, believes that 'Canakadig' is a variant spelling of Conococheague, which is a creek in present day Franklin County. He further stated that the area was settled in the 1730's and is referred to as the Conococheague settlement. (email 10/23/2012)
SBI moves to Amherst, Virginia (1746 - 1748) and then to Caswell, North Carolina (1762 - 1771).
Draper  locates SBI in “Amherst County VA” in 1748.
- "Maj. Robt. Bell [RBI, Bell-884 ] was born in Penn at 12 years of age his father moved to Amherst County, VA. subsequently to Caswell, & in '71 to Guilford County, N.C.
12 years from RBI's birth date 1736 gives 1748.
Amherst County was formed from Albermarle County in 1761 It includes present day Nelson County. So it is plausible that the Samuel Bell mentioned below (22.214.171.124.3) is SBI.
James Bell moves to Augusta County Virginia; Thomas moves to an unspecified adjacent county.
Railey  has,
- “Thomas and James Bell later removed to Virginia. James settled in Augusta County where many of his descendants still reside, but Thomas...settled in an adjacent county...”.
Peyton  offers a somewhat different account in which the participants and their origins differ.
At this time Augusta County was north west of Albermarle County which included present day Nelson County. It appears likely that Thomas settled in present day Nelson County.
The witness list to a will  in Albemarle County, Virginia links a James, Thomas and Samuel Bell.
- “...Item I give and bequeath to my well beloved son, Matthew Robertson, Two hundred and forty acres of land as it well best answer of that part of my land lying nest to James Bells for the only use of him and his heirs....
- Signed sealed published pronounced & declared by the said James Robertson as his last Will & testament in
- the presence of us the subscribers.
- James Robertson
- (Vizt.) Jno. Reid
- Thomas Bell
- Samuel Bell
- At a court helf for Albemarle County the 11th day of June 1752 This last will and testament of James Robertson deced was presented into court by...”
Amherst County was formed from Albermarle County in 1761 It includes present day Nelson County. So it is plausible that the Samuel Bell mentioned above (126.96.36.199.1) is SBI.
Evidently, Thomas and Samuel are present. James is only shown to own land adjacent to that mentioned in the will. It is plausible, but clearly not evident, that the three are related.
Reid Family  mentions (likely the same as above) Samuel.
- “11 Feb 1752 John McWhorter to Alexander Patton for 90 pounds, 120 acres bought from James McCanne 10 Sep 1747. Patented 10 Jul 1745, save 1 acre sold to John Reid, James Robertson, and Samuel Bell for Presbyterian Church of Rockfish – schoolhouse and cemetery."
If 1746 were correct, Samuel Bell would have been in Nelson County Virginia before SBI arrives in this vicinity in 1748 as calculated from Draper . Reid Family  appears to quote the original document. The text of the original does not appear in Albermarle Deeds  which covers the period 1748 - 1784. This suggests that the date 1752 is not correct. It appears that Owens  may derive from Woods .
The location of the land parcels which are the objects of these transactions is not entirely clear. Reid Family  indicates that the object of the transaction it describes is the site of the Presbyterian Church of Rockfish. Reid Family  tells us
- “(This old church and cemetery are still in existence.)”.
Owens  and David Bell  locate the church in Nellysford, Nelson County, Virginia. That the objects of the transactions described in Albermarle Deeds  are also in present day Nelson County is plausible, but not indubitable.
Railey  and the will of James Bell  locate James Bell in Augusta County, Virginia. In 1752, present day Nelson County was totally within Albermarle County which was bordered by Augusta County on the north west. James Bell could have owned distinct parcels of land in both counties, one parcel at the county line. Or these could be different James Bells.
David Bell  places the above transactions in context and suggests that there may be other documents connecting the three Bell brothers and SBI.
SBI marries again in Amherst, Virginia or Caswell, North Carolina. Children by the second wife are: Agnes and James (1747) who appear to be twins, Francis (1750), Thomas (1751), Samuel II (1753), John (1755), Mary (1757). All are born in Caswell, North Carolina, except Francis who is born in Lynchburg, Virginia. 
One wonders why SBI waits so long to remarry. In this society widowers with small children usually remarry promptly. This suggests the first wife dies only shortly before 1746.
SBI's presence in Caswell County is noted in Upper Hyco Church
- UPPER HYCO / GRIERS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
- National Register of Historic Buildings
- UPPER HYCO Church, the first organized church still in existence in Caswell County was organized in 1753, Located near the headwaters of North Hyco Creek, Samuel BELL, and his brothers removed from Pennsylvania and settled on the forks of Hyco Creek. They were staunch Presbyterians. The first church services were held under bush arbors and homes of the members.
At this time, Caswell County was part of Orange County. It is possible (but not clearly evident) that the parcel conveyed here is the same (or part of) that which Albermarle Deeds  shows a Samuel Bell buying in 1752.
Coke  mentions other transactions associated with the move.
- “After moving to North Carolina, Samuel Bell d1780 sold some of his Nelson Co Va land in 1759 (Albemarle Co Va deed 2p81) and sold the rest of his Nelson Co Va land in 1765 (Amherst Co Va deed Bp45). This last deed (1765) was witnessed by Thomas Bell & David Meriwether in Amherst Co Va.”
Draper  says SBI moves from “Amherst Co VA” to “Caswell NC & in '71 to Guilford County, N.C.” No exact date is given for the move to Caswell County. Rankin  puts him in Guilford County North Carolina in 1762.
A plausible interpretation of this is that Samuel Bell = SBI moves from Nelson County Virginia to Caswell County North Carolina sometime before 1759 and sells his land Nelson County Virginia after he has moved. This appears to be the most convincing evidence that Samuel Bell = SBI.
Note that this identification, based solely on land transactions, is independent of the assumption the SBI is the father of RBI (Bell-884). Indeed, assuming this identification, Draper  would provide circumstantial evidence that SBI is the father of RBI in that it places the birth of RBI near the location of SBI at the time of his birth (See 188.8.131.52 ).
Foote  apparently describes the same move,
- "...some time between 1753 and 1760, Samuel Bell, with his brothers and son-in-law, Donnell, removed from Pennsylvania, and settled in the forks of Rico [Hyco ?].”
omitting the intermediate location of Nelson County Virginia.
The “son-in-law Donnell” mentioned appears to be William Donnell (1746-1798) (Donnell-10) husband of Mary Bell (1757-1828) (Bell-1344), daughter of SBI. But, the dates are implausible. Perhaps, it should read “future son son-in-law”. They marry in 1770. Perhaps, the Donnell family, with William at age ~ 14, accompanies Samuel Bell.
SBI is in Guilford County North Carolina.
Rankin  has:
- "Samuel Bell ... located on the Reedy Fork in 1762."
G. G. Bell, p. 231  has:
- "Samuel Bell (Bell-3884), ... moved from Caswell Co to Guilford Co, NC in 1762, as did his brother Capt. Robert Bell. Their families became members of the Buffalo Presbyterian Church in Guilford Co. Samuel married Mary. He served as a ruling elder of the church, and was a witness to the church trials (records of Buffalo Pres. Records 1773-1796). He was a Revolutionary War pensioner (Col Recs. Vol. 22, p 58). He served as a member of the Safety Committee of the country, and was accused of killing a man, but proved innocent, as the victim was a British spy."
The first two sentences apparently come from Rankin. We have not tried to find the records referenced in the third sentence. It seems unlikely that "He was a Revolutionary War pensioner". Pensions were not awarded until 1789, some years after he died. Moreover, he would have been at least 60 years old when the war began. Perhaps these records do not pertain to SBI. The source for the fourth sentence is not apparent.
We think "his brother Capt. Robert Bell" is an error, perhaps originating with Rankin's sources. (See 184.108.40.206 ).
For an account of the community in Guilford County, North Carolina in which the Bells lived see:
- Adams, Wendy Lynn, The Nottingham Settlement, a North Carolina Backcountry Community, MA Thesis, Department of History, Indiana University, 2009.
This is an account of the NC community into which SBI and RBI moved ~1762. It deals only with the period 1750-60. So Bells don't appear. But, the discussion of data sources is relevant to what more might be learned about the Bells. Specifically, note 14, p.8 gives a pretty discouraging account of what is available.
The discussion of the land grant basis for the settlement is interesting and probably applies to the Bells as well. There is an interesting map on p.3, I but we can't precisely locate what's on it on any modern map I have. The area appears heavily wooded on Google Earth and the streams are small and hard to see.
A free download is available here.
For a discussion of land grants, see also Colonial Land Records (1600s-1763), State Library of North Carolina:
SBI dies in Guilford County North Carolina "...just at the close of the Revolutionary War" .
Thomas Bell and family move from Nelson County Virginia to Woodford County Kentucky  .
James bell dies in Augusta County Virginia .
Thomas Bell dies in Woodford County Kentucky, .
If one accepts the identity Samuel Bell = SBI, then the account of SBI's ancestry in Scotland suggested in (1.2.1) is untenable. None of the families suggested there show any brothers of the son Samuel with names matching the account of Railey .
Railey  prompts the conjecture that the Samuel Bell he mentions as a son of James Bell is identical with the Samuel Bell mentioned by Octavia Donnell  and Rankin . Sections (220.127.116.11) and (18.104.22.168) above are essentially an elaboration of this conjecture with supporting circumstantial evidence. But, in the absence of documentary evidence linking the two, it remains conjecture.
Weeks  provides an alternative candidate for the father of SBI. We have not found evidence supporting this alternative. That the name 'Matthew' is not found among the names of SBI's descendants diminishes the credability of this alternative.
That SBI married twice is conjecture based on the birth dates of his children. The name of the first wife is unknown.
The names of SBI's two wives remain unclear. However, it is petty clear that Mary Montgomery / Blackner is the second wife of SBI and not the mother of RBI. Her birth date is 1728, so she is far too young. Sources agree that the first name of the second wife is 'Mary'. Octavia Donnell  says that the last name is 'Montgomery'. However, Hardman-Pike Families  and Edmundson & Related Families  give the last name as 'Blackner'. Evidence for this is not apparent. It is possible that Octavia Donnell  confuses Esther Montgomery (Montgomery-250) with the wife of SBI. It looks like 'Blackner' might be the more probable name.
It is not completely clear that SBI is the father of RBI.
- "Robert Bell came here from Caswell County in 1762 and located on Sugar Tree Creek (Jordan's Branch). His children appear to have been Samuel, Robert, Francis and James. Robert, Sr. died shortly after the Revolutionary War and his sons moved to Tennessee. Rev. Robert Bell, a noted Cumberland Presbyterian minister, was the son of Robert, Jr., who had married Mary Boyd in 1775. Hon. John Bell, United States Senator from Tennessee, was the son of Samuel.
- Samuel Bell, a brother of Robert, Sr., located on the Reedy Fork in 1762. His children were James, Francis, Thomas, Samuel, John, Mary and Agnes. James married Mary Carson in 1773; Thomas married Elizabeth Carson in 1774; John married Jane, daughter of Samuel Scott, Jr., in 1778; Mary married William Donnell, son of Robert, the 2nd, in 1773; Agnes married Henry Reed in 1766. Samuel, Sr., died just at the close of the Revolutionary War, and the most of his children moved to Tennessee."
Note that the list of children of Robert and Samuel intersect on Samuel, Francis and James. The only evidence for the existence of Robert Bell Sr. is Rankin. Other accounts are consistent with Rankin's Robert Bell Sr. being the son of Samuel Bell and the children of Samuel Bell being the union of the lists Rankin provides for his Robert Bell Sr. and Samuel Bell. It appears that Rankin (or his sources) took a father and mature adult son to be brothers.
This is the view taken here. Samuel Bell I (Bell-3884) is taken to be the father of Robert Bell I (Bell-884) who is Rankin's Robert Bell Jr.
In the following references to this data base intended to be in accord with this interpretation are inserted . Robert Bell Sr. is identified with Samuel Bell (Bell-874).
- "Robert Bell (Bell-884) came here from Caswell County in 1762 and located on Sugar Tree Creek (Jordan's Branch). His children appear to have been Samuel (Bell-1372), Robert (Bell-884), Francis (Bell-1123) and James (Bell-1373). Robert, Sr.(Bell-874), died shortly after the Revolutionary War and his sons moved to Tennessee. Rev. Robert Bell (Bell-920), a noted Cumberland Presbyterian minister, was the son of Robert, Jr. (Bell-884), who had married Mary Boyd (Boyd-305) in 1775. Hon. John Bell (Bell-924), United States Senator from Tennessee, was the son of Samuel (presumably Bell-1372).
- Samuel Bell (Bell-3884), a brother of Robert, Sr. (Bell-874), located on the Reedy Fork in 1762. His children were James (Bell-1225), Francis (Bell-1226), Thomas (Bell-1229), Samuel (Bell-1232), John (Bell-1230), Mary (Bell-1344) and Agnes (Bell-1231). James married Mary Carson in 1773; Thomas married Elizabeth Carson (Carson-387) in 1774; John married Jane (Scott-988), daughter of Samuel Scott, Jr. (Scott-989), in 1778; Mary married William Donnell (Donnell-10), son of Robert, the 2nd (Bell-884), in 1773; Agnes married Henry Reed (Reed-874) in 1766. Samuel, Sr. (Bell-874), died just at the close of the Revolutionary War, and the most of his children moved to Tennessee."
It appears that SBI's family is complete when he and RBI relocate to Guilford, North Carolina in ~1762 (possibly later). RBI is at least 26 years old and lives apart from the SBI family on his own farm. He obtains this farm as a "land grant". He marries his first wife Catherine Walker. We don't know when, but their children are all born after 1762. It looks like he marries, gets title to a farm, moves and starts a family. In 1770 he sells this (some or all?) land to SBI or SBI's son Samuel Bell II (Bell-1232).
RBI apparently operates independently of SBI. One might easily imagine a distant, but cordial, relationship with a father whose attention is primarily focused on his second family. Perhaps, RBI is a bit more economically aggressive than his father (SBI) and initiates the relocation.
It is possible that Rankin's  sources, encountering SBI and RBI about 1762 in Guilford, North Carolina, mistakenly took SBI's oldest son by a previous marriage for his younger brother. This is would not be surprising, given that SBI's other children were more than 11 years younger than RBI and RBI was an established family man in his own right.
G. G. Bell's Chapter 13 (pp. 231-275) is devoted to the descendants of Samuel Bell I (Bell-874) beginning with those mentioned by Rankin.
It is not clear where G. G. Bell gets the birth dates for her Samuel (b. 1720) and Robert (b. 1722). Rankin does not give any dates. Draper  provides a birth date of 1736 for for RBI (Bell-884) This, in turn suggests that SBI would have been born before 1716.
The birthplace of SBI's son Francis is an aberration. However, note that SBI's wife (second, by this account) was born in Lynchburg, Virginia. This is ~85 mi. from Caswell NC. This might not be too far for a pregnant woman travel for a visit, perhaps in a time of family crisis.
Descendant Location Maps
Last know location of six generations of descendants of SBI are displayed in the following maps.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Octavia Donnell Note
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Bell, G. G.,1977
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Edmundson & Related Families
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Hardiman-Pike Families
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 Coke, 1993
- ↑ 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 Railey, 1968
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 Draper, 1841-44
- ↑ Bell, E. H., 1930
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 Peyton, 1882
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Albermarle Deeds
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 11.2 Will of James Bell
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Reid Family
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 Woods, 1901
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 14.2 Owens, 2012
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 Bell, David, 2012
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 Rankin, 1934
- ↑ Foote, 1846
- ↑ Guilford North Carolina Deeds
- ↑ Weeks, 1913
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