I need help locating information about my maternal grandfather, Frederick Benjamin Bell
D.O.B. March 30, 1872,1877 or 1882. There are three possible years of birth for my grandfather. On his petition for membership to a Masonic lodge his birth date is listed as March 30, 1872. The death certificate records his birth date as March 30, 1877 with age at death as 63 years. His personal records report his year of birth as 1882. All three sources list the same month and day of birth. If I had to guess, I would say the 1872 date is correct. I think that he tried to make himself seem younger to his employers and his second wife. He was sometimes called “Bill” and “Bob”.
Birth Place: Webster County, Georgia
Father's Name: William Bell
Mother's Name: Not Listed
After reviewing the census records available at the local state archives I am speculating a possible scenario might be that my grandfather was related to a Fred(rick) Bell, b. 1808 or 1809; farmer in Webster County, Preston, Georgia who is listed in the 1860 & 1870 census. I'm making this guess based on naming trends, age possibilities, etc.
In the 1860 census Fred is listed as 51 and his wife is listed as Frances C., age 37 (thus born 1823). The 1860 census also shows a female, age 16, name begins with "M" (might be Matisona) with middle initial "C"; William L., male, age 12 (thus born 1848); Ann E., female, 10 years; Lizzie, female, age 7; Francis J., female, age 2. Also living in the household were a female, age 27, whose name might be Rose A.; and a male named Guiland E., age 21, an overseer. (Some transcribed versions of the census schedule refer to "Guiland" as "Garland".) Personal Estate valued at $22,200 and Real Estate valued at $5,000. (Source: 1860 census, page 415, Schedule 1., in the southern district of Webster, Georgia, Post Office Preston.)
In another source on intestate wills for Webster County I found a Fred Bell appointed limited guardian of Guilford E. Bell in 1857 after death of Hiram Bell. Census shows notation "C-----s son". Maybe cousin's son? Is this the Guiland E. shown in the 1860 census? I may have incorrectly transcribed the exact name and need to check the intestate will record again. In Webster Confederate Guards there is a listing for Bell, G.E. - 4th Sergeant Aug. 15, 1861. Wounded at Fort Harrison, VA and sent to hospital Sept. 29, 1864. Absent, wounded, Feb. 28, 1865. No later record. It's possible this individual is either Garland or Guiland. However, this doesn't seem to be pertinent to the central questions.
The 1870 census shows Fred, age 62 as a farmer; a female with initials F. C., age 47 as keeping house. (The 1870 census reports both were born in Georgia.) Other occupants include:18 year old female, initials A. L.; a female age 16 named Lizie; an 11 year old female with initials F. J.; and a female age 6 with name I can't read but it might be Missey. Guiland is absent. Personal Estate valued at $800 and Real Estate valued at $4,000. (Source: 1870 census, p.22.) With respect to occupants this is not an exact match but pretty close.
I am speculating that the William L., age 12, shown in the 1860 census is my great-grandfather. In 1870 it is reasonable to speculate that he might have been out on his own, living with others, etc. The local archives don't have the 1880 Georgia census and I need to determine if Fred and Frances Bell were still alive. Was William L. in Webster County, and if present, were there any offspring in his household named Frederick Benjamin, Dennis Alexander (born 1881-1884) and Roy? There were also female siblings, but I don't know their names.
One other piece of information from a relative is that Dennis Alexander and his bride traveled to the "plantation" in 1909. This suggests that the family owned or otherwise occupied land that may have been in the same location.
My speculation continues based on the names Frederick, Dennis and Alexander: My grandfather was named Frederick and one of his brothers was named Dennis Alexander. Naming patterns seem like my only thread of a clue so if I keep pursuing this. Then I look again at the Frederick and Frances C. Bell household listed in the 1860 and 1870 census. (By the way, I believe that Fred was 51 not 31 as it can be misread in the 1860 census; he is 62 in the 1870 census with Frances a corresponding ten years older.) They have a son named William L., age 12, in the 1860 census. By 1870 William has moved or died. In the Weston Methodist Cemetery there are two listings of interest. The first is a son, Alexander F., born 1840 to Frederick and Francis C. Bell. This son died at age 17 in 1857. Therefore he would not have been in the 1860 census. The name Alexander was the middle name for my grandfather's brother, Dennis. The second wild idea is that the next "Bell" listing in this cemetery record is for a son named Dennis A., born 1835 to Frederick and Thirza A. Bell. This son died in 1856 at age 21. It is possible that Thirza was a first wife and that Frederick had remarried by 1839-40 to Frances. This may be true and have no bearing on my search. A question I have is why would there be no other relevant Bells in this cemetery?
So, I think that the next step is to look at the 1830, 1840 and 1850 census indexes to check out these ideas re: heads of household and household occupants listed. I believe there is little information in the earlier records so there's a strong likelihood that confirmation would be very soft. Another step is to look at the Georgia death index for Thirza A. Bell.
Other possible clues to research:
• Frederick Benjamin Bell purchased and sold a farm in Cordele, Crisp County, Georgia between 1910 and 1920.
• During the time Frederick Benjamin Bell lived in Cordele his family included a wife, named Maud Mallisa (my grandmother), a daughter named Effie Amber Baker, born 1899, and twin boys named Orin Riley and William Owen Baker, born in 1901. These were not Mr. Bell’s biological children.
• My grandfather was at times a policeman and, in addition, served many years as a fireman and fire chief in several communities. While in Georgia he might have been affiliated with similar services on either a paid or a volunteer basis.
I have written to every possible source in Webster and Stewart Counties asking for information. All replies have been negative. The Webster source at the Courthouse say all records from this time period were lost in a fire. However, a retired probate judge from Webster recently told me that information is inaccurate.
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