A History of Bell Plantation - Calhoun County, Georgia
Nestled in the southwestern part of Calhoun County, Georgia lies the land of the Bell family. The heritage of the ownership of these properties is as rich as that of the land itself.
The land is part of the Coastal Plain land formation, whose history is as old as that of the earth. As such, it lies between the coastal areas below what is now the Georgia-Florida line, but below the Piedmont Plain, which is actually the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
This area is called a plain because it is in the flood plain of the fork of the two great drainages of the southwest Georgia area – the Flint River, which begins near Thomaston, and flows southwest through Albany.
The mighty Chattahoochee begins in North Georgia and flows through the heart of Atlanta, the crown jewel of the Southern cities, continuing southwest until it reaches what is now the Georgia-Alabama line near West Point. The Chattahoochee then turns due south and flows to the corners of modern Alabama, Florida and Georgia near Bainbridge where it meets the Flint to form the Apalachicola River which then empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
Bisecting this fork are a number of smaller tributaries, most of which flow into the Flint from the west side. These include creeks with distinctive Indian names, given by the original owners of this land – the Creek Indians. Creeks flowing through Calhoun County on their way to the Flint River include Ichuway-Nochaway and Pachitla. Other area creeks include the Kinchafoonee and Muckalee near Albany in Dougherty County. The Pataula and Chemochobee flow into the Chattahoochee near Fort Gaines in Clay County.
But the most significant of the creeks is the one that slices the Flint-Chattahoochee fork in half, namely Spring Creek. This creek becomes a major watershed, picking up smaller creeks on a south-southwest axis below the Damascus-Blakely latitude. Eventually, it connects with the Flint and Chattahoochee at what is now Seminole State Park to help form Lake Seminole.
Spring Creek literally begins on Bell Plantation, and indeed it is even identified as such in some of the original deeds of the property.
All of these creeks helped shape the soil morphology of the region, as they carried rich sedimentary particulates down from the lower reaches of the Piedmonts. This plays a crucial role in the fruitful nature of the soils in the basin of these rivers. Indeed, the productivity of these soils is among the richest in the Southeastern United States.
Soils in the area west of the Flint are predominately loams and clays. The clay content here is higher than the areas to the east of the Flint, which tend to be higher in loam content. This distinction is important because it dramatically impacts the productivity and hydrology of the area.
It may be supposed that the higher clay content in the area is due to the fact that the Flint and Chattahoochee actually begin in the higher elevations of the Piedmont. Over time, erosion of the Piedmont washed much of their topsoil down into the southwest Georgia area, including significant amounts of the clay layers underneath the topsoil layer. Thus, the higher clay content in the area than there is east, say around Tifton.
Clay soil particles have a higher cationic capacity than loams, and a far higher capacity than sands. Cationic capacity is a measure of the ability of the soil to capture (through a negative valence on the surface of the particle itself) and hold positively-charged nutrients, notably nitrogen.
Nitrogen, particularly in its nitrate form, is a key element in plant growth. It provides the gasoline to make the marvelous engine of the Krebs cycle run, which is the heart of photosynthesis. Indeed, this is the key to plant life and growth. It might be said that it is also the key to animal life, not the least of which is humans because without the by-product of the Krebs cycle, we would all be dead. Namely, oxygen in the gaseous O2 form, which is spun off when the double bonds of the carbon dioxide molecules are broken in photosynthesis in the process of the production of carbohydrates. God knows more than the Lion King, because this is really the Circle of Life.
Soils of the region are high in ferrous content, which is another part of their morphology. Not only does this serve to increase their cationic capacity, but it also impacts the hydrology of the soils. Olan Sanders used to say that he liked to farm “dirt that was pebbly”. In scientific terms, the hard ferrous pebbles are important in providing drainage channels for the soil. This is important in soils with higher clay content, which without such improvement in their tilth would tend to become compacted to an unfavorable degree.
The loam content of the soils helps to provide some offset to the hardness of clays when dry and their stickiness when wet. A soil taxonomist would likely say that the best soils of the region are those which are loamy clays, which is generally the case in the better drained areas.
The predominant soil classifications are Tifton Loams and Greenville Loams, which are some of the most productive soil types in the tri-state area. In the cultivatable areas, these two soil types predominate.
Silviculture of the area
These soil types are favorable to various conifers and deciduous trees. In the days before the white men intruded upon the area, vast forests covered the entire southeastern United States. In the tri-state area, the mighty longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) reigned as the king of the predominate ecosystem of the area.
Longleaf Pine Forest
Before the white men invaded North America, there were upwards of 90,000,000 acres of longleaf pines in the Southeast, ranging from central Virginia to east Texas. They dominated the area in a band running from coastal North and South Carolina, the southern reaches of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, as well as North Florida.
The longleaf is the longest-lived and the stateliest of the Southern pine species. It can live for up to 400 years. By contrast, the other Southern pine species have reached biological maturity long before age 100. It can grow for heights of up to 100 feet. Ancient trees in the virgin forests of long ago probably reached a diameter of upwards of 40 inches.
Certain aspects of the forests of the longleaf are unique, including not only the longleaf pine itself, but also the host of other life forms that thrive under its majestic canopy, including plants such as wiregrass (Aristida stricta) which is also know as pineland threeawn. Wiregrass is truly unique to the area, its range being only in North America and there only from the Mississippi through Alabama and Georgia up to South Carolina. Wiregrass regenerates quickly after fire and indeed needs a growing season fire to propagate its seeds. The tiny yellow seeds of wiregrass are a favored feed of various forms of wildlife that are often found only in the longleaf ecosystem.
Wiregrass is a favored food of gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemu)s, which are large terrapins that burrow in the ground and lodge in this underground nest. These borrows can be up to 50 feet long and 10 feet deep. They give the gopher shelter from temperature extremes, fire, and predators. This turtle is native only to the Southeastern United States. The gopher has longer front legs than rear, which better enable it to dig its burrows. The gopher tortoise is seen as a keystone species because it’s burrows provide shelter for 350-400 other species.
Gopher Tortoise entering his burrow
As a keystone species such as the gopher tortoise is one has a disproportionately large effect on its environment relative to its abundance. Much like the keystone that supports an arch, a keystone species plays a critical role in maintaining the structure of its ecosystem and the viability of many its other members. If a keystone were to fall out, an arch would surely collapse. Much the same relationship is the case with a keystone species vis-à-vis the ecosystem in which it plays such a crucial role. Should the gopher tortoise fail to survive, it would create a domino effect whereby many other species would fail or be reduced.
Because of the loss of much of its habitat, notably longleaf pine forests and their accompanying wiregrass cover, gopher tortoise numbers are under such threat that as recently as the summer of 2011, they have been identified by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a candidate for “Vulnerable” under the “Threatened” category under the Endangered Species Act. However, due to budget constraints which preclude implementation of such a ruling, they are simply on a candidate list for such identification at this time.
Often, gophers co-habitat with rattlesnakes, the predominant species of which in Southwest Georgia are the timber rattler (Crotalus horri) and the Eastacern diamondback rattler (Crotalus adamanteus). The timber rattler is the most common of the species, ranging on the entire eastern half of the United States, being found as far south as Florida and as far north as Minnesota and New Hampshire. There are two other species of the diamondback in the Western United States, but this is the only species east of the Mississippi, and it is only found from Louisiana to South Carolina Timber Rattler Diamondback Rattler
Both of these are venomous snakes noted for their distinctive “rattles” on their tail which are used to warn and threaten their prey and enemies. The old wive’s tale in Southwest Georgia was that the dust of the rattles would cause blindness. This has no basis in fact.
Pitcher plants (genus Sarracenia, of which there are many species) are one of the many unique plant forms which thrive in the longleaf ecosystem.
Pitcher plants’ best habitat is along marshy areas which would be the perimeter of the habitat of the longleaf. The fragile areas which favor their growth are easily damaged by the impact of human intrusion, such as logging or other land-clearing activities.
These plants are carnivores. Their “pitchers” is more properly known as a pitfall trap. It attracts crawling or flying insects through various means such as visual attractant of an anthocyanin pigment. These pigments are usually brightly colored. An insect may be attracted by a scent of nectar. These means are used to bribe the victim. Then, the hapless insect is caught in the cup of the plant, held there by the phytotelmata of the plant. This is the water which the cup of the plant has captured. Once inside the plant, the “pit of water” and the structure of the pitcher is such that the insect can not escape, usually because the sides are too slippery. The plant then literally eats the insect, either through digestion from external bacteria or internal enzymes or both. The prey insect is thus converted into nutrients comprised of amino acids, peptides, phosphates, and nitrate derivatives. These comprise the essential building blocks of plant nutrition, especially for key plant growth components such as nitrogen and phosphorous. This is a key point, since pitcher plants generally grow in soils that are too poor in nutrients or too acidic for other plants to survive. Since pitcher plants may be some of the only plant forms in such SMZ (streamside management zone) areas, their viability is an important part of the ecosystems in the Southeast.
The longleaf forests were huge, covering tens, even hundreds of thousands of acres, interrupted only by the watercourses through the area. In pre-colonial times they were very mature forests in which longleaf pines as old as 400 years dominated the overstory. These mammoth conifers stood well over 100 feet tall and might be as much as 3 feet or more in diameter at breast height. Under the canopy of these giants were vast savannahs of wiregrass and other native grasses. Pitcher plans and other wetland species dominated the lowland areas.
Typically, only the more poorly drained areas along the creek and river bottoms were dominated by deciduous trees, notably various species of the oak family. Along the streams (called “branches” by the locals), creeks, and rivers were water oaks (Quercus nigra, which is one of the many members of the red oak genus) and sweet gums (Liquidambar styraciflua). These are generally “scrub” trees, with little or no commercial or other uses.
In the band between the stream sides and the upland areas where the pines were situated would be found poplars (genus Populus, with many species, including aspens and cottonwoods so famous in Colorado and Texas, with the tulip poplar being prevalent in Southwest Georgia) and white oaks (Quercus alba).
The white oak is a beautiful tree, and is widely disbursed across the Eastern United States. It serves as the state tree for Illinois, Maryland, and Connecticut. It is widely used for furniture building, and provides excellent firewood.
The Roberson/Vaughn/Giddens family hails from deep roots in the land of Central Georgia in what is now Telfair County between Jacksonville and McRae. This area is the bottomland of the Ocmulgee River basin, which eventually feeds into the Altamaha River on its way to the Atlantic Ocean.
Willie Sanders’ father Walter Giddens married Annie Vaughn in 1917 when he was 16 and she was 15. Both hailed from poor families. They lived in a one-room shanty with a bed that was a wedding gift from his mother, a small table and one straight-back chair. In 1985, Walter Giddens told Tom Sanders that shortly after they married and started setting up housekeeping, they realized they needed a “pie safe” in which to keep their leftover meals and other perishable foods. With no money or other means to obtain such furniture, Walter took matters into his own hands. He borrowed an axe, a mule, and a length of chain. He went to a creek drain and selected a poplar with a straight trunk and few limbs. He cut the tree down, hooked the chain to the log and the mule and dragged the bole of the tree to McRae. There, he traded with the sawmill operator – a day’s labor for the sawing of the log into lumber. He worked for a day at the mill and the lumber was cut. After cutting, it was “stacked and sticked”. In this process, the lumber is laid flat lengthways with small slats of wood laid crossways between each board to allow air to pass between the boards. After a time, the boards had dried sufficiently to be worked. Walter cut the boards into a piece of furniture which his family used for the next 70 years of his life and beyond.
During the years that he and Annie lived in the house on the dirt road between Workmore and McRae, the pie safe had been stained or painted a dark brown. It had two screen doors that hinged along the outer edges of the piece. By the 1960’s when this author was growing up, the piece was simply used for storing plates and other containers. It was seldom opened in those days. But during the 1920-40 era, especially before World War II, the pie safe was in daily use. Prior to about 1950, the Giddens family did not have electricity because it was not available. The pie safe was used to store food that was leftover from a meal, with the screen doors keeping it cool and free of insects.
Annie Giddens died in 197X. When Walter Giddens died in 1992, the poplar wood pie safe made it to the Sanders family, where Don Sanders refinished it, painting it a light green, and replacing the screen doors with glass. But, it was still the straight, clear, and sturdy poplar wood as it had been when Walter Giddens chopped down the tree decades earlier.
But of all the deciduous trees that grow in Southwest Georgia, none is more distinctive than the Live Oak (Quercus virginiana). So widely recognized is this iconic tree that it is the state tree of Georgia. The famed U.S. Navy frigate U.S. S. Constitution which was nicknamed “Old Ironsides in the War of 1812 was built in part from live oak wood. This wood was cut on St. Simons Island on the East coast of Georgia. The Turman farm of the Sanders family has numerous live oaks. They thrive in low areas that are typically poorly drained, but not necessarily adjacent to running water.
The “Big Oak” in Thomasville, Georgia Approximately 300 years old, with a girth of 22 feet.
The specific gravity of the wood of the longleaf is the highest of the Southern pines, making the wood the densest of the group. This makes the wood the most valuable for building, both in construction and furniture.
The longleaf has the greatest “throw” of tar, which made it invaluable for naval stores operations. From the mid-1700’s through the mid-1900’s, the naval stores industry was vital to the agricultural economies of the Southeastern United States. This burgeoning need profitably met the vast supply provided by the virgin longleaf forests.
By the time that Southwest Georgia had been settled, the colonial days were over and the days of sailing ships were numbered. Steam power loomed just over the horizon of time. With their arrival, the age of metal-hulled ships was to coincide with the eventual demise of the naval stores industry.
But from antiquity up through the mid-1800’s, for a ship to ply the seas, a navy or merchant marine must have an ample supply of naval stores, namely pitch and tar. Indeed, in Genesis , God told Noah to These were used as bonding and sealing agents. Along with a material called oakum, which was derived from hemp, these products were absolutely essential to making and keeping a ship water-tight. Without them, a ship could not take to the seas.
Prior to the American Revolution, Great Britain derived the overwhelming majority of its naval stores from the colonies. The Bounty Act of 1705 gave financial incentives to the British maritime industry to use the colonies for the preferred source of such products, thus reducing the Crown’s dependence on the Scandinavian and Baltic countries. This, not to mention the sourcing of pine logs for ship’s masts, was one of the contributing factors for the English going to the extent of war to hold the colonies under the Crown’s sway. After losing the war, and thus status as the preferred market for such products, the Crown had to go back to the sometimes-unfriendly and more expensive European sources for these critical products.
Even in times after the heyday of sailing ships, the naval stores products derived from longleaf continued to be important, such as rosin and turpentine. Indeed, the by-products of these trees are used even today in cosmetics, medicine, and other industrial uses.
But alas, the success of the longleaf became its failure. Almost as quickly as white men settled in an area, they began to exploit the longleaf. Its riches were mined as if they it were gold or silver. Indeed, it might as well have been, for it was quickly converted to just that through commercial trade in naval stores and lumber.
By the early 1900’s, the “mining” of the longleaf had so drastically reduced is reach that out of the original 90 million acres, less than 5 million were left. These scant stands were further reduced until by the 1990’s, there were less than 3 million acres left standing. Programs sponsored by the USDA have helped re-establish the longleaf on hundreds of thousands of acres of nominal crop land in the Southeast since then. But, the days of the centuries-long reign of the longleaf have ended, never to return.
Other pine species such as loblolly (pinus and slash (pinus have taken over as more commercially viable species in Southern silviculture. They are better able to generate the internal rates of return on investment required by today’s high-tech and finance-driven forestry operations due to their shorter growth cycles. These improved cyclic characteristics lead to shorter rotations and thus higher investment returns in modern forestry operations. This is especially true at Bell Plantation, due to the sharp-eyed and miserly proclivity of certain members of the property’s ownership group.
So, with the cutting of the virgin pine forests and the introduction of modern farming practices, not the least of which was the moldboard (bottom) plow and slave labor, the time was at hand for the area to make a huge transformation from forest to crop land.
Transformation of the agricultural economy
The early days of row-crop farming in Southwest Georgia date back to the 1830’s. By that time, vast areas of pine forest had been laboriously cleared, revealing productive land which was ready to be cropped.
In that era, the industrial revolution was arriving full-scale in various cities in the Northern United States and Europe, especially England. American Eli Whitney, best known for the invention of the cotton gin, had also contributed materially to the mechanization of industry with the introduction of standardization of parts. Whitney’s initial foray into this area was in firearms production. Two generations later, the productivity of the firearms industry which his methods facilitated would contribute to the harvest of the grim reaper in the American Civil War.
But in the relatively quiet world history of the late first and early second quarter of the 19th century, a ballooning world population, especially that of the middle class, would lead to the industry that started with Adam and Eve’s fig leaves in the Garden of Eden – textiles. This rise would usher in the first monarchy in America, namely that of King Cotton.
In factories all across the upper part of America and in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Paris and other cities in the British Isles and in Europe. Thousands of textile factories turned out millions of yards of cotton cloth. Long before the era of the synthetic fibers that we take for granted today, cotton provided a cheap and comfortable alternative to wool, which was the only other widely used source of raw material for cloth production. These looms cried out for the raw material that the Southeastern United States was manifestly able to supply – the fiber of the cotton plant (.
Cotton’s history stretches back to antiquity. Cotton was produced in the Middle East as far back as the time of Moses and Pharoah. It is likely that the latter’s reluctance to follow God’s message to release the His people was in part due to their role in production of cotton, a commodity which Egypt produces even today. The latitude and climate of the Middle East is not dissimilar to that of the Southeastern United States, hence the commonality in agricultural production.
Cotton’s growth characteristics involve the rather unique formation of “bolls” which are a fibrous mass produced in what may be described as a pod. These fibers are extracted from the plant and they are what is used to spin into thread. This thread is then woven into cloth.
When the bolls of cotton come off the plant, they comprise a golf-ball sized mass. Imbedded in this mass is the real fruit of the cotton plant, which is not the fiber, but rather the seeds which they surround. Whitney’s cotton gin allowed a mechanical process which separated the seeds from the fiber. Previous to this time, they had to be separated by hand. That laborious and time-consuming process throttled cotton’s potential. The gin changed that picture and with it, the world changed also.
The clearing of the land in the rich river basin between the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers opened up this are to be cultivated for the profitable production of cotton. Ready markets north and abroad were hungry for this vital raw material, setting the stage for a new era.
Other crops were produced in Southwest Georgia. Corn was widely grown, where it was used for human consumption. It was left on the stalk to dry until the fall, then harvested by hand. It was then shucked. If it was to be used for feed, it was likely left on the cob, but if use, it was shelled to remove the kernels from the cob. This shelling was done by hand or with a hand-cranked machine. The kernels were then ground to varying consistencies. Many water-powered grist mills dotted the area, including the Bell Pond Mill which ran for decades. These mills ground corn into two principal products – corn meal and grits.
Corn meal was cooked into breads such as “oven bread” which was baked in cast-iron pans about 3 inches deep and 8 inches across. But in an era of wood stoves, the effort required to chop wood sufficient to heat an oven to temperature for the duration of time required to “rise” the bread was a detriment. Furthermore, adding the heat of an oven to a kitchen already made hot by the brutal heat of Southwest Georgia was also a deterrent to this cuisine. There needed to be a better way.
Thus entered the “hoecake” to the unique culinary heritage of the area. A very shallow cast-iron skillet perhaps one-fourth inch deep and ten inches in diameter was used to cook the recipe. This skillet was greased with about a teaspoon of “bacon drippings”, which was the grease cooked out of lean pork. Onto this sizzling hot surface was poured a mixture of fine cornmeal mixed with water and a touch of salt. This mixture is about the consistency of modern pancake batter. It is poured in a thin layer to a depth of about one-eighth inch over the entire skillet. It is cooked first on one side, then flipped in just a couple of minutes and cooked on the other. The center is a light brown, and the edges resemble lace where they have lightly fried in the bacon grease.
The author’s mother Willie Sanders grew up on a farm in Telfair County, Georgia with five brothers and five sisters. They lived in a house with no electricity. To say that she mastered the art of cooking would be to make an understatement. Her ability to gauge stove-top heat and cook thereon is just without parallel, and this is no where better manifested than with her cooking of hoecakes. They were served daily in our house as I grew up, with an occasional change to “oven bread” on relatively rare occasions. The cast-iron skillets for both were wiped after use, but never washed, lest they loose their “seasoning” of unique flavor.
Also unique to the area’s contribution to food was the introduction of grits, famous in the South but virtually unknown elsewhere. Derived from a different consistency of cornmeal, grits were boiled much like rice and used as a breakfast staple served with butter and lightly salted.
Corn was also produced for animal feed, particularly for hogs, which were kept on every farm. They were an important source of meet, for pork was easier to salt and smoke than beef. As the author was growing up, my mother’s parents Walter and Annie Giddens kept hogs and they also fed them table scraps, which they called “hog slop”.
Corn could be ground to a coarser grit than meal or grits and used for “scratch feed” for chickens, which were key members of all rural households. They were prized for their production of eggs, and occasionally they were sacrificed as a meal unto themselves on special occasions.
Winter grains were also produced in the area, including wheat and oats. In modern times, rye grass is produced for winter grazing for cattle. But in the ante-bellum era, its use was limited if used at all.
Wheat was grown for flour. But, owing to the challenges of baking vs. the easier cooking of cornmeal, its popularity was limited.
Oats were the staple of feed for draft animals, which were primarily mules and horses. To increase their digestibility, they were often “rolled”, which squeezed the grain between fluted rollers to crack its outer gluten layer.
Sugar cane was
The soil types led to the type of farming practiced in the area.
John Bell fought in the American Revolution, serving the 1st Georgia Infantry, who fought under General Nathaniel Green. After the war, John returned to his home in Evans, GA near Columbia County where he was in agri-businesses. He engaged in many farm land transactions in the 1790s and past the turn of the century. He died in 1806, leaving two sons. Hugh Bell was the younger son. He had married Rebecca Viggra when she was 15 years old. She birthed her first child at age 16 in 1805.
The area around Augusta was becoming crowded as the years passed. The hard red clay of the upper Piedmont, never particularly productive, became less and less so with the passage of time. In search of a better life, Hugh and Rebecca moved the young family on an arduous journey to Southwest Georgia, settling about 15 miles east of the Army outpost at Fort Gaines. Creek Indians were still in the area at that time. Stories were plentiful about how General (later President) Andrew Jackson had engaged the warring Seminoles who came up from north Florida to prey upon the settlers. Jackson repulsed the Indians at the decisive Battle of Herod in 1815 just northeast of the Bell’s property as he was returning from the Battle of New Orleans.
Hugh bought his first tract of land in what would become Calhoun County 1826. This land was on Pachitla Creek. Hugh built a huge mill pond here, using hand tools and mule-drawn dirt pans to dam a creek that was large enough that in modern times it took a series of three concrete bridges to cross. He built a grist mill which served residents of the area for many years. The Bells had their last child in 1841 when Rebecca she was 48 years old. They named him Andrew Jackson Bell after the recent president from Tennessee, who was still a hero in southwest Georgia because of what he had done to save the settlers from the Indians. Like his grandfather before him, Jack was to see a long and storied life in war and in peace.
“Jack” Bell was one of the first men from Calhoun County to enlist in the Confederate Army, enlisting in the 12th Georgia Infantry in June of 1861 just before he turned 20 years old. He fought under T. J. “Stonewall” Jackson and Robert E. Lee in all of the major engagements of the Virginia campaigns, including the terrible battles at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsvillle, Gettysburg, The Wilderness and Spotsylvania. At the battle of Second Manassas, the position of the Calhoun Rifles was overrun and the combat became hand-to-hand. In this position where the railroad crossed the Sudley Church road, Jack picked up the nickname “Stoneman” which stuck with him for the rest of his life. He had picked up rocks from the rail bed and killed Yankees with his bare hands by beating them with the stones. Out of almost 300 men that served in the Calhoun Rifles during the war, Jack was one of only 9 men left standing to stack arms at the surrender at Appomattox. He and his company mates wrote that they came as close to dying of starvation on the march home as they had during battle.
After the war, Jack continued the family tradition, owning various agri-business interests including building a cotton gin, continuing the Bell grist mill, opening a mercantile store as well as being a planter and landowner. By the end of his life, Jack’s land interests totaled almost 20,000 acres. In those hard years after the war, land became a proxy by which Southern family measured wealth and success. Ever mindful of wise business decisions, Jack made good investments in land and business.
Jack married Lucretia Little in 1871, the same year that Hugh Bell died. They lost several children in childbirth or while young, including all of their sons. Three daughters survived to adulthood.
In 1893, Jack was ambushed by two younger men on what is now Bell Farm Road. When they raised weapons at him, he reached under the seat of his single-axle buggy to pull out a shotgun. He killed one of them dead on the spot. The other fled, and he threatened retaliation against Jack. While the legal system had already supported his position that he acted in self-defense, Jack thought it the better part of wisdom to go into hiding for a while. The Bell mill pond had an island on it, and Jack retreated to this island, camping alone for several months while things settled down. During this period, Jack signed deeds conveying his farms to his daughters, but these deeds were not officially recorded until 7 years later.
In 1896, Jack attended a reunion with his former Confederate comrades-at-arms, spending the 4th of July weekend that year and the next. He enjoyed the fellowship of his friends with whom he had undergone such trials many years before. The group kept minutes of their meeting, and they named Jack the treasurer of the “Calhoun Rifles Survivors Association”, perhaps as testimony to his trustworthiness. Alas, they only had two meetings. They were quickly dying away, and Jack “passed over the river to rest under the shade of the trees” in 1901, dying of tetanus, probably incurred while on the farm.
Jack’s middle daughter Eva Mae married John Andrews in 1891,. They lived on some of the Bell property at the point where the railroad crossed the Carnegie-Edison road. The Andrews farmed in this area, within sight of the house that Jack had lived. This house stood and was continuously occupied from the time that Jack built it in the 1870s until the summer of 2010 when it burned due to a fire caused by faulty wiring.
Their son “Buddy” Andrews went on to farm the northern tracts of the Bell land that had been passed from Jack Bell to Eva Mae Andrews. Daughter Donnie Andrews married Olan Henry Sanders, who was an aspiring young farmer also. They moved to Edison, raising three children. Olan Sanders became a prosperous farmer, and built on the traditions of his wife’s family as well as his father Oscar Sanders and his uncle Bob Jenkins. In the early 1900’s, they had owned a general store and shingle mill at the Turman crossroads, which they reached from their homes in Carnegie by catching the freight train to and from there each day. Olan Sanders farmed over a large area, covering much of the same ground as Jack Bell had two generations prior. He raised peanuts, corn, and wheat. He was a champion grower of cattle, favoring the Black Angus breed. He had business partners in Atlanta and used the rail connection at Turman to ship winter greens such as turnips and collards to Atlanta to be sold in the Farmer’s Market.