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James George Bell

James George Bell

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James George Bell was an American settler and businessman who is considered a founder of the city of Bell, California
Bell, California
Bell is a city in Los Angeles County, California. Its population was 35,477 at the 2010 census, down from 36,664 in the 2000 census. Bell is located on the west bank of the Los Angeles River and is a suburb of the city of Los Angeles...



Bell was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky
Bowling Green, Kentucky
Bowling Green is the third-most populous city in the state of Kentucky after Louisville and Lexington, with a population of 58,067 as of the 2010 Census. It is the county seat of Warren County and the principal city of the Bowling Green, Kentucky Metropolitan Statistical Area with an estimated 2009...

 and later moved to Missouri
Missouri is a US state located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. With a 2010 population of 5,988,927, Missouri is the 18th most populous state in the nation and the fifth most populous in the Midwest. It...

. His friend J. Edward Hollenbeck
John Edward Hollenbeck
John Edward Hollenbeck was an American businessman and investor who was involved in the 19th century development of Nicaragua and the city of Los Angeles, California.-Early life:...

 persuaded Bell to join him in California. James Bell arrived in San Francisco, California
San Francisco, California
San Francisco , officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the financial, cultural, and transportation center of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.15 million people which includes San Jose and Oakland...

 in 1875, then traveled down the coast to Los Angeles.

In 1875, Bell and his extended family purchased about 360 acres (1.5 km²) of the California property, near modern Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles , with a population at the 2010 United States Census of 3,792,621, is the most populous city in California, USA and the second most populous in the United States, after New York City. It has an area of , and is located in Southern California...

. The area was originally part of the Spanish land grant Rancho San Antonio. Between 1870 and 1890, the grant was broken into smaller land holdings and acquired by newly arriving settlers.

Bell engaged in cattle raising and dry farming, developed water wells, and rented land to vegetable farmers. The Bell family initially lived at the Hollenbeck's "Town House" on 4th and Breed Street until moving to a "ranch" in 1876. The family's "Bell House" was built in an early Victorian architectural style. Bell helped the area develop into a small farming and cattle raising community. Originally known as Obed, the California town's name was changed in 1898 to Bell to honor the pioneer founder.

He served as Bell's first postmaster and rose through the ritual ranks of the Masonic Lodge. Late in life, Bell would subdivide his land into tracts of 5 acres (20,234.3 m²) farms and move to Santa Fe Springs
Santa Fe Springs, California
Santa Fe Springs is a city in Los Angeles County, California, United States. It is one of the Gateway Cities of southeast Los Angeles County. The population was 16,223 at the 2010 census, down from 17,438 at the 2000 census....

 to live with his son Alphonzo, Sr. He was one of the founders of Occidental College
Occidental College
Occidental College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college located in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. Founded in 1887, Occidental College, or "Oxy" as it is called by students and alumni, is one of the oldest liberal arts colleges on the West Coast...


Family life

Bell married Dorothea ("Dolly") A. Reasons on July 17, 1856 in Missouri and they had children George, Mary, and Otis F. Bell, Sr. Dolly Bell died on November 27, 1864. In June 1866, Bell married Susan Abia Hollenbeck, a sister of his friend J. Edward Hollenbeck. James Bell had left his family in Missouri when he headed west in 1875. Six-months pregnant, Susan Bell and her four-year-old daughter Maude got on a box car to catch up with James in California. The fifth child, Alphonzo, Sr., was born in 1875.

James George Bell's son, Alphonzo Bell, Sr.
Alphonzo Bell
Alphonzo Edward Bell Sr. was an American oil multi-millionaire, real estate developer, philanthropist, and champion tennis player...

, was an oil millionaire, real estate developer and champion tennis player. He established the Bell Petroleum Oil Company, and used oil revenues to develop Bel-Air Estates. His grandson, Alphonzo E. Bell, Jr.
Alphonzo E. Bell, Jr.
Alphonzo "Al" Bell, Jr. was an eight-term United States Representative from California, who represented Los Angeles, California's influential Westside.-Family Background & Early Life:...

 was a popular 20th Century California Congressman. The Bell family also gave their name to Bell Gardens
Bell Gardens, California
Bell Gardens is a city in Los Angeles County, California. The population was 42,072 at the 2010 census, down from 44,054 at the 2000 census.Bell Gardens is notable for being one of only five Los Angeles County cities to permit casino gambling...