Columns of Will Ball
“Major” Daniel Bell was one of the early
arrivals at the mouth of the Eel and one of the first to build a cabin by the
river on the site of the present city of Logansport.
We believe the title of “major” was a
courtesy title as nowhere have we found mention of any military service
rendered by him that would entitle him to the rank. He did serve at the Battle of Tippecanoe in
the “Yellow Jackets” with John Tipton under Captain Spier Spencer, but we find
no mention of any other military service nor any distinguished act which would
have earned him that title.
Bell, with his family, arrived at the
south bank of the Wabash on March 27, 1827.
The river was high, so swollen that it was almost unable to be forded
but he managed to get his family across in a pirogue or dugout, then lined up
his horses and organizing them in such a manner that the horses, being taller,
could reach the bottom and help keep the oxen and wagon afloat until the
deepest part of the crossing had been passed.
There was not another white man nearer
than Georgetown where there was an Indian trader, except Alexander Chamberlain,
whose cabin was located on the south bank of the river opposite the mouth of
the Eel River. It took a lot of courage
to attempt a job like that crossing alone in the forest.
Of course, he may have visited
Chamberlain before trying to ford a stream and Chamberlain may have been on
hand to help. Bell had come to this
place from Putnam County, west of Indianapolis where he had been living on a farm
for two or three years. It was possible
that he had come north from that place until he struck the Wabash, then
followed that stream until he reached Chamberlain’s place. There were no roads and the natural method of
going about was to follow the streams whenever possible.
Bell’s claim to have erected the first
cabin between the rivers was probably correct although he had a close
competitor in Hugh McKeen who came here from Ft. Wayne about the first of June
of the same year. McKeen built his cabin
near the “point”, close to the mouth of the Eel River where he opened a store
for trading with the occasional white passers by and the few Indians who could
bring in some pelts.
Bell was born in Washington County,
Pennsylvania in March of 1788, consequently he was 39 when he came here. When he was about six months old his father
had moved to Kentucky, when they again moved, going to Corydon, then the
territorial capitol of Indiana. Daniel,
then 23, returned to Corydon after the Battle of Tippecanoe, where he married
Nancy Spencer, daughter of Spier Spencer, captain of the “Yellow Jackets”. John Tipton married Matilda, another daughter
Bell accompanied Tipton on the
expedition that located the Indiana-Illinois state line in 1821. He later, in 1824, settled on the farm in
Putnam County from which he migrated to the Mouth of the Eel.
Bell selected the site for his cabin
because of an unusually fine spring that promised an abundance of good
water. Helm, in his history, locates
that place “just east of Berkeley Street and a few rods south of the old
cemetery.” He goes on to say that the
ruins of an old cabin might have been seen on the spot within the past 30
years. Helm wrote in 1886. Dr. Powell says that Lewis Cass Bell was born
during the summer of 1828.
Bell moved to Clay Township a year or
two after coming to Logansport and it is probable that he went to his
farm. His biographer says he went to the
Nathan Julian farm but we have not been able to locate that farm.
In 1835, we find him advertising town
lots in the newly platted town of Georgetown in Jefferson Township. He had bought another half section there from
Silas Atcheson and for a time did a thriving business at that busy little
burg. For quite a while, Georgetown was
a close rival to Logansport until the completion of the Michigan Road gave this
place a lead over Georgetown.
In 1841, Bell left his Georgetown place
and returned to Logansport, moving into the Tipton home at the “Falls of the
Wabash” near the foot of 17th Street. This move was made at the request of the Tipton
heirs, nephews and nieces of Mrs. Bell, who was Mrs. Tipton’s sister. He remained there until 1843 when he made his
last move, going to what became known as the Bell Prairie near Galveston, where
he spent the rest of his life.
His wife, Nancy, daughter of Spier
Spencer, one of the heroes of the Battle of Tippecanoe, died in 1849, about six
years after he moved to Galveston. She
is buried in the little cemetery on the south side of Lake Cicott.
John B. Druet, one of the very early
pioneers, who operated a trading post near the mouth of Rock Creek, in what is
now known as French Post Park, in 1820, and who came to the mouth of the Eel to
act as clerk for John Tipton, the Indian agent, married Elizabeth, one of
Maria Duret, their daughter, married
Dudley H. Chase, a prominent lawyer of Logansport and long a judge of Cass
County Circuit Court. Mrs. Chase Stewart
is a great-granddaughter of Major Bell.
Logansport Press, October 7, 1851
Transcribed by Christine Spencer, April,
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