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Bell Witch Character Biography

John Bell, Jr. (1793-1862)


John Bell, Jr.John Bell, Jr. was Kate’s harshest critic, by far.  While others around the community and in the Bell household seemed terrified by Kate’s presence, John Jr. was never at a loss for words.  He yelled, cursed, and challenged her, consistently maintaining that he knew what she was and would never back down from her.  Kate took notice of his boldness, often remarking that he was a very intelligent man of whom she held the utmost respect.

It was with John Bell, Jr. whom Kate intelligently debated and shared her predictions of major world events during her 1828 return-visit to the Bell farm.  It is also believed that John, Jr. was the first person Kate visited upon returning in 1828, and the person to whom she bade her last farewell.

In his later years, John Bell, Jr. spent two days describing in meticulous detail his private conversations with Kate, as his son, Dr. Joel Thomas Bell, listened and took notes.  The younger Bell later shared this information his son, Dr. Charles Bailey Bell, who included much of it in his book, “The Bell Witch -- A Mysterious Spirit,” published in 1934. [1]  Recent findings indicate that these conversations might have been a hoax, the reasons for which will be discussed in a future Bell Witch book by Pat Fitzhugh.

John Bell, Jr. spent his early childhood in Halifax County, North Carolina before  moving to Tennessee with his family in the winter of 1804.  He later joined the Tennessee Militia and, along with his brothers Jesse and Drewry, fought in the battles of Horseshoe Bend and New Orleans under Major General Andrew Jackson. [2]

In 1815, John Jr. and Drewry, along with Alex Gunn, used flatboats to carry goods from nearby Port Royal to the southern markets of Natchez and New Orleans.  They sold scrap wood from their boats to finance their trip home along the Natchez Trace.

John Bell, Jr. married Elizabeth Gunn in November of 1828 and built a house just south of the original Bell home. They raised six children and amassed over 600 acres of land.  In addition to being a successful farmer, he also served as a magistrate for several years.


The flat gravestone in the foreground marks the grave of John Bell, Jr.


John Bell, Jr. died of pneumonia on April 8, 1862, and is buried with his wife and several of their children in a small cemetery near where their house stood.  The house burned about the year 1917, and its remnants are still evident today in the form of charred bricks and stones.


[1] No one has come forward with the notes allegedly taken by Dr. Joel Thomas Bell and later used in his son’s book. Locating and proving the authenticity of those notes would undoubtedly lend credibility to Dr. Charles Bailey Bell’s book.

[2] Tennessee Military Service Records, State Library and Archives, Nashville.


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