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Bell Witch Character Biography

Richard Bell (1811-1857)


The second youngest child of John and Lucy Bell, Richard Williams Bell was born at the Bell farm in Robertson County, Tennessee. He spent his life as a successful farmer in the Red River area and was married three times. He had only two children.

Although only six years old when Kate’s disturbances began, Richard Williams Bell vividly remembered the terrifying encounters his family experienced at the hands Kate. He is credited with allegedly penning the only known eyewitness account of the disturbances. Entitled "Our Family Trouble," Bell's alleged account occupies one chapter of an early Bell Witch book. No one has come forward with the manuscript for researchers to examine and have it analyzed professionally for age and handwriting verification; hence, it is not believed to exist. The story of the alleged manuscript, follows:

In 1846, Bell journalized the disturbances in a detailed manuscript that he later passed to his son, State Rep. Allen Bell, who in turn shared it with his closest relatives. In the late nineteenth century, Martin Ingram incorporated Richard Williams Bell’s manuscript into his book, “An Authenticated History of the Bell Witch. Both the inclusion of Bell’s manuscript and the book’s 1894 publication date reflect Ingram’s honoring the Bell family’s request that Richard Williams Bell's  account not be published until after all of John Bell’s immediate family had died.

Author's note: All alleged eyewitnesses to the Bell Witch disturbances, including those outside of the Bell family, had also died by 1894. Two persons who were still alive when Ingram published his book had lived in the Red River Settlement near the Bells and were alive and well during the 1817-1821 timeframe. Those persons related second-hand accounts from their relatives to Ingram. It is odd that they had lived at the right time and in "the thick of it," but never witnessed any disturbances first hand, yet people who came from far away reportedly witnessed the disturbances.

In 1855, Bell purchased a tract of land atop the hill at Brown’s Ford Bluff from his brother, Joel Egbert Bell, where he remained until his death two years later. His son, State Rep. Allen Bell, inherited the land. On that land stood a log house believed to have been in existence since the late 1700s or early 1800s. Today, that log house, believed to contain some remnants from the John Bell, Sr. house,  stands outside the Bell School building in Adams, Tennessee.

Richard Williams Bell died in 1857 at the young age of 46 years, and is buried with his parents and several siblings in the old Bell cemetery near Adams, Tennessee.


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Last Update: July 03, 2024