The Bell Witch legend of Tennessee

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Bell Witch related attractions in and around Adams, TN 

 

Click here for driving directions to Adams, Tennessee.

Visit the Adams, Tennessee page for the town's history.

 

The Bell School Building

The Bell School building is located on land formerly owned by Dr. Charles Bailey Bell, which he inherited upon the passing of his father, Dr. Joel Thomas Bell, in March of 1910.  A small portion of the original 207-acre tract was conveyed to the city of Adams in 1912 for the construction of a school.  Bell High School opened in 1913, serving northwestern Robertson County until it was destroyed by fire in 1919.

Located on Highway 41, the current structure was completed in 1920 and served as a high school until 1949, when Jo Byrns School was built in nearby Cedar Hill.  Bell school then served as a junior high until 1975.  As a side note, Mr. Jo Byrns, the politician for whom the new high school was named, was a descendant of Squire James Byrns, mentioned in the M.V. Ingram account of the "Bell Witch" legend.

Bell School Building in Adams, Tennessee

The building and grounds are now a park that boasts an antique mall, a restaurant, a tea room, and the Adams Museum and Archives.  Outside, there is a pavilion, a log cabin, an old barber shop, and a baseball field.

 

The Adams Antique Mall

Located in the Bell School Building, the Adams Antique Mall boasts two floors of antiques to choose from.  A tearoom and a restaurant with great food and prices are located in the same building, along with the Adams Museum and Archives.

 

The Adams Museum and Archives

Formed by a grant from the City of Adams on July 4, 1996, the Adams Museum and Archives is home to items that are reminiscent of the town's past.

The "Bell Witch" is only the beginning.  From becoming a key town along the Edgefield and Kentucky Railroad, to the Civil War battle west of town and the Tennessee-Kentucky Tobacco Night Riders, the city of Adams is rich in history.  You will see Native American artifacts, antique tools, pictures of Adams during its heyday, and even an old casket!

The Adams Museum and Archives is located in the old Bell School building on Highway 41.  It is open when the Adams Antique Mall is open.

 

The Bell Log Cabin

The last remaining structure from the original John Bell farm is the log cabin that is adjacent to the Bell School Building.  Most likely built by John Bell and his sons, the 1810 circa cabin was originally situated on the northwest corner of the Bell farm near the Red River.  It was moved to the Bell School grounds in 1982 and was dedicated to the Tennessee-Kentucky Threshermen's Association.

Joel Egbert Bell, son of John Bell, most likely moved into the cabin around 1833, staying until 1855 when he moved to Springfield and sold the property to his brother, Richard Williams Bell, who died two years later.

Bell Log Cabin in Adams, Tennessee

There is a strong possibility that the cabin contains some logs from the original John Bell home, which was dismantled in 1843 (per an old letter).  Its logs were used to construct new outbuildings and additions to existing structures.  The cabin was in close proximity to the original Bell home, and the Tennessee Historical Commission has concluded, upon examining the cabin, that additions were made during that timeframe.  Were they made from remnants of the main John Bell home?  No one knows for sure, but the possibility exists.

 

Bellwood Cemetery

Developed in 1957 by Boston architect Leslie Covington (a direct descendant of John Bell), Bellwood Cemetery is the most prominent memorial to the John Bell family.  An inscription on the giant monument at the back of the cemetery tells of the family, in part:


John Bell 1750-1820 and his wife Lucy Williams
Pioneer Settlers from Halifax & Edgecombe Co., N.C.
Their children were
Jesse, John Jr., Drewry, Benjamin, Esther, Zadok,
Elizabeth, Richard Williams and Joel Egbert

John Bell, Jr. 1793-1862 and his wife Elizabeth Gunn
Their children were
Sarah Williams, Joel Thomas, Zadok, Martha Miles, Mary Allen and John

Joel Thomas Bell 1831-1910 and his wife Laura Virginia Henry
Their children were
John Thomas, Flora Adeline, Sarah Elizabeth, Boyd Minerva, Charles Bailey and Mary Allen


A small wall, about three feet high, encloses an area with gravestones for descendants of John Bell.  Several descendants are buried there, and many graves remain unoccupied at the present time.  Anyone may be buried in the graveyard outside of the marble wall.

Inscription on Bell Monument in Adams, Tennessee

Several graves show pre-1950s death dates, in which case the bodies were exhumed from their original resting places and reinterred at Bellwood.  One of the most prominent examples is the grave of former Oklahoma Chief Justice, Hon. John Turner, who died in 1936.  As a side note, his gravestone is the only one not identical to the others inside the wall;  his original gravestone was most likely brought with him.

Bellwood Cemetery is located on Highway 41, just east of the Bell School building.  It is open to the public during daylight hours.  When visiting Bellwood, please don't lose sight of its purpose:  the final resting place of real people, just like us, who lived and died.  Please respect the cemetery and the families of those buried there.

Update:  April 25, 2009 -- Click here to see a list of the people who are buried in the area enclosed by the wall.

 

The Red River

 

The Red River in Robertson County, TennesseeThe Red River bottomland boasts large corn and tobacco fields as far as the eye can see.  The aroma of freshly-cut tobacco being dried in tobacco barns fills the late summer air.  Robertson County is known as the dark-fired tobacco capital of the world.

The Red River bottomland terrain is mostly flat, surrounded by dense forests and slight hills.  Meandering peacefully amid the fields and forests of northwestern Robertson County, the Red River is much the same now as it was in the days of John Bell -- playing the same magical melody it did when Betsy Bell, Joshua Gardner, and others roamed its banks nearly two centuries ago.

 

Port Royal State Park

Port Royal State Park, located off Highway 76 about 7 miles from Adams, is what remains of the area's first large town.  Up until the mid-1800s, Port Royal boasted the area's post office, steamboat port, doctor's office, and many other businesses.  It was also near Port Royal where the Red River Baptist Church was born and where elder Reuben Ross made a controversial public statement about Calvinism, while preaching a funeral.  The infamous "Trail of Tears" also went through Port Royal.

With the advent of the Edgefield and Kentucky Railroad, which ran through the Adams area instead of Port Royal, the city became a ghost town.

Today, a museum is housed in Port Royal's last surviving commercial building, which was built in the 1850s.  The sites where other early buildings stood, some dating back to the 1700s, are marked by small depressions in the ground and an occasional foundation stone.  There is also a replica of the original covered bridge across the Red River, which was destroyed some years ago.

 

Robertson County Historical Society

Discover the history and heritage of Robertson County, Tennessee at the Robertson County Historical Society, located only a short distance from Adams.

Home to the Robertson County History Museum, whose chief purpose is to collect and preserve items of  historical importance to Robertson County, the Robertson County Historical Society is located in the old post office building at 124 6th Avenue West, just off the Court Square in Springfield's downtown Historic District.

Contact Information:  Phone:  615-382-7173 /  Web Site


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