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Bell Witch Character Biography

Jesse Bell (1790-1843)


Kate once allegedly “checked on” Jesse Belland told Lucy Bell that he had returned safely from a business trip and was at his home reading a book. Upon visiting his parents and siblings the next morning, he remarked that his front door mysteriously opened and shut as he read a book the night before. It was Jesse Bell’s wife, Martha, whom Kate gave a pair of black stockings as a “gift” and requested that she be buried in them.

The eldest of John and Lucy Bell’s children, Jesse Bell was born in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, where he spent his early childhood before moving to Tennessee. He joined the Tennessee Militia in 1814, and fought in the Creek Indian Warand the battles of Horseshoe Bendand NewOrleans under then Major General Andrew Jackson. [1]

He married Martha Gunn, daughter of the Reverend Thomas Gunn, in September of 1817.  Their family, which ultimately consisted of nine children, lived in Robertson County, Tennessee until the 1837-1842 period, when they moved to Panola County, Mississippi. [2]

They developed farmland in the present-day community of Eureka, about seven miles east of Batesville, Mississippi.  Jesse and Martha Bell’s first child, John Thomas Bell, was the patriarch of the Mississippi Bell Witch legend.  Their third child, Sarah Elizabeth Bell, married her first cousin, Jesse Bell Porter, who was the son of Alexand EstherBell Porter.

Jesse Bell died in 1843 while visiting friends in Christian County, Kentucky near the present-day town of Hopkinsville.  His place of burial is unknown; however, there exists a gravestone in a Hopkinsvillecemetery that bears the faint inscription, “Bell,” and lists 1843 as the date of death. [3]

His wife, Martha Gunn Bell, died in 1881 and is buried in Panola County, Mississippi.  It is not known whether she was buried in the black stockings as Kate had requested.



This cemetery is where several of Jesse Bell’s descendants are buried, and is also where much of the Mississippi version of the Bell Witch legend allegedly took place.


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

[2]  Timeframe arrived at by examining real estate, tax, and census records.

[3]  Riverside Cemetery, Hopkinsville, Kentucky.


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Last Update: July 03, 2024