Monday, May 19, 2014
The Tryon Resolves signers and the San Joaquin County Biographies
I have been systematically looking at the signers of the Tryon Resolves to see what their family connections are, once I realized that I had 8 and then 9 and then 10 and more connections to the signers. This afternoon I was looking for Andrew Neel and Joseph Neel, two of the signers, and getting nowhere. Nap time! An hour later I woke up saying "San Joaquin County"! Sure enough, the clues were here. The two Neel signers were uncles of the Margaret Neel who married my Uncle John Bell, son of the King's Mountain man, Thomas Bell, and his wife, Rachel Ewart, the daughter of the Committee of Safety and King's Mountain man, Robert Ewart. I am going to turn out to be linked to more than a quarter of these brave guys. Oh, if someone had told me that in the 1940s! or 1950s!
Here is a portion of the turn-of-the-last-century biography of GEORGE FALCONBOROUGH SMITH. Some of this may be a little off, but it's the most we know about the Adams family and there is no reason not to believe it until we can show cause.
On May 9, 1854, Mr. Smith was married at Sonora, in Tuolumne County, to Miss Jane Bell, a native of Rutherford County, N. C., where she was born on March 7, 1827, a daughter of John and Margaret (Neel) Bell, both North Carolinans of Scotch origin, and descendants of good old American Revolutionary stock. She had come to California two years before, by way of the Nicaragua route; and had braved frontier life with true pioneer spirit. John Bell was born in Lincoln County, N. C., on March 4, 1787, and Margaret Neel was born in Cabarrus County, in the same state, on September 29, 1796. Both of Jane Bell's grandfathers were Revolutionary soldiers. Thomas Bell, her father's father, was born in Rathfriland, County Cork, Ireland, on February 2, 1745; but his father, William Bell, came over to Ireland from Dundee, Scotland, early in 1700 to escape the persecution of "Bloody Mary," for they were followers of the Scotch Stuarts, though Presbyterians in religion. Thomas Bell came out to America in 1765, enlisted for service in the Revolution during the second year, and served with credit during the remainder of the war. He married Rachel Ewart, who was born in 1759 and was related to old North Carolina families, her father having been Robert Ewart, born in 1725, who served at the Battle of King's Mountain, and was a member of the Committee of Safety from the Salisbury district in 1775, and her mother, Margaret Adams, a daughter of William Adams. Jane Bell's maternal grandfather, John Neel, was born in North Carolina. His father was James Neel, a Revolutionary soldier, and his mother was Margaret McEwen. The Neels and the McEwens both lived in western North Carolina in early Indian days, and there had thrilling experiences; but the family of John Neel's wife, Sarah Gayley, had moved to North Carolina from Pennsylvania.
Soon after Jane Bell's birth, her parents moved to Tennessee, then decidedly a frontier country, and no place for a family of children, away from the school advantages of a thickly settled, established community. Then, too, the farm of John Bell, sold in Rutherford County, N. C., later yielded much gold, being in the far-famed gold-fields of the Tarpitch State. The Bells lived in Tennessee until 1841, when they removed to Metropolis, Ill. There they remained until they came to California in 1852, with the exception of a brief period when they were in Smithland, Ky., where John Bell died on July 12, 1844. Margaret Bell, the mother, passed away in Metropolis, on March, 17, 1849, and both parents are buried there.
Two of Jane Bell's brothers, Andrew and Thomas Bell, had come out to California in 1848, and later Andrew came back for his family. The party consisted of Jane Bell, James Bell and his wife, and a married sister, Rachel Robertson, and her husband (a doctor) and her stepson. Andrew Bell had had such a hard trip overland to California that he wished to take his family by the way of the Nicaragua route, and be spared equal hardships; but they also had a very hard trip. The embarked at New Orleans on the steamer "Pampero," but encountered a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, and the steamer, which had been rebuilt and made longer, broke in twain and they were in great good fortune to be able to get back to New Orleans. On their second trip, they were fairly comfortable while traveling on the Atlantic; but when they reached the Pacific, only one boat met the two steamers, bound respectively from New York and New Orleans, and the New York passengers got aboard the Pacific steamer first. The Bell family, although holding first-class passenger tickets, only had a portion of the deck assigned to them, until two gentlemen gave up their cabin to Jane Bell, who had been stricken with the Panama fever, and to her sister-in-law, who was also sick. Both came near death; and later, on their arrival in Sonora, where their brothers were located, they contracted smallpox, their brother Thomas already having taken that disease and so communicating it to them.
The Bell brothers were millwrights and carpenters. They built the first Sonora court house, and later James Bell erected a flour-mill near Sonora, and was a prominent business man of the county, closely associated with the history of that locality and also prominent in Masonic affairs. He lived there until his death, in 1896. Andrew Neel Bell and Thomas Ewart Bell were interested in the first quartz mills erected in California, but on account of the quality of the ore and the crude milling methods, the venture proved a failure. Twenty years later, with improved machinery and methods, the mine became one of the greatest producers of gold in the mother lode. Later, Thomas and Andrew Bell went to Inyo County and became prominent in the history of that section. Andrew Bell built the first flour-mill established there; and this is still in existence, one of the oldest and most interesting landmarks.
George F. Smith took his bride on horseback across the California plains, brilliant with the wild-flowers which made it look like a gorgeous carpet, to his home cattle-ranch at the fork of the Tuolumne and Stanislaus Rivers. There three of his children were born, Richard Russell, Thomas George, and Henry Clay, the last-named passing away there also. He built a new home upon the place; but shortly after it was completed, he sold the place to an Englishman named John Davis, and in November, 1860, moved his family to Stockton, where Thomas George died of diphtheria, on January 13, 1861. He made several trips back to Kentucky, to visit his brothers and friends, the first in 1869, when he took his family and stayed six months, the second trip in 1871 or 1872, and the third in 1883, when he took his daughter Bell with him.