I was hunting for the places where John Bell, the son and father, grandfather and great-grandfather of other John Bells, and the husband of Charlotte Adair (and the 4th great grandfather of Janet Chapman) had lived and worked. He was born in South Carolina, the son of a Scot trader and a Cherokee woman of the Deer Clan, in Greenville County, but the exact location is unknown. The Greenville records of land transactions and other legal matters before 1840 were destroyed in the 1990’s. They mostly dealt with Native Americans and African slaves, and so they were considered unnecessary and too expensive to maintain.
The journey took me to Coosawattee Town in Georgia, an ancient city that made documented history when DeSoto temporarily occupied it. John Bell and his son John Adair Bell centered their trading activity there before 1839.The strategic location between two mountains (Bell and Martin) made it too attractive to engineers, who built a dam and flooded the site, so all that I could see was Carter Lake.
Next I went to the Coosa River Plantation that John Bell developed in his middle years, when he devoted his work to blacksmithing and farming. That location near the foot of Lookout Mountain provided an easy place to locate a dam, so all I could see of the Bell plantation was the surface of Weiss Lake, about fifty feet above the old river bank.
The Bell family left Georgia and Alabama in the Cherokee Removal in a detachment directed by John Adair Bell (an uncle to Jan’s 2nd great-grandfather), and old John Bell relocated in what became Delaware County in Oklahoma along the Grand River. The Grand River plantation, where David Bell (Jan’s 3rd G-G) and Sarah Caroline Bell Waite (aunt) were buried, where members of the family continued to live for fifty years, became a casualty of the plans to build the Grand Lake of the Cherokee, so all of the original site as well as the cemetery is under water.
You can imagine what I expected when I planned to visit the cemetery in Rusk County, Texas, where John Bell and John Adair Bell moved in 1850 to escape continuing death threats. Nevertheless, the cemetery and the land that they farmed is not under water. An oil company in the 1950’s purchased the land, destroyed the Indian cemetery, and drilled for oil there. Nothing remains but photos of one tombstone in an otherwise empty oil drum, the tombstone of John Bell.
I began to think there was a conspiracy. There was, of course—a conspiracy to ignore and forget the Native American history of much of our country and the people who lived and worked here long before the current generations.