Hiram Parks Bell: Family Background

By Annette Bramblett

 

With the creation of the new Bell-Forsyth Judicial Circuit, effective July 1, 1998, a wealth of information has been disseminated on the life and accomplishments of Hiram Parks Bell for whom the circuit was named.  One of Col. Bell’s titles was that of author.  His volume Men and Things, published in 1907 by Foote and Davies Company, Atlanta, reflected the Forsyth Countian’s varied experiences during the historic era in which he lived.  However, Bell’s first chapter dealt with neither history nor the accomplishments of its author, but rather offered a sketch of his family background.  The article which follows is the first of 31 chapters in Men and Things (pp. 1-4) and sets the stage for events in the life of the man who would become known as one of Cumming/Forsyth County’s leading citizens:

   “I was born in Jackson County, Georgia, January 19, 1827.

   “My father was of English extraction.  He was a native of Guilford County, North Carolina.  He was born July 22, 1794.  His name was Joseph Scott Bell.  His father, Francis Bell, removed from North Carolina, and settled in Jackson County, Georgia about the year 1800.  He died in 1837 at the age of 91 years.  He was a non-commissioned officer in the Continental army, and failed to be in the battle of Guilford Court House by reason of being in command of a squad on detached service.  My father was a man of iron constitution, physically, of high temper, strong impulse, resolute will and fearless courage.  His education was limited, being such only as could be obtained by a short, irregular attendance upon inferior schools in the back-woods.  He was by occupation a farmer; never held a civil office, and was never a candidate for one.  In politics he was a ‘State’s Rights Whig.’  He was no trader.  His communications were ‘yea, yea,’ and ‘nay, nay.’  He was the genius of manual labor.  I do not remember to have known him to spend an hour in idleness.

   “My mother was Rachel Phinazee, a native Georgian, and of Irish descent.  Like my father, she was brought up in a newly settled country, from which the Indians had but recently disappeared, and therefore, her education was meagre.  With poor people, in a newly settled country, bread-winning was the watchword.  She was born on the second day of November, 1794.  Her mother, whose maiden name was Sarah Harris, died at the advanced age of 91 years, which age my mother also attained.  She was distinguished for plain, practical common sense, unremitting industry, devotion to duty and faith in God.  Her spirit was quiet and gentle as a May zephyr, and even her reproof was in tones sweet as the ‘Spicy breezes of Araby the blest.’  Success did not elate, nor defeat depress her, but always and everywhere she maintained that self-poise which is the offspring of philosophy and Christianity.

   “My father and mother married young, probably in 1813 or 1814; and located in a cabin in the woods, on a small tract of land given to my father by his father.  This was in the northeast portion of Jackson County, Georgia, 15 miles from any town.  Here they lived and toiled in agricultural avocation until 1838, when, immediately after the removal of Cherokees to the West, my father bought a few hundred acres of land in the woods, unmarked by human invasion, except an Indian trail leading from the Chattahoochee to the Etowah River in the county of Forsyth, to which a part of his family removed in the early part of the year 1838.  The remainder of the family joined this colony in the spring of 1840.  Here he repeated the experience of his early life---the building of a home and clearing a plantation in the woods, unscarred by the civilizing touch of the axe and ploughshare.  Here he wrought until he ‘crossed over the river to rest under the shade of the trees.’

   “The family of my father and mother consisted of six sons and six daughters, all of whom lived to attain majority, a majority of whom passed the allotted threescore and ten years.  The senior son, Joseph T., died at the age of 22 years.  His death left a scar in my mother’s heart that never healed.

   “My parents were both deeply religious.  They united with the Methodist Church shortly after their marriage.  My earliest remembrance is associated with the visits of ministers of the Gospel at our home, which was always open to them; and with the regular and systematic family worship.  Such was their admiration for them that they gave to each of their six sons the name of a favorite preacher.

   “My father was an official of the church---either steward, class-leader, or trustee---practically all his church life.  He was a man of extraordinary power in prayer.  I have heard him often at the family altar pray with an earnestness and power and pathos that seemed to me to make the foundation of the house tremble.  Faithful, earnest, consistent, devoted Christians, they lived together in harmony, peace and love for more than 60 years, until all of their children became grown, and married; and passed away without a cloud upon their spiritual horizon.

   “On a calm, moonlight night in May, 1876, I witnessed my fathers’ translation; with a face all radiant with the light of high communion, his last utterance was: ‘I leave the world in triumph,’ and gently exchanged the cross for the crown.  My mother survived him nine years.  In September, 1885, at the home of her daughter in Cumming, Georgia, she closed a long life with the stainless record of duty faithfully done, sufferings patiently borne, wrongs freely forgiven, and faith unfalteringly kept; and passed sweetly into the joys of the true life.  I honor my parents for their character and their virtues; I bless their memory for their love and benefactions to me in a thousand different forms.”