On December 7, 1910, Frank Edwin Bell and Nora Lee Schmerber boarded
the train locally known as “The Red Fish Special” in Matagorda,
Texas, to travel to Bay City, Texas to be married. They took a
horse-drawn carriage from the depot to the court house. Elizabeth
Schmerber, mother of Nora, came with them to give her consent and
witness the marriage. The honeymooners spent the night in Bay City
at the Nuckols Hotel, and then returned to their new home at Stewart
Switch below Wadsworth where Frank was employed by the Stewart Canal
Frank Edwin “Pa” Bell was born on September 27, 1883, and was the
son of William Mathew Bell (1857-1911) and Sarah Virginia Gove Bell
(1864-1894). Nora “Ma” Bell was born on January 15, 1894, and was
the fifth child of John Moran Schmerber and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Vogg
Frank Bell’s father and mother, William Mathew Bell and Sarah Gove
Bell were married in Matagorda on June 19, 1882, and were living on
the Matagorda peninsula when the 1886 storm struck the coast. Later
they moved to a farm on the west side of Caney Creek below Sargent.
William Mathew was the son of Steve Wesley Bell and Emily Hobbs, and
he had two brothers, Thomas Wesley (1853-1875), Peter Edwin
(1859-1927) and one sister, Catherine Elizabeth Bell Webber (1855).
Sarah Gove was the daughter of Humphrey P. Gove (1832) and the
granddaughter of Thomas N. Gove (1792) and Emily Yeamans Gove
(1840). Sarah had a brother, Thomas P. (1861), a sister, Elenor
(1866), and a twin brother and sister, William and Margaret (1869).
William Mathew and Sarah Gove Bell were the parents of four other
sons: William Humphry (January, 1885-1929); Ira Thomas (March 24,
1889 – 1971); Charles Keller (May, 1887 – 1965); and Marshall Morgan
(February 21, 1891-1964). After Sarah’s death in 1894, William
married Addie Bondwell and they were the parents of Olsie, Ada, and
A few years after Frank’s mother died, he went to work on his uncle
Ed Bell’s boat as a deck hand. At that time the fisherman worked in
small groups and alternated taking their catch to Port Lavaca,
Texas, where the fish were sold to be shipped by railroad to
markets. One late evening as they were distributing the money
received from the sale of their catch, the winds began to blow and
the tides started to rise. During the night the storm became so
fierce that they had to chop the mast from their boat to keep it
from turning over. This evening was on September 8th to
10th, 1900, and was the storm that almost destroyed
Galveston, Texas. The situation was so desperate after the storm
that the United States Army drafted all able-bodied young men and
sent them to Galveston to keep order and bury the dead. Frank,
seventeen at the time, was one of the young men drafted, and
recalled it as one of the worst experiences of his life.
In the early 1920s “Pa” was employed by the Freeport Sulphur Company
in Freeport, Texas, but by the mid-1920s he was employed by Texas
Gulf Sulphur Company and moved his family back to Old Gulf, Texas.
After a short stay in Benavides doing exploration, Texas Gulf
Sulphur sent him to Boling Mound where in 1928 a large deposit of
sulphur was found. Texas Gulf Sulphur decided to move their
operation from “Big Hill,” Old Gulf, Texas, to the new location at
Newgulf, Texas, and “Pa” Bell moved his family there in January,
In 1932 “Pa” and “Ma” Bell moved their family back to the old home
place located on the shore of Matagorda Bay between Matagorda and
Old Gulf, affectionately known by the family as “Poverty Hill.” “Pa”
Bell worked for a time for Jefferson Lake Sulphur Company and New
Iberia Sulphur Company, and after struggling through the “great
depression” went to work for Parker Brothers Shell Company in 1939.
When the August 30, 1942, storm hit the Matagorda area the Bell home
was destroyed and the family was forced to move to Boling, Texas,
until they were able to find a home in Bay City, In December, 1942,
the Bell family moved to Bay City. “Pa” continued to be employed by
Parker Brothers until the age of eighty-five, and on January 5,
1971, he succumbed to congestive heart failure, just a little more
than a year after “Pa” and “Ma” celebrated their sixtieth wedding
Nora Lee “Ma” Bell had centered her life around her family and her
church, and was a charter member of the Church of God of Prophecy.
The church was first located on the road between Matagorda and Old
Gulf, but was moved to Bay City in 1937 along with the membership.
On December 8, 1974, the church was moved to its present location at
Sixteenth Street and Sycamore. If you travel north on Sycamore
Street, you can see the steeple that “Ma” Bell gave to the church
rising toward the sky. “Ma” Bell died on January 14, 1976, after a
short illness with cancer.
Frank Edwin and Nora Lee Bell were the parents of nine children:
Irene Elizabeth Bell Jinks (October 6, 1911 – March 7, 1989)
Floyd Edwin Bell
Gladys Virginia Bell Mangum Lane (August 20, 1917 – June 22, 1979)
Doris Lee Bell Moberley
Ellanora Bell Hartsfield
William Mathew Bell
Nell Joyce Bell Middleton
Robert Virgil Bell
Donald Moran Bell.