HAMILTON McKINNEY BELL, usually known as "H. K. Bell," is one of the most successful farmers and business men of Morris township, Washington county. Hamilton Bell (great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch) emigrated from Ireland to America some years prior to the Revolutionary war. His son Hamilton (whose commission is still in the possession of his grandson, Hamilton McKinney) was an officer in the Revolutionary army; he married Miss McKinney, a Scottish lady. Both father and son died of yellow fever in 1808.

     Raphield Bell, father of Hamilton McK. Bell, was born March 7, 1807, in the same house where his ancestors died, in Buffalo township, Washington Co., Penn., on the farm now owned by Thomas Boone. His school advantages were very limited, but by perseverance he managed to secure a fair education for that period, and he subsequently taught school. He learned the trade of a millwright, and for some time owned and managed the "Graham Mill," now known as the "Hague Mill," in Buffalo township. He was married to Margaret Woods (born May 15, 1814), of Washington county, Penn., daughter of Nathaniel and Margaret Welch Woods, both natives of Ireland, the former of whom was a soldier in the war of 1812. Raphield and Margaret (Woods) Bell had eight children, of whom the following is a brief record: Hamilton McKinney is the subject of this sketch; Eliza Jane is the wife of James Patterson, of Peters township, this county; Sample Swaney is an invalid, having been injured at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863, and is now residing in Claysville, this county; Hazlett M. is an undertaker in Finleyville, Union township, Washington county (was wounded at Chancellorsville, May 3, 1863, by the explosion of a shell); Joseph Thompson is a carpenter, residing in Claysville; R. T. and James M. are millwrights, both also being residents of Claysville; Theodore Frelinghuyson died February 20, 1849, aged one year and nineteen days. The father died August 15, 1872, aged sixty-five years, five months and eight days, and the mother September 30, 1834, aged forty years, four months and fifteen days.

     Hamilton McKinney Bell was born May 30, 1837, in Buffalo township, Washington Co., Penn., near the route of the Hempfield Railroad, now called the Wheeling and Pittsburgh Division of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad. In early life he had learned of his father the trade of a millwright, and from 1853 to 1855 he conducted a grocery store at Ewings Mills, in Chartiers township, now called "Meadow Lands." After leaving the grocery business Mr. Bell began to learn more thoroughly his trade, and followed the business of millwrighting until his enlistment, August 22, 1861, at Wheeling, W. Va., in Company B, First West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry (for three years or during the war; but he served his country three years and five months on his first enlistment), which was led by Capt. Farabee, subsequently by Capt. H. P. Boon; said company was composed principally of men from Washington and Greene counties, Penn. Our subject was a duty sergeant at the organization of said company, and was promoted to commissary-sergeant and afterward to quartermaster-sergeant. He was mustered in at Camp Carlisle on the island in the Ohio river, Wheeling, W. Va., and took part in several battles, among which may be mentioned Blumery Furnace, Winchester, Port Republic, second Bull Run, and several other engagements; was taken prisoner at Berlin, Penn., June 30, 1863, by the Seventeenth Virginia Confederate Cavalry, and from there was taken to Gen. Early's headquarters in Berlin, where he was questioned by the General concerning the past and present movements of the Federals; but true to the country which was dearer to him than liberty or life, the brave soldier turned a deaf ear to all questions of the Confederate leader, only replying: "I am not commanding the army of the Potomac." He then asked the General if he knew the nature of the oath a United States solder was required to take, to which the latter replied that he did. Mr. Bell then remarked to the General that it was not befitting either a gentleman or a soldier to endeavor to get a prisoner of war to perjure himself by giving the enemy any intelligence of the movements of an army that he knew of; whereupon Gen. Early said: "I will not ask him any more questions." Mr. Bell was then turned over to the Fifth "Louisiana Tigers," and while a prisoner he witnessed the three-days' fight at Gettysburg, employing his time during the first day in helping to dress the wounds of his fellow-prisoners and directing them to hospitals. On the evening of the third day of the battle, he, with about fourteen hundred other prisoners, was sent under a flag of truce to Carlisle, Penn., arriving within our lines July 4; thence went to parole camp at West Chester, Penn., on July 5, 1863, and finally to Camp Stoneman to be remounted and equipped for duty. He was honorably discharged January 21, 1865, and returning home settled in Prosperity, Morris township, whither he had come prior to his enlistment. Here he resumed his trade of a millwright, but was soon compelled to abandon it on account of ill health, having contracted asthma during the war. On June 3, 1868, Mr. Bell was united in marriage with Miss Elizabeth Ann, daughter of Simeon McClain, of Franklin township, this county, who was a son of John McClain, Esq., and brother of James McClain and John McClain, Jr.

     Mr. Bell has been for the past twenty five years engaged in the banking and money-loaning business, in which he has been successful. He is temporarily residing on his Highland farm, on the road leading from Prosperity to Sparta, in Morris township, Washington Co., Penn. In politics he is a war Democrat, and with his wife is an active member of the Presbyterian Church of Upper Ten-Mile.

Source: Commemorative Biographical Record of Washington County, Pennsylvania, by J. H. Beers, 1893; page 389.

Submitted by Linda Fluharty.