Bell's Chapel Community
Bell's Chapel was located just south of Rockett on Bell's Chapel Road. We often think of it as only a beautiful little cemetery which is still being used, but at one time it was its own church and lodge community.
This community had its beginning in 1846 when John Bell, his family and his brothers, Joseph and Robert Bell, came from Virginia to this area. They built the first two log cabins on Brushy Creek in 1848. There were less than 100 people in the county in 1851, but through the next decade a steady stream of wagon trains came into the area. Many of them settled on Brushy Creek or Red Oak Creek.
Soon a group decided to build a Methodist church and buy land for a cemetery. In September, 1875, they acquired a deed for two and three-fourths acres of land from the Squire A. Rockett estate, paying $65 for it. The same year, John C. and Elizabeth Gibbons gave two and four-fifths acres of land to the Methodist Episcopal Church South, to be used for "a church, parsonage, burial ground, other church purposes, but for no other use whatsoever." Trustees at that time were G. C. Parks, George Butcher, William and James Sprowls, G. M. Butcher, Robert George, Samuel Uhl, and J. H. Swindell.
Red Oak Masonic Lodge No. 461 proposed to the trustees that its members be allowed to help with building the church and to add a second story which would be a meeting place for the lodge. This required removal of restrictions set by the Gibbons in the original deed, which was done by affadavit. At the same time, John and Elizabeth Gibbons bought (for $5) one-fifth acre of land from George Collins, which adjoined the original land given, and presented this deed to Joseph Bell, J. H. Burkhead, Burney Haynes, W. H. Ballard, J. W. Evans, S. M. Butcher and J. N. Lowrance. Masonic Lodge No. 461 was named in the deed with its committee of I. G. Culbertson, A. Wooden and T. J. Cole. Charter members of the Lodge were S. A. Bayless, James M. Burkhead, I. C. Culbertson, James M. Caldwell, J. W. Evans, T. J. Farrar, John S. Farrar, C. C. Gibbons, C. P. Hardesty, M. B. Lewis, C. M. Lea, W. C. Lewis, J. B. Merideth, John B. Owens, George C. Parks, J. H. Pierce, W. D. Robinson and Abram Wooden.
The church was under the Northwest Texas Conference, Lancaster district. Andrew Davis was first presiding elder of the church, and Rev. John S. Davis was one of the first pastors. For many years an active membership was maintained, among whom were the Harvey Lowrance family, John Gibbons, Mae Burkhead, Joe Marshall, Tom Stroud, George Butcher, Lewis Butcher, Jim Eagle, George Callin, John Owen, Dr. Conger, W. B. Haynes, N, R. Parchman, Joe and Catherine Bell, Mr. and Mrs. Meeks, Mrs. Jennie Fry, the Sam Hardesty family, the T. W. and M. R. Bryant families, Mrs. Cherry and daughter, the Miller family. Mrs. J. I. Davis, Mrs. Myrtle Powell and Mrs. Billy Bell joined the church in childhood.
In 1877, Jodie P. Bell, who had come as a small boy to this area, was the first to be buried in the cemetery which was named for him.
When the MK&T Railroad was built through the area in the 1880s, it bypassed Old Red Oak, and a new Red Oak grew up around the railroad station. The Methodist congregation decided to build a church in New Red Oak in 1901. Bell's Chapel building was torn down in 1908 and the lumber used to build a parsonage in Red Oak. Soon after, Lodge No. 461 was disbanded.
Following this, a Cemetery Union Association was organized to oversee Bell's Chapel and the Baptist Cemetery of Red Oak, separate records and funds to be kept. A reorganizational meeting of Bell's Chapel Association was called in March, 1953, when Red Oak Methodist chuch elected Glenn Bell, grandson of Jodie Bell, R. C. Lowrance and William M. Holder as trustees. The group voted to continue the annual Decoration Day on the last Sunday in April, as chosen in 1927, and also to have a memorial service and place flags on the graves of all soldiers buried here.
There are twenty-three Confederate soldiers, one Union, three World War I, eight World War II and one Korean War buried in Bell's Chapel. Some names of the Civil War soldiers are J. M. Bell, Dr. Conger, J. M. Burkhead, I,. G. Culbertson, Jim Childers, Robert Eason, Samy Fry, W. B. Haynes, Joe Marshall, Billy Pierce, Mose Rutherford, S. A. Rockett, John Sullivan, Tom Wicker and Tom Yates.
One of the hallowed spots in Ellis County is Bell's Chapel Cemetety in the Red Oak - Rockett area. A shaded and quite place where 470 pioneers and their descendants are buried, it has been preserved for posterity by a small group of people devoted to its care and preservation. Some five and three-fourths acres of land comprise the site of the burial ground located approximately three and one-half miles southeast of Red Oak and two and one-half miles northwest of Rockett on Rockett Road.
On April 26, 1970, a Texas Historical Marker was placed at the north entrance of the then 95-year-old cemetery, alongside a brick and granite marker erected earlier. Association members point out that much credit is due Mrs. A. L. L. Feltenberger for compilation of records regarding the historic landmark. The former Miss Emma Wright, Mrs. Feltenberger is the granddaughter of William B. Haynes, an early day pioneer associated with establishment of the landmark. Her aunt, Mrs. Myrtle Powell, assisted her in earlier years. The records reveal that a majority of the 470 graves in the cemetery are marked with identifiable headstones with some birth dates back to 1804, 1807 and 1810.
Information from records of Bell's Chapel Cemetery Association,
furnished by Fannie Humphries, Sect-Treas. 1994
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This page was last modified: Monday, 10-Sep-2018 10:23:32 MDT