A Guide to the Peter Hansbrough Bell Papers, 1847-1898
Governor Peter Hansbrough Bell (1812-1898) was born in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. As a private in the cavalry company of Henry W. Karnes, he fought in the battle of San Jacinto, for which service, on June 6, 1838, he was issued a donation certificate for 640 acres of land. Bell was appointed assistant adjutant general on May 10, 1837, and inspector general on January 30, 1839. He joined the Texas Rangers under John C. (Jack) Hays in 1840 and held the rank of major in the Somervell expedition of 1842. In 1845, Bell was captain of a company of rangers but resigned that commission to enter the United States Army at the outbreak of the Mexican War. Under the command of Gen. Zachary Taylor, Bell won distinction at the battle of Buena Vista. As lieutenant colonel, he commanded the part of Hays's regiment designated for service in Texas on the Rio Grande. He was experienced in frontier affairs, and the operations of his battalion inspired confidence in the people so that the line of settlement pushed southwestward rapidly.
Bell was elected governor of Texas in 1849 and again in 1851. A few months before the expiration of his second term in 1853 he resigned to fill the vacancy in the United States House of Representatives caused by the death of David S. Kaufman. He remained in Congress from 1853 to 1857.
On March 3, 1857, Bell married Mrs. Ella Reeves Eaton Dickens, the daughter of a wealthy North Carolina planter, William Eaton, and the widow of Benjamin Dickens. Bell moved to her home at Littleton, North Carolina. At the outbreak of the Civil War Jefferson Davis offered him a commission as Confederate colonel, but he refused to serve and spent the war years on his wife's plantation. In 1891, the Texas legislature voted Bell a donation and a pension in appreciation for his services to the republic and the state. Bell County was named in his honor.
Correspondence, letter books, legal papers, business papers, and newspaper clippings comprise the Peter Hansbrough Bell Papers, 1847-1898, documenting Bell’s activities as a soldier during the Mexican War, as governor of Texas (1849-1851), as a United States Congressman (1853-1857), and during the Civil War. A nineteenth century numeration book belonging to Thomas B. Eaton contains mathematic formulas. The collection also includes an 1850 letter from Governor Whitemarsh Seabrook of South Carolina to Gov. Bell concerning federal encroachment and promising financial and military support in case of future conflict.
This collection is open for research use.
Peter Hansbrough Bell Papers, 1847-1898, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Detailed Description of the Papers