Family History by Robert Monroe Fleming (Sr.)

Notes on Fanily History by Iva Causey Fleming
(Part 7)

Transcribed by Robert M. Fleming Jr.

17 - From loose sheets

During that service my sisters and I, seven, five and two years old respectively, stood in a row before and on the faith and vow of our Mother, received the sacrament of baptism at his hands. He had announced an appointment to preach at that place in the afternoon of this Sunday, to the colored people of the neighborhood. At the appointed hour the hall was filled with the white people and the large multitude of Negroes stood in the shade of thefig trees in front of the North entrance. The preacher in the entrance facing his colored congregation, and spoke with his wanted fervor and elegance. Old Aunt Rachel, the queen of the cooking department had been detained with the skillets, ovens, pots and kettles in the kitchen on the left. The unctuos voice reached her, but he could not catch all the gracious words. As soon as her wares were put in order she put a fresh charge of home twist into her cob-pipe, laid a live coal on it. and went forth following her pipe with quiet ease and dignity, along the outer line of colored folks, to get a position in front of the man of God. Where she could better hear. The first of her words she could distinctly hear accompanied by a commanding wave of the left hand were, "Go away from here with that pipe". The old lady, she was a slave but a true woman, turned and with the same easy dignity, followed her pipe back to the kitchen, soliloguising in a stage whisper as she left the scene, "He had better give his mind to his Gospel!

To his place Mr Bell moved his family in the year 1827. Here he spent the last eleven years of his life, enjoying a degree of luxury and dispensing a hospitality that was truly royal. It was good to be here. The virgin soil was a easy culture, and brought forth a hundred fold. The native fruits, nuts, berries and grasses furnished pasturing enough, and to spare, the year around for feeding all domestic stock not in daily use as work animals. Horses, cattle, hogs and fowls required only such care as was necessary to keep them from running wild. Literally, this place flowed with milk and honey. It was beset on all side with game too numerous and gentle to furnish sport in taking. But highly helpful to enrich the larder. Bear, deer, squirrel, turkeys, geese, ducks, prairie chickens, quail, wild only in the sense that they had not been tamed by man, were in full supply. of domestic fowl I remember a drove of pea-cocks, great flocks of turkeys, geese, mallards, puddle-ducks, pidgeons, and chickens of all kinds, from the game chicken to the noisy guineas. All farm, garden, orchard, pasture, dairy and poultry yard products. Everything to make a man's face to shine and his heart glad. Did here abound. Wine, wheat, flour, salt and sugar were imported. The natives mustang grape grew luxuriantly every where, was prolific and it's fruit tempting to the eye and pleasant to the taste, but was found to be unwholesome and it's use generally forbidden. by physicians and prudent parents. The manufacture of wine from it was then not attempted. Ribbon cane grew well, but there were few attempts at making sugar till after annexation. From the first opening of this home it became the resort of all the more distinguished of the public men of the colony and the State of Coahuila and Texas. Both Mexican and American of the most intelligent and enterprising visitors and emigrants. And of a host of worthy men in private life whose business called them to pass this way.

Mr Bell founded the town of Columbia, afterwards the cradle of Independence and the first capital of the infant state. To promote the growth of the town and to relieve his home from the press of transients, he built and opened a large hotel in Columbia. The management of this hotel was transferred to Witchit and Gill, and under their names became widely known and popular in the stirring times from 1832 to 1837. While the government was at Columbia in 1836 Mr Bell had to provide at his home place accomodations for President Houston and other chief men and their distinguished visitors. For several months the office in the yard was President Houston's quarters, and it and the great hall were the air of a sovereign republican court. In this grand company the host and hostess suffered no eclipse. His provident company comprehension and dispositions, his self-poised, courteous, dignified tone of authority met uniform recognition and deference. The charm of her brilliant gifts and graces, her high executive force and sweet Motherly care, as one of the reigning heads of such a family, won the admiration, effection and praise ofall who entered her home. All the people praised her. In the summer of 1837, Mr Bell went with his children, Lucinda, Thaddeus, and James to put them in school in Kentucky. He placed his daughter in St Catherine's Convent, near Bardatalon and his sons in St Joseph College. Both of which were then flourishing schools of high grade. He improved this accasion to visit the friends of his youth and early manhood in Kentucky and Tennessee, Missouri and Louisiana. The recent thrilling achievement of Independence in and for Texas had aroused deep and general interest through out the Mississippi Valley. And Mr Bell received marked attention at every place he visited. He met many eminent men of wealth and influence, who sought the privilege of entertaining him at their houses. The whole trip was one continual ovation. On his return home his neighbors and many friends visited him to congratulate him and hear his story of the consideration in which the Texas cause was held by the people in the "States". He had much to tell, all of which he recounted fully one day when my Father was present. And as he appeared to close the narrative, Madam Bell rose to pass out to look after the hospitalities. He turned to my Father and said,"Mac, I have met and been the guest of many fine ladies on my last trip. But no one of them can come up to the measure of Eveline's style and grace of a hostess". At this time every circumstances effecting his family, and his business was most satisfactory, except his health. He had been a man of iron nerve and constitution, which his ardent spirit had kept under intense strain and subjected to severe exposure in his arduous work in Texas. He was still under fifty years of age. but the wear of three score and ten had been crowded into forty six years he had lived. Premonitions had not been wanting, but a [illegible word] necessity, always deaf and blind to every law except it's own, had kept him under high pressure until the summer of 1837 and the close of the visit to the "States" just mentioned. Very soon after this the collapse came and the end approached rapidly. He died May 17, 1838, although I was five years and six months old when he died, my recollection of his personal appearance and manner of speech and comfort, conduct is very distinct. He was a man of full size, a little taller than my Father, who was five feet eleven and three quarters inches, not in statue.

He stood erect, was neither lean nor fat. Had a fair complexion, blue eyes, auburn hair, a courteous, dignified bearing and carriage, a clear, full voice, always attuned in perfect accord to the occasion for it's use. He grapeled his friends to him with hooks of steel. He left what was at the time of his death a large estate. It was valued George ? McKinstry, the Surrogate, at the sum of $140000.00. He left a will in which his widow and my Father were named as joint independent executors. Three of his sons and one of his daughters had preceeded him to the grave. Of these, two of the sons, the first and the fifth born of his chilfren, were swept away by the plague in the year 1833. Memorable in Mexico (of which Texas was a part), as the year of the"Big Cholera". His daughter, Lucinda, and his sons, Thaddeus and James, were still in Kentucky at school. Only his young daughter, Amanda, then two years old was at home. Madam Bell went at once to Kentucky, and in the fall of that year brought her children home. The next Spring, April 4, 1809, her daughter, Elizabeth Lucinda, married Dr. James Wilson Copes. There are the maternal grandparents of six of my children.

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This page was last revised on 1 September 2009.