Member of USGenWeb Project USGenWeb logo

Biographies ~ Bell, Aaron (1832 - 1903)
Home Page Image

Aaron Bell, Superior Judge of the county of Shasta since 1879, came to California in 1852. He was born in Pennsylvania, December 2, 1832. His ancestors have resided in America since before the Revolution and were from Scotland. His grandfather, John Bell, participated in the Revolution on the side of the colonies; served under Benedict Arnold; went with him on his expedition to Quebec, and after the war settled in Ohio where the city of Cincinnati now stands. Afterward he moved to Pennsylvania and settled on a farm. Later he was in the mercantile business for some years. He was a zealous Presbyterian; was married in New Jersey, and had six sons and two daughters. John Bell, Jr., the fourth child, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and was in the iron foundry business for many years in the State of Pennsylvania. He married Miss Christiana Evans, of Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, and with his family settled, in 1855, in El Dorado County.

Judge Bell was the eldest child of their family of six children, four sons and two daughters. He was educated in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, studied law in a law school there, and after coming to California pursued his studies for several years and was admitted to practice in the old District Court in 1864. He practiced law in the city of Sacramento for three years, gave United States land law his special attention, and became an expert in that department of law practice. A United States land office having been established at Shasta, and the officers thereof, not understanding their duties very well, had some complications with the department at Washington. The Judge went to Shasta to assist in straightening out matters. Becoming favorably impressed with the county, he located there. He was appointed Register of the Land Office in the place of the register who had resigned. He served in this capacity until 1879, when he resigned to run for the office of Judge of the Superior Court, having received the nomination from the Republican party. The county at that time had 250 Democratic majority, but Judge Bell was elected by 600 majority, a very flattering vote. The duties of the office of Superior Judge were at that time quite onerous, and many times he had to decide cases on which there had been great difference of opinion. In his first term a most trying and unheard-of case came before him. The sheriff elect of the county was refused the office by the incumbent on the ground that he had not given the county sufficient bonds. It was claimed that by the census of 1880 the county had advanced from of a county of the third class to that of the second class, and that he should not hold the sheriffalty, as he had not given legal bonds. The Judge was applied to and the matter duly tried before him; he gave an order to an officer to seize the books and papers of the office and to take sufficient force to execute the order. The out-going sheriff, with his men armed with Henry rifles, held the court-house with the door barred on the inside, refused admittance and threatened the officer if he touched the door it would be at the peril of his life. It took the force of several men to break it in, which they did and seized the books and papers of the office. The people took sides in the affair and many were very much incensed with the out-going sheriff’s course. The case was carried to the Supreme Court and the Judge’s action sustained in every particular.

Another very exciting and notable case was that which was held to prevent the removal of the county-seat from Shasta. When Judge Bell gave his decision in that case the court-house was filled, anvils were fired by citizens of Redding and great excitement prevailed. The case was taken to the Supreme Court, and after three years’ litigation the case was decided in accordance with Judge Bell’s decision.

It is a matter of record that in eleven years only one case was returned and retried. His decisions have been made with reference to his duty as a judge of the law, and his legal ability has been most flatteringly sustained, both by the Supreme Court of the State and by his fellow citizens. At his last election his majority was 700, when the majority of his ticket was only eighty. During most of his history in California he has been interested in mines and mining. In 1853 he was a partner with Marshall, and was often with him and his men. He has a cane made from the head block of Sutter’s mill when gold was discovered. Judge Bell and his brother, who is an expert miner, are interested in several valuable mines and also in timbered lands at the base of Mount Shasta. He is interested in a box, shingle and lath factory, and in 1889 manufactured over 400,000 raisin boxes.

Judge Bell takes an active part in several of the fraternal societies of the county. He became an Odd Fellow in 1855; has been a member of the Grand Lodge since 1861, and is a member of the Veteran Association of the State. He is one of the charter members of Shasta Lodge, A.O.U.W., which started in 1878; and he has been made Grand Commander of the American Legion of Honor of the State for two terms. His father died in 1862, and his mother is still living, a hale, hearty, old lady of seventy-seven years. She resides with the Judge and his interesting family in a nice residence in Redding, where he can spend the evening of life, having merited the confidence and esteem of his fellow-citizens.

He was married in January, 1874, to Miss Julia Fipps, a native of Missouri, and formerly a successful school-teacher in Shasta. They have had three sons, born in Shasta County, viz.: Jesse, George E. and Harvey.

Source: Memorial & Biographical History of Northern California, The Lewis Publishing Co., 1891
Transcribed by Kathy Sedler

Return to Bio Index