Bell's Corners carries legacy of early settler
A photo gallery of this Mystery Place is HERE
Bell’s Corners is where U.S. Highway 14, Brick Church Road and Six Corners Road intersect in the town of Walworth. Some people know this area as Six Corners.
This community of Six Corners, along with Fontana, Douglass Corners (the village of Walworth) and Big Foot Prairie (Big Foot, Ill.) were all established about the same time. They were each about two miles apart. Bell’s Corners thrived as a trading center.
William Bell’s log cabin faced Highway 14 with its back to Brick Church Road and included his home, store and post office. William and Sarah’s daughter, Clara Ann, was the first child born in the township, on July 8, 1837.
Two of their sons, William James and Lucius, born in the 1840s, died in the Civil War. William was killed in the battle of Perryville, Ky. Lucius died at Columbia College Hospital, Washington City. Others of their 13 children included Maria, Harriett, Hiram Sears, Manley and Amanda (twins), Jane Almira, Robert, Florence and Lola Bell.
Bell came to the county in 1837 from Albany County, N.Y., and first lived at what is now Glenwood Springs. In 1839 he bought 80 acres of prairie and 40 acres of timber and later acquired an additional 80 acres at Bell’s Corners.
When Bell arrived in Walworth Township the following settlers were already there: Cyrus Church, Jacob G. Saunders, James Van Slyke, Marcus and Robert Russell and J.C. Church. Settlers included Thomas Godfrey, who built the first log cabin on the prairie in June 1837. In addition, there were John Reader and James A. Maxwell, who built the first frame house in the township. Those early settlers included Ira Starr and Israel Williams, Amos Bailey and J. Ward.
The first post office in the area was located in Bell’s log home. He served as postmaster for 14 years.
Mail came twice a week via the south road from Lake Geneva. The post office was transferred to Douglass Corners in 1861. The village’s name was changed to Walworth in 1865.
Bell was appointed as the town’s school inspector in 1839. He also was appointed election judge, along with Christopher Douglass and Amos Bailey, for the April 1939 election.
The township would vote at the home of James A. Maxwell. Bell served as a representative at the first constitutional convention of Wisconsin in 1846.
Bell was the first county assessor and the first justice of the peace for the township. He served in the latter capacity from 1859 until 1864. Albert Beckwith’s “History of Walworth County” indicates that some say he served in that position for 16 years, but not continuously. However, the records are not complete to verify that service.
He is mentioned as being one of the early coroners for the county. When the Big Foot Academy was established, Bell was named one of nine trustees.
Beckwith highlights the following action of the county board on May 6, 1939: “Jacob G. Sanders, John Boorman and William Bell to lay out road from quarter section stake, east line of section 17 (Walworth), west through middle of section to west side of Bigfoot Prairie, thence by nearest and best road to intersect Beloit and Southport road at or near west line of section 11 (Sharon) or to west line of county.” Southport was the early name of Kenosha.
You might be interested in some other “firsts” for this area: The first religious meeting was held at the home of James A. Maxwell. It was conducted by Elder P. W. Lake. In 1838, Col. James Maxwell represented Walworth and Rock counties at the Territorial Assembly.
The first marriage in the township was that of Robert Russell and Hannah Williams, with a ceremony performed by Israel Williams.
In 1870, Bell moved to Lawrence, Kan., and raised fruit. He died there on Nov. 8, 1870. His wife, Sarah, remained in Walworth County where she led a very active life. She was one who was called to be present at births and severe sicknesses. Sarah died Oct. 1, 1904.
The first school district was formed in 1840 and a school was built at Six Corners. The red school house was located 80 rods east of Bell’s Corners in the woods.
When it burned in 1842, a new school was built in the village on the site of the old bank on the square.