Bell, Michigan
Contributed by Carole Dunston

  Bell, Michigan About fifteen miles north of Alpena just over the county line of Presque Isle along the shores of Lake Huron is
a beautiful natural area, now called Besser Bell Natural area after Jesse Besser who donated the land for public
use. This area boasts sandy beaches with a sprinkling of huge rocks, a mile long hiking trail pointing out the
unique natural features of this area and a plague which reminds of us the people who once settled and inhabited
the community of Bell between 1880 and about 1915. Walking among the quiet pine trees and listening to the
rhythmic sound of the lake, one can imagine the sounds of the children at play, of mothers in their daily tasks
and the sounds of axes cutting lumber. This village, which developed around the Presque Isle Brick and
Lumber Company, was also called False Presque Isle Harbor. Odell W. SMITH became its first postmaster on
9 May 1884, with the office operating until 28 February 1911. All that remains today are remnants of one
building, a large fieldstone fireplace and a sign. Families who lived in the area from 1910 census were Nelson or Narcisse RABITEAU (spelled in Quebec
ROBITAILLE), age 70, who was born in the French part of Canada, having come to the area in 1868, his wife
Sophia, nee ROBBINS, age 60 who was born in Michigan and their son Frank, 17 who worked on their home
farm. Living near them at the time was a son John RABITEAU with his wife Julia nee BLOW and their
children, Milton, age 4, Marguerite, age 3 and Merlyn, age 2. Another neighbor was Joseph WHITE, age 58, who came from English Canada about 1883, with his wife
Isabella and their sons Henry, 17, Charles, 11 and Elroy, 9. Their immediate neighbor was George
KAUFFMAN, age 48 and his wife, Amelia, age 45, nee KING/ROI and their children George, 19, Alfred, 17,
Mary, 14, Earl, 12, May 8, and Nellie 6. Amelia�s mother, Mary KING was living with them as was a boarder,
Dorothy POLK, age 19, teacher at the local school. George was born in Germany and had come to this country
21 years previously while his wife and her family originated in Quebec, Canada. Living next door to George
was Joseph KAUFFMAN, age 42, the owner of the local hotel. Also nearby were Lavina KING, age 33, with
her daughters, Mable, 13, Della, 11, and son, Leo, 7. The BLOW family, headed by Louis, age 51, who had come from English Canada 29 years previously with his
wife, Lydia nee BURNHAM, age 44, born in Ohio about the same time, and their children, Louis, 24, and
Mary, 10. Their older daughter, Julia was the aforementioned wife of John RABITEAU. Louis BLOW, son of
Ebenezer had married Lydia BURNHAM, daughter of Frederick 9 February 1882 at St. Bernard Church in
Alpena. The WADE family was headed by 57 year old Martin who immigrated from Canada in 1895 and lived with his
sons, Herbert, 27, Harry 25, and Bruce, daughter-in-law, Myrtle, age 23 and two young grandsons. Next to
them were Charles BURNHAM, age 38, son of Frederick and an immigrant 15 years previous from New York,
with his wife, Elizabeth RILEY, 36, daughter of Peter RILEY and their children Ethel, age 15, and Loyd, age
11, Charles and Elizabeth had married 13 June 1893 at St. Bernard in Alpena Other families listed in the 1903 Plat Book with a post office of Bell are F. HINES, Peter RILEY and Mrs.
Ellen ISSAC, farmers all residing in Alpena Township, Alpena County. Other residents of Presque Isle County
were John and Robert HAMILTON, CARL ANDERSON, Frank DAFOE, Joseph GARDNER and William
ROSING. Like all communities, death was no stranger and the cemetery of Bell can still be found if you search hard
enough. Great efforts have been made in its preservation and restoration with a large fenced in area, the
erection of a monument and fences around the few remaining wooden crosses. The monument attested to those
buried in this area: Mary CLARK, age 1 year 10 months, 5 days, John CHARBONEAU, Mary
LAROCQUE, age 8 years, a LAROCQUE infant, Albert FULHAN, or FALHARN, Josephine PRESTIGE,
Theodore WHITE or LEBLANC, a LACOMB infant, two sons of Joe LEBLANC, a young brother of John
RABITEAU, a small BURNHAM boy, two sons of Peter RILEY and two sailors who were washed ashore. Roots and Branches, Northeast Michigan Genealogy Newsletter, January 1997 Volume 3, Number 1.

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