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Oliver Perry Rugh "Ollie" Bell
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Birth: May 29, 1877
Warren County
Illinois, USA
Death: 1969
Adams County
Nebraska, USA

Ollie farmed in Mira Valley, 8 miles south of Ord in early years. Active in Wilson Presbyterian Church near their home in Mira Valley, but when that church closed he purchased the building, tore it down and used the lumber to build a home for him and his family in Hastings, NE, to which they moved. He then worked as a carpenter-maintenance worker at Hastings College. He was one of the students in the country school near Arcadia, NE that became world famous when the teacher (Minnie Freeman) saved her students during a terrible blizzard in 1888. In fact, Ollie was the last surviving of those students.

Oliver was called "Ollie," and sometimes "O. P. Bell." He signed his name "O. P. Bell." He was a farmer in Mira Valley 8 mi so of Ord, NE for many yrs, then later on the maintenance staff of Hastings College, Hastings, NE. Moved to Hastings in 1926 or 1927. He died of cancer, and his wife, Alice, died of pneumonia following a tracheotomy for strep throat with cellulitis. Alice also had Multiple Sclerosis. She moved to Nebraska at age 5. Her marriage was in her parents home in Mira Valley.

Ollie was named for a family friend, whose name was Oliver Perry Rugh. That's how he came to have three given names. He mostly ignored the "Rugh" in his name - pronounced "rue," rhyming with dew. He was known as Oliver P. Bell, or O. P. Bell. The family friend for whom he was named was Oliver Perry Rugh, of whom it is stated in the Section on Monmouth (Warren County, Illinois) Township in the book "Past and Present of Warren County" (Published in 1877): "Farmer; Sec. 27; Post Office Monmouth; born in Perry County, Ohio, Aug. 18, 1818; Republican; Methodist; lived in Ohio nineteen years and in Indiana eighteen years; came to Warren County in 1855; married Hannah Dull, Feb. 8, 1848; she was born in Washington Co., Penn; has one child, named John D.; lost four children."

Ollie attended the World's Fair in St. Louis, MO in November 1904. He was very impressed.

Oliver P. Bell and his family were very active in the Wilson Presbyterian Church in Mira Valley, south of Ord, Nebraska. They farmed in Mira Valley. When that church closed in 1926 Ollie purchased the church building, with the help of his just-graduated-from-high-school son Moore, tore the church down, purchased a truck and moved the lumber to Hastings where Ollie and his son (with the help of a Mr. Shelton who came from North Loup) used that lumber to build a house and garage for the family at 1103 East 9th Street, Hastings, Nebraska. The house was built in 1926. In 2001 that house and garage are still standing and occupied and looks to be in good shape. The Bells lived there for some years. Ollie then worked for Hastings College as a carpenter and general maintenance man until his retirement. He lived in Hastings for the rest of his life, cared for until his death by his unmarried daughter, Jane and Jane's adult-life companion Sarita Wilson. Jane and Sarita were both nurses in Hastings.

Ollie and his wife Alice were engaged for four years before marrying.

Ollie's mind seemed alert and lively until his death. Interestingly enough, however, each of his three children died of Alzheimer's Disease and the complications thereof.

Ollie wrote, in typed form, the following in about 1965. He called this first part "Frontier Story."

"As one of the oldest residents of Myra Valley I've been asked to write of some older times. Part of them I was. The Bell family lived in Illinois, Warren County. Father was a miner and not a good farmer. He had what was called a drift mine. The coal was reached by drifting in from creek level, which ran through the farm. He worked and mined coal to keep a large family. Father had been west a year before and bought some railroad land.

"In the spring of '81 of '82 he left Illinois in a covered wagon with John, Jr. and my sister Mary. They had an outfit of three horses, a plow and many things to live on by the way. The roads were so wet that they quit at North Bend, Nebraska, and took a car to North Loup. It must have been late by this time, but they had a big job ahead waiting. A fire guard two rods wide had to be plowed on four sides of a ¼ section.

"From some of the tougher sod a house was built, about sixteen by twenty, a wood partition made two rooms. A stable was dug in the side of a draw for six head of horses. Ends and top of native hay that grew five feet tall over all the valley. A well was dug near the house, a bucket on each end of a rope that ran over a pulley. One bucket was emptied as the other was filling. When anything got in I went down to clean it out, being smallest. That first year must have tried the perseverance of them all. It was a Herculean effort well done."

"Early Transportation."

"Just before Christmas I flew from Omaha to New York in just over two hours. In 1883 a man, Andy Forbes, drove a 3-yoke of oxen from our old home in Illinois past our place in the valley. It must have taken two or three months. Life wasn't so hurried in those days. A heavy yoke of wood on each team connected to a heavy wagon that was loaded with tools and camp equipment. A luxury rig in those days was a two-wheeled cart. The seat hung on large coil springs. Very easy riding.

"After a few years a glib salesman sold a number of light wagons holding 4 or 6, costing one hundred dollars. That was better than the farm wagon that we rode in to church or town. The two-wheeled cart was used by my wife's father (William Moore Gray) as he campaigned for state senator, to which he was elected. James Ammiel Ollis was elected to the same office later. The farm wagon did all of the hauling. Holding fifty-five bushel or more, it was a load for two or three horses. Later on came the top buggy and matched team of drivers, the special pride of their owners. I was proud of a team of draft horses weighing 1,705 & 1,695. I remember a team of buckskins that Asa Leonard drove through from Montana where he had worked in the mines. They were wild.

"The Bremer boys rode past our place, we boys laughed to see them gallop past. A trip to Ord (8 miles) could be made in an hour by driving fast. Usually took one and a half. There was a man I know of but never met. On my way to North Loup I met him. He was so fat he filled the front seat of a spring wagon and wife filled the back one. I said to myself, ‘That is Mike Sevikenos,' and so it was. Our cars today are costing too much, but nothing is being done to bring them down."

"Some Men of an Early Day"

"Of all the men I think of one C. Abraham Gibson. A huge man, well over 200 lbs. He either knew or made up more stories than any one I ever knew. He could tell one after another, each one more impossible than the one before. He lived on what is now the Lenz farm, in a sod house. He had been a Gauger in Britain, and well to do. He had a wife and daughter, Mary. She married Frank Travis and had one son and two daughters. After his wife's death he moved to Springdale, where he died in a fire that destroyed his home. He was a great storyteller.

"Next to him for stories was Al Miller. He could almost equal Gibson. They would try to out-do the other one. They were often at our place. An old Confederate soldier, self-named "Rebel" Tom Doty was unusual but well liked, also could tell tall tales.

"Of all the men who did things for the community the best one was a Mr. Wagner. He started a singing school. All my older brothers and sisters learned to sing by the do-re method. I was too young. All I know of music was learned from my brother Wilson, who was very patient in answering my questions. Mr. Wagner was also the sorghum maker for that was the best source for our sweetening. We would plant a patch of sugar cane. When it was mature we stripped the leaves and seed and hauled the canes to the mill where the juice was obtained by running it between rollers. The juice was boiled till it thickened, so it would keep. We usually put 30 gal. in the cellar for Taffy pulls and Ginger bread, also to use on cornbread. Good table sorghum is hard to get today. It would all be gone by spring. We had a large family to feed. Our meat was bacon, cured ham, supplemented by big white-tailed Jack Rabbit C very plentiful in those days.

"First teacher was a Mrs. Powell. She had two children in school. As I look back, she seems a good teacher. Maybe not by modern methods. Our school at Midvale, the seats were sawed from one-inch lumber. The first seat furnished the seat behind with a top for writing on. Crude you say, but we learned to read and write and history and math. McGuffy readers and Barnes History. In the East end of the valley was the Presbyterians: the Pettys, the Browns, the Grays, the Alters and the two Ollis families in the North side of the valley. The Clement family in the center of the valley. They were Seventh Day Baptists, but were friendly with the Presbyterians, the young folks especially. I think of James Ammiel Ollis as one of the progressive farmers of the community. Mr. George Petty was a singer and helped all who came under his help. He was a force for good for all things musical. Two men little known were Mr. Cory on the south side of the Walter Foth place, which was the Storing place. He was an old Lake Captain. How he ever came west I never knew. The Boettger family was different than the others. Mr. seemed gruff and the family inherited the trait."

Here is what Ollie wrote about Mira Valley: "Beginning about 6 or 7 miles west of North Loup is a valley about 40 miles long and from 3 to 4 miles wide. It is called Mira Valley. Settled first about the time or soon after the North Loup settlement. In the spring of 1884 the John Bell family moved in from Illinois. John Sr. and John Jr. and a sister Mary came in the spring and the rest of the family in the fall. Sod houses were the order of the day for most folk, but there were some frame ones. That same year the Presbyterian Church was built in the east end of the valley. Most of the members were from Pennsylvania; from the vicinity of Pittsburgh. It was sometimes called ‘The Colony' and sometimes ‘City Farmers.' Some of the members were the Grays, Pettys, Borwns, Alters and Ollises and Johnsons. J. G. Hastings and his brother Will helped build the church. Families also included the T. J. Netherys and the I. N. Swans and the Armstrongs."
Family links: 
  John Bell (1833 - 1901)
  Jane Wilson Bell (1836 - 1907)
  Alice Brown Gray Bell (1879 - 1933)
  Moore Gray Bell (1909 - 1985)*
  Jane Wilson Bell (1912 - 2003)*
  Gordon Dale Bell (1913 - 1999)*
  Robert Scott Bell (1855 - 1934)*
  Annette Bell Arthur (1859 - 1929)*
  Mary Jane Bell Leonard (1863 - 1945)*
  Andrew Wilson Bell (1865 - 1946)*
  Elizabeth Maud Bell Carson (1867 - 1938)*
  John Bell (1869 - 1955)*
  Archie Bell (1871 - 1885)*
  Anna Margaret Bell Byington (1872 - 1950)*
  Adam Wilson Bell (1874 - 1946)*
  Oliver Perry Rugh Bell (1877 - 1969)
*Calculated relationship
Ord Cemetery
Valley County
Nebraska, USA
Plot: Div B, Lot 29
Created by: Nebord
Record added: Aug 01, 2000
Find A Grave Memorial# 5029460
Oliver Perry Rugh Ollie Bell
Added by: Nebord
Oliver Perry Rugh Ollie Bell
Added by: Nebord
Oliver Perry Rugh Ollie Bell
Added by: Nebord
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 Added: Mar. 13, 2003

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