Robert Scott Bell

Cumberland Presbyterian Minister

1805 - 1880


Arvilla Ann Waterman Bell and Rev. Robert Scott Bell

Photographs courtesy of Vicki Bell-Reynolds



June 13, 1880.

My mother wished me to write and give you some of the particulars of my father's last illness and decease. His health had not been very good after his first attack. On the 23d day of May (being the fourth Sunday in that month), he preached two sermons to the Shady Grove church--one of them a funeral discourse. The next day he rode home; the next to Denison, Texas; the next back home again. All this on horseback. The next morning (Tuesday) he felt very feeble, but came to the breakfast table. Thursday and Friday he was very feverish, but Saturday seemed much better, and was in good spirits; talked cheerfully and hopefully with us about our farming affairs, etc. Sunday he seemed so much worse that we called in the family physician, who expressed grave doubts as to his ultimate recovery. He gradually became weaker, and Wednesday about noon mother asked him if he had not given up the idea of recovering. Said he, "Oh! no; I shall get well." He seemed to be reflecting for awhile; then, in the course of half an hour, as I was standing near his bed, he called to me and said, "Well, Robert, my journey in this life is about finished." I expressed hopes that he was mistaken, but he said, "No; I am going to die." A little later he called his family to him, and reviewed his life from the time of his conversion. Said he, "I have acted in an official capacity ever since I joined the Church." He mentioned the date of his ordination, and said, "I have been a minister for __ years, and I have never forfeited my ministerial vows, nor has a single charge ever been preferred against me. I am glad to leave you a clean record of my life." He said he did not feel afraid to leave his family in the the hands of God; he knew they would be taken care of. His only anxiety was in regard to his charge, and he expressed a hope that those who were yet in their sins would eventually embrace the religion he had so long preached to them.

We buried his remains here at the home he loved so well, on the 4th instant.

I should have stated that, although my father suffered very much the day before he died, his last hours were tranquil; also, that during his illness, whenever his mind wandered, he was continually speaking of his work; arranging in his mind the minutes of Presbytery, talking of being at the General Assembly, etc. I mention this that you may know how fully and completely his mind was occupied with his work.

Towards the last he said, in speaking of death, "I am not afraid; I have long prayed the Lord to give me dying grace, and I believe he will do it."

I am, with much respect,
        ROBERT S. BELL.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, July 29, 1880, page 2]


REV. R. S. BELL lived among Choctaws and Chickasaws, and preached and built up churches for twenty-one years. One-half of this time he received no salary, for six years the Board paid him a salary of two hundred dollars a year only; for five years a salary of three hundred dollars a year only. Twenty-five organized churches and eighteen living native preachers tell the tale of his modest but earnest devotion to the Master's cause. He has been taken to his reward. His precious memory, his works, and his grave are with us. His mortal remains rest in the territory of the Chickasaw Nation.

Recently I wrote a private letter to the widow, asking her permission to make a public proposition for money to put a stone over the precious grave. I take the privilege of giving her answer, although it was not intended for publication:

"You ask about a public proposition for the monument over the grave. I do grieve that we are not able ourselves to place a nice monument to his memory; but our means will not permit at present, and possibly not while I live; and if you think best to make such a proposition, I would love to witness the response of the Church to the memory of one of its most devoted servants. I would like to have the privilege extended, also, to the Chickasaws and Choctaws, for I think some of his Indian friends will like to contribute liberally, as we have buried him here among them."

He "fell on sleep" at the ripe age of nearly three quarters of a century. His body was buried in a nice casket, bought by his widow after his death, with a check which had been sent him by the Board of Missions on salary a few weeks previous to his death.

What I now propose is, that Christian people, who appreciate such a life, send me $150 to buy a suitable stone for his grave. Such respect to his memory is due from the Church he served; and the monument, standing in the midst of the Indian country, will be to them a constant and perpetual witness for Christ and his cause. The privilege of giving is, of course, cheerfully extended to friends in the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations.

Now, let all who wish to give for this purpose forward their money to me, stating object. I do not wish promises of money. Send the money, as much as you feel like you can give. I will, from time to time, publish a list of the contributors, and as soon as $150 is on hand, will order the stone. The brethren and sisters in the Texas Synod alone ought to send in that amount in a few weeks.

This is not a proposition of the Board of Missions, nor is the money to be called missionary money. The proposition is made of my own motion, and is a call for free-will offerings from appreciating and grateful Christian people. I have received, as a start, $5 from Mrs. Lucie C. Crisman, St. Louis, Mo. Who will respond in equal, or larger, or smaller amounts?
    Address,         E. B. CRISMAN,
                                St. Louis, Mo.

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, July 29, 1880, page 5]


ON a recent trip to the Indian Territory on missionary business, I visited the home of Mrs. R. S. Bell, in the Chickasaw Nation. The grave of the noble missionary is in the most appropriate spot which could have been selected, in one corner of the front yard of the home he loved so well on earth, and which is the property of his family so long as they may wish to occupy it, by treaty and consent of the Chickasaw Nation. The grave is near the front fence, where all passers-by see it. Over this grave it is proposed to erect a suitable monument for the double purpose of being a testimony by Christian people of their appreciation of a valuable and unselfish life, spent in the midst of sacrifices and hardships in missionary work, and that it may stand as a witness for Christ to the present and coming generations of Indians and of whites, who may occupy that country.

During the ministry of brother Bell in the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, for a number of years he received no salary whatever; for another number of years his salary was only $200 a year, and for the last five years his salary was $300 per year. The Board of Missions continued his salary to the bereaved widow for four months after his death. During his twenty-one years of work in the Territory, I suppose his pay for preaching, all told, did not amount to more than $150 a year, and for the greater part of the time, except during the war, he devoted almost his entire time and attention to the ministry.

The fruits of his labors are seen in many things, among them the existence of twenty-six organized congregations, and eighteen native preachers in the Mission (Bethel) Presbytery. The Church can now well afford to put a monument over his precious grave in the land of his missionary and unselfish labors.

On consultation with a number who are interested, it is thought that a monument should be put over the grave which will cost about $300 instead of $150, as it first proposed. $300 can easily be raised for the purpose. About $70 have already been contributed. Let others contribute. None but free-will offerings are wanted. Address,
             E. B. CRISMAN,
                     St. Louis, Mo.
[Source: Cumberland Presbyterian, November 4, 1880, page 1]


Rev. Robert S. Bell, June 2, 1880, Bethel Presbytery.

[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1881, page 20]

Woodville Cemetery
Woodville, Oklahoma


Ben Bell, great-great grandson of Rev. Robert Scott Bell, standing beside Rev. Bell's monument.


Arvilla Ann Waterman Bell Monument

Obituary of Arvilla Ann Waterman Bell from the Woodville newspaper

On January 19, 1906, Mrs. Arvilla A. Bell died of pneumonia in Woodville, I. T. She was the widow of the Rev. R. S. Bell, deceased, who was twenty years a missionary in the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations. She was the mother of the editor of this paper. She came with her husband and family to the Chickasaw nation in the year 1860, and has resided here ever since. She was born in New York State in the year 1817, which made her age at the time of death 89 years, two months and nineteen days. She suffered very much in her latter years from diseases incidents to old age but never murmured or complained. She was always cheerful and resigned. She had many friends, especially among the Chickasaws. She professed faith in Christ early in life, which faith never wavered but was always a source of great consolation especially in her declining years. Dear Mother farewell, but only for a short while. I know that your Redeemer and mine too, lives and in that bright resurrection morning, when the trumpet sounds, and it will sound, and be heard in every part of this earth--your glorified body, freed forever from pain will arise and we will then and there meet each other together with all other loved ones whom we have known and loved here one earth; until that glad day, farewell.

Bell Family Information

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Page Last Updated on August 22, 2002