1867 Settlement
Calvin Bell

1867 Settlement Historical Marker
Calvin Bell

Calvin Bell was born in Mississippi in 1821. He was the only slave of Colonel McCrea from Jasper County, Texas and served with the colonel on the battlefield during the Battle of Galveston (January 1, 1863) and the Battle of Sabine Pass on (September 8, 1863). In civilian life, McCrea was a clerk and taught Bell elementary math.15 During the last year of the war, Bell was placed in the Clear Creek containment camp where he assisted on cattle drives.16

After the end of the Civil War, Bell became a cowboy at the Butler Ranch. In April 1868, he began assisting on Chisholm Trail cattle drives. Bell's knowledge of math enabled him to sort, count, and record cattle with many different brands.17

Eunistine "Katie" Johnston was born in Germany in March 1834. She was an employee on the Butler Ranch where she and Calvin met. Eventually, they married and moved to The Settlement in 1874.

Kate Bell
Katie Bell

In 1878, Calvin Bell registered a cattle brand and is considered the first freed slave to do so in Galveston County.18 The brand was a U-shape, possibly in honor of his wife's first name. Calvin's original branding iron was donated to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. in 2013.19

1867 Settlement Historical Marker
Calvin Bell's cattle brand at the Smithsonian

In November 1893, Katie and Calvin Bell were indicted by a Galveston County grand jury on the charge of unlawful interracial marriage.20 Calvin and Katie were tried separately21 and, under Texas's anti-miscegenation law, Katie Bell was sentenced to two years in prison after the court determined that she was a white woman.22 Calvin Bell was not convicted because it was unclear whether he was aware of Katie's racial status as a white woman.23

1867 Settlement Historical Marker
1893 Daily News Article

After Katie's release in January 1896, she and Calvin lived in separate houses. Katie lived with three of their sons, and seventy-eight year old Calvin lived with his oldest son, William.24

In total, Calvin and Katie had seven children. Two of their daughters, Flavilla and Mary Ann, married into another Bell family25 living in the 1867 Settlement. One of their sons, Calvin James, married into the Caldwell family.26

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