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Bell, Peter Hansbrough  ( 1812 May 18? 12?  -  1898 Mar 8 )

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BELL, PETER HANSBROUGH -- Born in Culpeper, Virginia, May 18, 1812, and was reared and educated there. Upon attaining his majority, he removed to Petersburg, Virginia and was engaged in business there when he decided to offer his services to help free Texas from Mexican oppression. He arrived by boat at old Velasco at the mouth of Brazos in the latter part of March, 1836. From there he set out on foot to find the army, following the course of the river, and on April 12 reached the plantation of Jared E. Groce where General Sam Houston was encamped. He immediately enlisted as a private in Captain Henry W. Karnes' Company and fought as such in the battle of San Jacinto. He was appointed assistant adjutant general of the army by President Houston, May 10, 1837 and was promoted to inspector general, January 30, 1839. In 1842 he was elected Major of a battalion on the Somervell Expedition to Mexico, but while he accompanied the expedition, he did not act as such, the men of the battalion being under the command of Captain Bartlett Simms. In 1840 he had joined the ranger force of Captain John C. Hays, to which he returned when Somervell's army returned. In 1845 he was commissioned Captain of rangers and was in the service when the Mexican War began. He then enlisted as a volunteer in the United States Army and was assigned to General Zachary Taylor's army. Upon the organization of Hay's Second Regiment it was divided, part going to Hays in the army of General Winfield Scott and the remainder, under Lieutenant-Colonel Bell, was assigned to duty on the Rio Grande.

In the election held November 5, 1849 Bell, then living in Washington County, was elected governor of Texas, defeating Governor George Thomas Wood for the re-election and John T. Mills. The vote stood; Bell, 10,319; Wood 8,764; Mills, 2,632. John A. Greer was re-elected Lieutenant-Governor.

The third legislature met November 5, 1849 and adjourned February 11 1850. C. G. Keenan was elected speaker of the house, and administered the oaths of office to the governor and lieutenant-governor, December 21, 1849.

On January 16, 1850 Senator Benton introduced a bill authorizing the payment of $15,000,000 to Texas if the State would cede to the United States a certain portion of territory. Henry Clay offered a compromise measure of the 29th. It was General Pearce's Boundary Bill", introduced August 5th, which was finally adopted by both branches of congress, September 4, which ended the controversy by fixing the amount at $10,000,000. The President signed the bill September 7 and Governor Bell immediately called a special session of the legislature, which on November 25 passed a law accepting the proposal.

In 1850 by a popular vote, Austin was chosen the capitol for twenty years. The places voted for were Austin, 7,647; Palestine, 1,854; Tehuacany, 1,143 and some scattering.

Governor Bell was re-elected August 4, 1851 by the following vote: Bell, 13,595; Middleton T. Johnson, 5,262; John A. Greer, 4,061; B. H. Epperson, 2,971; Thomas J. Chamber, 2,320. James W. Henderson was elected lieutenant governor.

Bell County, created January 22, 1850, was named in honor of the governor.

The Fourth Legislature met November 3, 1851 and adjourned February 16, 1852. David C. Dickson was elected speaker of the House. He administered the oaths of office to the governor and lieutenant-governor elected beginning at 11 A. M., December 22, 1851.

A called session of the legislature met January 10 and adjourned February 7, 1853. In 1853 Governor Bell was elected to the house of representatives of the United States congress and he resigned as governor November 23, 1853 to take his seat. James W. Henderson of Houston, the lieutenant-governor, then became governor in fact and served as such for 21 days, in spite of the fact that most histories do not list him as a governor of Texas. Bell was re-elected to congress in 1855. When his term of office expired, March 3, 1857, he married Mrs. Ella Reeves Eaton Dickens, daughter of the Honorable William Eaton, and moved to her home at Littleton, Warren County, N. C.

In 1891 the Texas Legislature voted Governor Bell a pension.

Mrs. Bell died July 16, 1897 and was buried in the cemetery at Littleton, Warren County, N. C. He died March 8, 1898 and his remains were placed in the same vault as those of his wife. They had no children.

Their remains were removed from North Carolina and reinterred in the State Cemetery at Austin, January 29, 1930.

The following appeared in the Central Texian, Anderson, Texas Nov. 19, 1856.

Our Representative in Congress P. H. Bell has married recently, and having done so, it is said, will not want to go back to Congress, or at least to the House. A correspondent of the Delta suggests the Gov. as a proper person to send to the Senate, and we do not doubt his willingness to go.

Written by Louis W. Kemp, between 1930 and 1952. Please note that typographical and factual errors have not been corrected from the original sketches. The biographies have been scanned from the original typescripts, a process that sometimes allows for mistakes in the new text. Researchers should verify the accuracy of the texts' contents through other sources before quoting in publications. Additional information on the veteran may be available in the Herzstein Library.


Battle Statistics

  • Died in Battle: No
  • Rank: Private
  • Company: Capt. Henry Wax Karnes

Personal Statistics

  • Alternate Names: Hansborough
  • Date of Birth: 1812 May 18? 12?
  • Birthplace: Virginia, Culpepper
  • Origin: Virginia
  • Came to Texas: 1836 March
  • Date of Death: 1898 Mar 8
  • Burial Place: Texas State Cemetery, Austin, Texas
  • Comments: Fought in U.S.-Mexican War.
  • Bounty Certificate: 303
  • Wife: Ella Reeves Eaton Dickens


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