The growth and development of Western Texas has been so rapid and substantial as to seem almost magical. Within a comparatively short space of time cities have sprung up with all of the advantages known to the towns and cities of the Atlantic coast and with business enterprises that rival those of the older east. Brooks Bell, an enterprising merchant, is a member of the firm of Burns and Bell, wholesale and retail dealers in dry goods, groceries and hardware at Colorado, Texas. He has made a record in business circles that any man might be proud to possess and has won the admiration and respect of his contemporaries, never making an engagement that he has not kept nor incurring an obligation that he does not meet. Mr. Bell, moreover, is one of the early settlers of Western Texas and has not only been a witness of the remarkable growth of this section of the country but has assisted materially in the work of development and up building.
A native of Alabama, he was born in Coosa county on the 20th of February, 1859. The ancestral home of the family was in South Carolina. His father, John Daniel Bell, and his brother removed from South Carolina to Alabama when young men. The former was married in Coosa county to Miss Amanda Thomas, a native of that state, and they settled upon the old homestead in Coosa county, near the Tallapoosa county line. The ancestry of the Thomas family can be traced back for three generations. E. W. Thomas, the maternal grandfather of our subject, was a native of Georgia, while his father, Captain Henry Thomas, was born in Virginia and won his title by valorous service in the war of the Revolution. Harris McKinney, another great-grandfather of Mr. Bell, was also from Virginia and his descendants settled in Alabama when that state was largely occupied by the Indians and before the consummation of the treaty whereby the red men were transferred to reservations farther west. The family became old-time planters and slave owners of that locality.
John Daniel Bell continued to make his home in Coosa county up to the time of his death. His widow is still living and now makes her home in Colorado, Texas, with her children—Mr. Bell of this review and Mrs. F. M. Burns. Throughout his active business career John Daniel Bell was a merchant and planter who owned and conducted a large plantation and also carried on a mercantile enterprise, manifesting marked capability in the management of these two interests. In his family were three children, of whom Mrs. Burns is the eldest and Brooks Bell the second. The youngest child is Mrs. Linnie Lancaster, and is living in Ocalla, Florida.
Brooks Bell spent part of his boyhood upon his father’s plantation and a part of it on the p[l]antation belonging to his maternal grandfather, E. W. Thomas. Following his father’s death he assisted his mother in the duties of the home farm as soon as he was old enough to take charge of the business. Mrs. Bell removed to a little town called Oxford in Calhoun county, Alabama, in order to give her children the advantage of the public schools there and Brooks Bell spent about three or four years in that place, after which the family returned to Coosa county. Later he made his home with his grandfather, E. W. Thomas, for about four years and on the expiration of that period, where he remained for two years in the employ of the firm of Renfro & Lancaster, merchants and bankers.
In 1883 he came to Colorado, Texas, reaching here on the 16th of January. He then went to work for Dunn Coleman & Company for a year, at the end of which time the firm became Burns, Walker & Company and a few years later Mr. Burns and Mr. Bell bought out Mr. Walker’s interest and the present firm of Burns and Bell was then established. They are the oldest general merchants in this part of the country in years in continuous business, and they have enjoyed a large trade which has extended over a wide area. They carry a carefully selected and extensive line of general merchandise and their efforts to please their patrons combined with industry and honorable dealing have brought to them a very gratifying income, their patronage annually increasing.
In 1900 Mr. Bell also embarked in the cattle business, entering into partnership with R. N. Gary, and they have a herd of seventy-five head of full-blooded registered Herefords, considered to be one of the best herds of registered cattle in Western Texas. They pay special attention to breeding and for this purpose keep a bull for which they paid six hundred and twenty-five dollars when he was a yearling. He is now five years old and has proved to be all that was expected. He was purchased of Gudgell and Simpson, of Independence, Missouri, and makes a splendid animal at the head of the herd. The firm also purchased a number of cows in the year 1905, from J. M. Curtice, of Kansas City, Missouri, and their herd indeed contains some very fine animals. Mr. Bell has made a success of both merchandising and stock raising, for when he arrived in Texas his capital was indeed very limited and today he is one of the substantial citizens of this part of the state. He belongs to the American Hereford Cattle Breeders’ Association, of Kansas City, Missouri, and makes a close study of the subject of cattle raising and all that bears upon its successful conduct. In the mercantile business he has also made a creditable record and not only deserves mention as one of the partners in the oldest mercantile enterprise of Colorado but also because his honorable dealing based upon broad business principles has gained a reputation that might be envied by any business man.
Mr. Bell was married in 1900 to Miss Samiah McCaulley, of Sweetwater, a sister of R. L. McCaulley, of that place, and their marriage has been blessed with one son, Brooks Bell, Jr., born March 19, 1904. They have a large circle of warm friends in the county and this part of the state and the hospitality of their own pleasant home is one of its most attractive features. The genial manner and unfailing courtesy of Mr. Bell has made him many friends in both social and business life. He is an interesting talker and genial companion and his life record is closely interwoven with the history of his county and section of the state.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 543-544.