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Frank W. Bell Collection Finding Aid

Processed by Colin Moore, 2001 and Eric Skinner, 2003
Finding aid created by Eric Skinner

Biographical Information

Francis "Frank" West Bell was born in Milledgeville, Georgia on March 12, 1906. Bell attended Georgia Military College and the University of Georgia, where he earned his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1927. Bell also carried out post-graduate work at Columbia University.

After passing the state bar examination, Bell began to practice law in Milledgeville. He worked for a short period as an attorney for Georgia Power Company and then entered private practice where he concentrated on real estate law. He served as a judge in the Milledgeville Municipal Court, was president of the Milledgeville Banking Company and was also chairman of the Baldwin County Hospital Board of Trustees. Bell was a member of the Georgia and Ocmulgee Bar Associations and of the First Methodist Church of Milledgeville. He entered semi-retirement in the mid-1970s and continued to work on occasional cases. He also collected real estate records related to Baldwin County to supplement the files accumulated during his practice.

Bell married Margarette Napier Bell in 1932, who died on Nov. 26, 1974. The couple had two children and four grandchildren. After his first wife's death, Bell married Virginia Cooper Bell, who died on Feb. 26, 1983. Bell died on Oct. 30, 1986 and is buried in Memory Hill Cemetery in Milledgeville.

Scope and Content

The Frank W. Bell Collection is primarily concerned with real estate records from Milledgeville, Baldwin County and the surrounding counties. The collection also includes wills and estates executed by Bell, paperwork involving the Milledgeville Banking Company and deeds and land grants from the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The Frank W. Bell Collection mainly consists of real estate records dealing with Baldwin County and other counties in Georgia. These include Putnam, Washington, Jones, Hancock, Wilkinson and Wilkes Counties. The collection also contains wills prepared by Bell and files referring to litigation involving the Milledgeville Banking Company, of which Bell was president.

Some items of note in the collection are:
Box 139 includes three folders of records detailing correspondence between Georgia's Secretary of State and the director of the Lunatic Asylum. Included in this is a letter from Georgia's Surveyor General directing that Baldwin and Wilkinson Counties be divided and mapped. It is not known if this document is the original letter or a duplicate. Also included is a tracing of the original map of Baldwin County.

Files concerning Marion W. Stembridge are in Box 177. Stembridge was a local banker and grocer who is best remembered for his involvement in a case which was fictionalized in the novel "Paris Trout." Stembridge murdered two men, Marion Ellis and Thomas "Pete" Bivens in 1953 and then committed suicide.

Box 154 contains the schedule of taxes for Baldwin County from 1934-1940.

Box 206 contains a group of folders entitled "Deeds, Various Counties." These folders contain deeds ranging in date from 1795 to 1903. The deed from 1795 is from Wilkes County and involves a man named John Garrard. Also included are three original Georgia Land Grants from 1805. Two of these grants have the original seal attached to them.

Box 207 has a list of Garrard family members born in 1700s. The list is handwritten on the back of the title page of a New Testament printed in Edinburgh, Scotland in1769. The title page was roughly torn out of the Bible and is missing some of the dates. The first birth recorded is Nancy Garret, who was born Oct. 18, 1787.

Arrangement and Description

The Frank W. Bell Collection is stored in 209 cubic foot storage boxes and two map boxes. The two map boxes are labeled "Bell Collection Oversized Box 1" and "Bell Collection Oversized Box 2." A large number of plats, maps and blueprints from the collection are in the oversized storage drawer. The inclusive dates of the collection are 1787 through 1975, while the bulk dates are 1870 through 1965.

The Bell Collection is in the same physical order it was in when it was received. The records are arranged according to the physical location of the property in question. The titles of the units of property recorded start with City Squares, then progress to City Blocks and Squares, then to Georgia Militia Districts and counties, if the property is in a county other than Baldwin County. The folders in the boxes are then arranged according to the ownership of pieces of property. Beyond this, it is difficult to describe the arrangement of the Bell Collection. The descriptor often changes from one Militia District to another and sometimes shifts between the different counties in the area.

It should be noted that while some folders have one name (i.e., "Jordan Home Place") or a series of names (i.e., "Hanft – Lundy – Dysart – Garner Place") as their titles, these folders often contain real estate records related to other individuals. For example, "Jordan Home Place" takes up five folders and includes a group of records of transactions filed by different people involving that piece of property. Likewise, those with a list of names include records about a piece of property involving those people, but may also include records related to other individuals.

A brief explanation about the geographic division of Baldwin County is necessary to understand the organization of the collection. During the time period covered by the Bell Collection, Baldwin County was organized by Georgia Militia Districts (GMD). These districts are: the 105th, 115th, 1714th, 318th, 319th, 320th, 321st and 322nd. The city of Milledgeville occupies the 320th GMD. The 320th GMD is divided into squares and blocks, the difference in the name resulting from the difference in the shapes of the units of land. The squares are square, while the blocks are rectangular. The 320th GMD was divided into 84 squares and four public squares, which comprised the original city limits of Milledgeville. Each of the 84 squares was divided into four one-acre lots. The numbers of additional blocks and squares runs from 1 through 98 and continues though Square 202. From that point on, the collection is organized by GMD and by county.

Finding Aid Map (Guide to property in Historic District of Milledgeville)
Box List (pdf)

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