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Elizabeth “Betsy” Bell (1806-1888)















Betsy BellLike her father, Elizabeth Bell suffered a great deal from Kate’s acts of physical abuse by having her hair pulled and getting slapped and pinched to the point that her face and arms covered with welts and bruises. [1]  Kate never gave a reason for her relentless abuse of Elizabeth, but her emphatic disapproval of Elizabeth's engagement to Joshua Gardner was no secret.  Elizabeth broke off the engagement in the spring of 1821 after several years of Kate's ridicule finally took its toll.

Elizabeth married her former schoolteacher, Professor Richard Powell, in March of 1824 -- settling in a nearby community that later became known as “Cedar Hill.”  She would eventually become a homemaker and mother to eight children.  Only four of the children reached adulthood, one of which was Leftrick Reynolds Powell.  He died in the Civil War Battle of Franklin, Tennessee in November of 1864 at the age of 23. [2]

Richard Powell was an up-and-coming politician, popular in various civil and social circles.  He would eventually hold a number of public offices.  A massive stoke in 1837 brought an abrupt end to Powell's easy and glamour-filled life, rendering him invalid and in a state of declining health until his death, eleven years later.  Elizabeth insisted that her marriage to Powell was happy and fulfilling, despite the hardships they were endured along the way -- mental anguish, poverty, and no social life.  After becoming a widow, Elizabeth's health declined as well -- mostly due to obesity, so it is said.





In 1849, The Saturday Evening Post published a story believed to be the first commercially published account of the “Bell Witch,” and in which Elizabeth was implicated as the culprit.  Angered, she threatened legal action if the statements weren't retracted.  A public apology and retraction appeared in a later edition of The Saturday Evening Post.  She remained in the Cedar Hill area for many years, and had the reputation of being a very witty and personable lady.  Later in life, about 1874, failing health forced her to move to Yalobusha County, Mississippi, where she lived with her daughter, Eliza Jane Powell, who had moved to the area some years earlier (1849).




It is said that Elizabeth refused to discuss Kate with people outside the family and that she was terrified of sleeping alone -- preferring, instead, to sleep between the wall and another person.  Elizabeth “Betsy Bell” Powell died on July 11, 1888 at the advanced age of 82 years.  She is buried near Water Valley, Mississippi along with here daughter and son-in-law.


Grave of Betsy Bell

The end of a legend -- the grave of Elizabeth “Betsy Bell” Powell.  The stone in the picture, which is the original, has since been replaced by a modern, generic stone to help deter vandalism.




[1]  Elizabeth Bell’s photo from Authenticated History of the Bell Witch, M.V. Ingram, 1894.

[2]  Tennessee State Library and Acrhives; Confederate Service Records.


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