Presque Isle Township
Presque Isle Township
Presque Isle Township

 
 
 

   
Bell- Bell, now a ghost town, is situated 15 miles north of Alpena in the south-eastern corner of Presque Isle Township. It's officially named "False Presque Isle". Sailors knew the Bell area as "Stillwater Bay". The villagers simply called it Bell.  The village of Bell was developed around the Presque Isle Brick and Lumber Company in the 1870's.
 

John Shavinaw (Charbonneau), a French-Canadian, was one of the first settlers to make Bell his permanent home.  He went on to become a mail carrier with shoreline routes from Bay City to St. Ignace which were run by a dog team.  On February 16th, 1857, at the age of 31 he married Mary Martin (age 21) at the St. Ignatius of Loyola Church in St. Ignace. They settled in Bell and raised two daughters and a son. John went on to become one of the town’s two practicing doctors. He made natural medicines from roots and weeds, and seldom, if ever, charged for his services. He lived to be between 103-109 years old. The first post office was established on May 9th, 1884 and was managed by the Gordon family.  Odell W. Smith was the first postmaster. Mail was delivered every two weeks by a stagecoach operated by Bud and Earl McDougall until February 28, 1911 when the Post Office permanently closed. Nelson Rabiteau owned and operated a saloon and boarding house north of Bell harbor. Ed Fisher owned a general store (the ruins of this store, including an original safe, are still visible at the site), while David Raul and Joe Villebourne owned the two other boarding houses in the village.  A one room school house was operated three-four months per year. Education was provided for Indian and white children up to the fifth grade. The first school teacher was Mr. Maloney. The second was Bell Shay.  Adeline Sims, the lighthouse keepers wife, was also the

area midwife. 
 Most of the residents are buried in a small cemetery located adjacent to the pinesScant evidence of their occupation remains; a chimney  and a few collapsed walls can be found along the one-mile foot trail. Other points of interest along the trail include a bronze dedication plaque and a small lagoon.
 

Bell Pines: The stand of virgin white and red pine in the Besser Natural Area is one of two known in Michigan. The other is the Hartwick Pines located just outside of Grayling. The Hartwick covers about 65 acres while the Bell stand covers some 100 acres, however, the Bell pines number fewer and contain less board footage than the Hartwick stand. The origin of the Pines sated back to the 1780’s. Eota P. Smith of Alpena was manager of the Rockport Plant for Kelly Island Lime and Transport Company.  He acquired stone lands for Rockport, and in the process, ran into the Bell Pines. He bought them for himself from the Michigan Veneer Company and W.H. Campbell in the early 1930’s. Smith was very protective of the pines, and even built a fence around them to prevent people from harming them.  After Smith’s death, his wife retained the property until 1957, when she sold it to John Thompson. He then sold the property to Orville Murch in 1962.  In 1965, Jesse H. Besser, in search of land containing virgin pine, was shown the property. The 112 acres containing 4,125 ft. of water frontage, was valued at $135,000. Since Besser’s intentions were those of preservation, Murch sold him the land for $92,000. Besser, with the help of Stanley Godfrey and Orville Murch, interested the State of Michigan in the Bell Pines.  In January of 1966, the State accepted Besser’s donation and designated it as part of the Black Lake State Forest.  Foresters tested the age of the trees, and some are more than 300 years old.

 

 

 

  

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