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.
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
Ignace which were run by a dog team. On February 16th, 1857, at the age of 31 he married
Martin (age 21) at the
Ignace. They settled in
Bell and raised two daughters and a son.
John went on to become one of the townís 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. ?xml:namespace>The first post office was established on May 9th, 1884 and was managed by the
Smith was the first postmaster. Mail was delivered every two weeks by a stagecoach operated by
McDougall until February 28, 1911 when the Post Office permanently closed.
Rabiteau owned and operated a saloon and boarding house north of
Fisher owned a general store (the ruins of this store, including an original safe, are still visible at the site), while
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
Maloney. The second was Bell Shay.
Sims, the lighthouse keepers wife, was also the
Most of the residents are buried in a small cemetery located adjacent to the pines. Scant 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 1780ís.
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
Campbell in the early 1930ís.
Smith was very protective of the pines, and even built a fence around them to prevent people from harming them. After Smithís death, his wife retained the property until 1957, when she sold it to
Thompson. He then sold the property to
Murch in 1962. In 1965,
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 Besserís intentions were those of preservation, Murch sold him the land for $92,000. Besser, with the help of Stanley Godfrey and
Murch, interested the State of
Michigan in the Bell Pines. In January of 1966, the State accepted Besserís donation and designated it as part of the
Forest. Foresters tested the age of the trees, and some are more than 300 years old. ?xml:namespace>