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Below is a family biography included in Portrait and Biographical Record of Seneca and Schuyler Counties, New York published by Chapman Publishing Co., in 1895.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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ROBERT BELL, M. D. The distinguished gentleman whose name opens this notice is recognized as one of the most prominent physicians and skilled surgeons of Schuyler County. It was not long after locating here, in 1845, before he had established a lucrative practice and gained the respect and confidence of the people, who reposed the greatest trust in his ability and skill. Dr. Bell has made his home in Monterey since the above date, with the exception of about eight months, when he lived in Elmira.

Our subject was born across the seas, in Belfast, Ireland, August 24, 1815, and passed the first eleven years of his life in his native land, attending the common schools when old enough. When his parents, William and Elizabeth (Graham) Bell, emigrated to America, he accompanied them hither. They spent the first few months on American soil in Newburgh, Orange County, whence they afterward removed to Matteawan. William Bell was a weaver of fine linens in his native land, but after making his home in America located on a farm and engaged in its cultivation.

Robert was employed in a cotton factory in Matteawan for some two or three years, after which he attended school at Fishkill. After taking a course of several months there, he went with his parents to Elmira (then called Newton), Chemung County. The journey was made in a wagon, the object being to keep on the lookout for a good farm. They were given much advice by people on the way as to which community was the best, and finally, about 1829, they located at Mead’s Creek, living there for several months. Their next removal found them in what is now known as Hornby, Orange Town, where the father purchased property. Later he disposed of this and purchased a tract within two and one-half miles of Monterey. This place was improved under his direction, and here the parents lived until their death, the mother passing away April 17, 1849, when in her seventy-third year, and the father dying in 1873, when eighty-seven years old.

To William and Elizabeth Bell there was born a family of six children, of whom four lived to mature years. Of these, Mary became the wife of Thomas Boyes, who died in the town of Orange. Eliza first married James Boyes, and after his death became the wife of James Criddle. She is now deceased, passing away near Belleville, Kan. John was a farmer and stock-dealer, and died in the town of Orange.

The subject of this sketch continued to reside with his parents until the summer of 1840. In the mean time he was sent to attend a select school at Havana, under the charge of Prof. Artemus Fay. He later became a student in a select school taught by Prof Gillett, of Peach Orchard, Tompkins County, and he was graduated in due time. Being desirous of beginning the study of medicine, in the year above named he began reading with Dr. Nelson Winton, of Havana, remaining in his office for a period of five years. During that time he attended lectures at Geneva Medical College, from which institution he was graduated January 20, 1845, with the degree of Doctor of Medicine. Among his classmates was Dr. George W. Pratt, of Corning, now editor of the Corning Journal.

Dr. Bell first went to Seneca County, and was associated with Dr. Oakly, of LaFayette. Sometime thereafter, when on a visit home, his mother was taken very ill, and for this reason, as well as on account of other circumstances which arose, he decided not to return to Seneca County, and located in Monterey. This was in the spring of 1845, and Dr. Bell has made this place his home ever since, with the exception, as stated above, of the few months spent in Elmira. He removed to that city in 1878, and, opening an office, began the practice of his profession, but his wife becoming very ill, he deemed it best to return to Monterey, where he has erected a beautiful dwelling. Dr. and Mrs. Bell have traveled through the States quite extensively, and are so situated, financially, that they can take life easy.

The lady to whom Dr. Bell was married in the town of Orange, May 17, 1849, was Miss Harriet M. Harring, whose birth occurred in the town of Starkey, Yates County, April 28, 1821. Her parents were Garrett and Phebe (Howe) Harring, the former a native of Hoboken and the latter of Clyde, Cayuga County, this state. They spent some time in the above county after their marriage, after which they moved to Starkey, Yates County, and from there to Steuben County. There Mr. Harring was engaged as a lumber merchant, making a snug sum of money. He later took up his abode in the town of Orange, this county, where he died February 7, 1854. His wife survived him several years, passing away April 28, 1871. To them were born ten children, namely: Cornelius, Polly, William, Isaac, Anna B., Keziah, Deborah, Clarissa, Chauncy and Harriet. Of this family, all are deceased with the exception of Mrs. Bell.

The Doctor and his wife have never been blessed with children. Socially he is a member of the Steuben County Medical Society, and during its existence was a member of the Schuyler County Medical Society. In his younger years he took quite an active part in political affairs. In addition to the income derived from his large practice, he is the owner of a tract of four hundred acres of land, about three hundred acres of which adjoin the village of Monterey. He also owns forty-two and a-half acres in the town of Orange, a few miles north of his residence; fifty acres in the town of Dix, near Watkins; besides valuable residence property in Elmira, Dundee and elsewhere. He has been remarkably successful in life, notwithstanding many heavy losses sustained during his professional career. Not only has the Doctor gained success in this world’s goods, but it can be said of him that very few professional men have ever succeeded in saving so large a percentage of patients as he; many, apparently beyond all hope of recovery, have been restored to health and strength by his skill and assiduous attention. Both he and his wife are members of the Presbyterian Church, with which the latter has been connected since nineteen years of age.

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This family biography is one of the numerous biographies included in Portrait and Biographical Record of Seneca and Schuyler Counties, New York published in 1895. 

View additional Schuyler County, New York family biographies here: Schuyler County, New York Biographies

View a map of 1897 Schuyler County, New York here: Schuyler County, New York Map

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