He was born May 14, 1832 in Bellbrook, Ohio, near Dayton. As a student at Miami, Bell lived in the Oxford home of his Aunt Lizzie. Because all of the other members of the Fraternity at one time or another lived in Aunt Lizzie's place or took meals there, the house became known as "the first Chapter house of Sigma Chi."
He graduated from Miami University in 1857 and began his life's work of teaching. In 1861 he enlisted in the Union army, where he was commissioned as a captain, major, and finally lieutenant colonel with the 74th Ohio Infantry of the U.S. Army. He received high commendation, leading the regiment's bayonet charge at the Battle of Stone River.
Following the war he returned to his career in education, serving as the superintendent of schools in Nobles County, Minnesota from 1872-77. He was publisher of a journal from 1878–85, president of Philomath College in Oregon from 1885–86, principal of La Creole Academy from 1887-92, and president of Central Oregon State Normal School from 1892-96. After his retirement in 1896 he moved to Oakland, California.
He remained an enthusiastic member of Sigma Chi into old age. He died in 1919, the day after attending initiation of the Alpha Beta Chapter at the University of California, Berkeley. He is buried at the San Francisco National Cemetery. His grave can be seen in the background of a shot in The Dead Pool (1988).
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