From the 1874 DuPage Atlas – Dr. John A. Bell
Over his long life, (90 years!) Dr. Bell made it his mission to serve. Born in Ohio in 1838, Bell’s family moved to Abingdon, Illinois when he was about fifteen years old.
At eighteen, Bell started studying medicine with Dr. Andrew McFarland, Superintendent of the Insane Asylum of Jacksonville, Illinois. During the end of his training, the Civil War broke out and Bell served the 10th Illinois Infantry as Assistant Surgeon during the years 1861 and 1862.
Also in 1861, Bell married a girl he was courting in Jacksonville, Elizabeth Eagle. Once Bell was released from war duties, the young couple lived in Jacksonville and then in Cambridge before resettling in Naperville in 1868.
While already practicing medicine, it was during this time that Bell received a medical degree from the Hahnemann Homœopathic Medical College of Chicago. Soon after, he went into partnership with Dr. Charles Nauman, another Hahnemann student, which continued for about ten years, until 1884.
In 1881, Bell and a partner took over a drug store on Jefferson Avenue which had previously been operated by Frank Morse, a druggist, and Dr. Hamilton Daniels. Dr. Daniels house is now one of the featured buildings at Naper Settlement, moved from its former location on Washington Street. Morse has many connections to Naperville’s earliest settlers, including being brother-in-law to Robert Naper, Joseph and Almeda’s son, through his sister, Amelia.
Bell’s partner at the drug store was William Wallace Wickel and the shop was known as Wickel and Bell. Apparently Wickel became the sole owner within a year or two and continued operating the drug store until 1915 when he turned it over to his son-in-law, Louis Oswald, who changed the name of the store. Louis eventually ceded ownership to his own son-in-law, but they kept the name Oswald’s, which is what the pharmacy is still known as today, although it is no longer on Jefferson Avenue.
In addition to practicing medicine and owning a drug store, Bell also served as a village trustee and alderman. He was president of the Nichols Library board, presiding over its grand opening, and was elected Master of the local Masonic lodge, Euclid, more than once.
His wife Elizabeth passed away in 1908 after 47 years of marriage and a few years later, at age 73, Bell married a local widow, Ida Lucetta Murray Goodrich. When she passed in 1918, Bell did not remarry again.
There are two known depictions of Dr. Bell’s house. The engraving from the 1874 DuPage Atlas would be the house he and Elizabeth lived in soon after their move to Naperville and around when he received his medical degree. One can imagine that the people playing croquet on the lawn are John and Elizabeth with their daughter Allie May, who would be about twelve at the time and wearing that shorter skirt. Perhaps younger daughter Nettie is playing under the trees where we can’t see her.
There is also a photograph in the 1917 Souvenir of Naperville Homecoming that is labeled “Home of Dr. and Mrs. John A. Bell.” Mrs. Bell in 1917 would be Ida as Elizabeth died in 1908. This house looks very different from the earlier engraving, but one can see enough similarities to wonder if it’s the same house, remodeled.
Holland’s Business Directory, which was published in 1886, lists Dr. Bell’s address as “n. s. Jefferson ave., east of Main.” The “n. s.” means “north side,” and it seems like quite a few locations are “east of Main” and since they can’t all be on the same corner, there is no indication on how far east they actually are.
Most doctors practiced out of their homes at the time, so it wouldn’t be unusual to have his home and office at the same address. Dr. Daniels is listed as practicing out of his Washington home as well.
Poring over old Sanborn Insurance maps, there aren’t very many houses east of Main. The atlas picture makes it look like the house is on a corner, but which corner is difficult to say. The Kendall home, the basement of which houses Quigley’s Irish Pub, is on the corner of Jefferson and Court and has been at the same location since 1845.
In the photograph, the driveway is in front of the house instead of to the side. Is this then a different piece of property? Or did the land just get re-developed? Some other clues include the 1886 map which shows a house west of Kendall’s that seems to be the right footprint and St. John’s Episcopal Church, of which the Bells were active members, is just down the street.
The search for answers continues!