Significant People of Lumber & Shingle

Photo courtesy of Everett Public Library

James E. Bell

The operator of the first industrial plant in the North Waterfront, James E. Bell had a colorful and diverse career as a business and civic leader. Born September 8, 1853, in Wataga, Illinois, Bell had experience as a farmer, logger, mill worker, mill foreman, and mill owner before he came to Everett in 1892 to manage the Everett Land Company mill on 14th Street Dock. He left that position to build another waterfront mill in 1896, which he and his partner John G. Nelson sold to the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company in 1902.

In 1899, Bell was a key figure in founding the Everett Elks Lodge, which was destined to become the largest fraternal organization in Snohomish County. He served as the lodge’s first exalted ruler and was affectionately referred to as the lodge “daddy” by his fellow Elks. In 1900 he was elected mayor of Everett. A staunch Democrat, he served as a University of Washington regent when populist John R. Rogers was state governor in the early part of the 20th century.

After 1902, Bell was involved in a number of business ventures, including presidency of the Pacific Coast Lumber Manufacturers’ Association, construction supervisor of the Washington State building at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, partner in the Pilchuck Lumber Company, and owner of three mills in North Bend, Washington, and two ranches in Eastern Washington. He built Everett’s first apartment building, Bell’s Court, in 1908. One hundred years later, the 21-apartment structure was still in operation on the southeast corner of 25th Street and Colby Avenue. Also, around 1909, Bell was a major organizer of the Model Stables Transfer and Storage Company. Later he founded the Bell Auto and Freight Company, which operated between Everett and Seattle. Married on March 29, 1894, Bell and his wife, Mary (Langans), had two children, Eva Hale and Jeanetta Elizabeth. Bell also had a son, Morris, from a previous marriage. James E. Bell died on June 12, 1919.