William Nathaniel Bell

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William Nathaniel Bell
William N. Bell 1890.jpg
Sketch of Bell made in 1890, after his death
Born (1817-03-06)March 6, 1817
Edwardsville, Illinois
Died September 6, 1887(1887-09-06) (aged 70)
Seattle, Washington Territory
Spouse(s) Sarah Ann Peter (1838–1856)
Lucy Gamble Peter (1872–1887)

William Nathaniel Bell (March 6, 1817 – September 6, 1887[1]), originally from Edwardsville, Illinois[2] and later a resident of Portland, Oregon, was a member of the Denny Party, the first group of white settlers in what is now Seattle, Washington. He lived in Seattle from 1851 to 1856 and then again from 1870 till his death.


His first wife, Sarah Ann Peter (daughter of Keziah Peter), died of tuberculosis in June 1856. With her, he had five children:

  • Laura Keziah 1842–1887 (married surname: Coffman)
  • Olive Julia 1846–1921 (married surnames: Stearns and Stewart)
  • Mary Virginia 1847–1931 (married 1872 to George W. Hall)
  • Alvina Lavina 1851–1857
  • Austin Americus 1854–1889

His second wife, Lucy Gamble, was the younger sister of Sarah Ann.


His family is remembered in the name Belltown, a neighborhood immediately north of Downtown where his land claim was located.[3] Bell named many of the streets in the area after his own children, including Bell Street, Virginia and Olive Streets and Olive Way (named for his daughters), and Stewart Street, named for Olive's husband Joseph H. Stewart.[4]


  1. ^ Junius Rochester, Bell, William Nathaniel (1817–1887), HistoryLink, November 1, 1988. Accessed online August 31, 2008.
  2. ^ Marilyn McLauchlan, William Nathaniel Bell, site about Monticello Convention Petition Signers. The page is a contribution to that project by a descendant of Bell's. Accessed online August 31, 2008.
  3. ^ Meany, Edmond S. (1923). Origin of Washington geographic names. Seattle: University of Washington Press. p. 17. 
  4. ^ Case, Frederick (September 3, 1986). "Avenues to the Past: Behind the Street Signs Are the Personalities Who Helped Make a City". The Seattle Times. p. C1.