by Publisher
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At 92 years of age, Mrs. Vera Bell Gary is entertainment personified. Spending a couple of hours with her in her home is an exquisite treat as she regales her audience with tales of the founding families of “The Settlement”. Although it begins with a rather dark tale, the story is truly one of families surviving and thriving through hundreds of years of America’s turbulent history. Much has been written about the Bell family and a young domestic slave from Germany by the name of Katie who fell in love with a dapper cowboy by the name of Calvin. They would have seven children between them even though they were never allowed to live under the same roof. Katie spent two years in prison for marrying Calvin and when she was released she came back home and they build a house next door to Calvin’s to avoid Calvin suffering the same fate. The Caldwell family found its place in The Settlement history through the fate of a young slave by the name of Little Tom – playmate to the daughter of his family’s owners. Tom’s mother worked in “the big house” and some she would bring Little Tom with her to play with the owners child while she worked. As fate would have it, the daughter grew up and fell in love with a wounded Confederate Soldier who was also a cattleman from Texas by the name of Butler. In order for her parents to feel comfortable with sending their daughter so far away, they gifted her with her playmate – Little Tom. It is hard to imagine the impact that had to have been on his mother and on Little Tom but in those days there was nothing to it but to go. And so he ended up riding cattle once grown and once freed, Thomas Caldwell was able to prove he was a freedman of honor and character and so was able to purchase land on The Settlement and raise his family of 14 children as one of four founding members and finding his place in history for all time. His wife, Allie Caldwell passed when Vera’s mother was only 16 and Thomas raised his children alone. At 92 and a three time survivor of cancer, Vera Bell Gary is the epitome of her past. She is indefatigable in her work to preserve the memory of The Settlement and ensure that each generation is able to benefit from the struggles her ancestors, the Bells and the Caldwells, went through to find their way to freedom. There are so many stories surrounding the lives of the these founding families – the Brittons and the Hapsgoods were also founders and reflecting on the lives and the journeys that brought them all together in what is now Texas City and La Marque give us insights into the past that shine a light on how we arrived at our current place in history. Their stories remind us of the importance of recognizing the suffering of others and the importance of offering a hand up without judgement or derision. As you read this, preparations are well underway to celebrate this little piece of history and share the stories of these four families and their accomplishments. Plan to come out to Carver Park from noon to 5:00 today, Saturday October 13, and celebrate our shared history

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Brenda Bell September 18, 2023 - 12:08 am

I met Vera Bell Gary at the Bell House with my Girl Scout Troop and I told her that my last name is Bell and she told me that we might be related.


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