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About Chriss A. Bell

About the author: Chriss A. Bell, a Corporal in the Second Oregon Volunteer Infantry state militia, who was in the Philippines from August, 1898 to June, 1899. James Stanley Rost, who made Bell’s diary the subject of his dissertation, wrote,

Unfortunately, relatively little is known about the life of this corporal. In the muster roll of Company H provided by Brigadier – General C. U. Gantenbein in his book The Official Records Of The Oregon Volunteers In The Spanish War And Philippine Insurrection, (Salem, OR : W. H. Leeds, 1902), Bell is described as 24 years old, 5 feet 9 inches, fair complexion, blue eyes, and light brown hair. He was born in Oregon. His occupation was a lawyer. He is listed as being mustered into service on May 13, 1898 in Portland. For his total service he deposited $65.00 from his pay…

After his Philippine Oregon Volunteer militia service, Chriss A. Bell’s whereabouts remained a mystery. It can be properly assumed that he came back to the United States and most likely returned to Oregon to raise a family. In March, 1989 a relative of his, perhaps a granddaughter, by the name of Edna-Ellen Bell gave his diary as a gift to the Oregon Historical Society Library Manuscripts department. All attempts by this author to contact a Edna-Ellen Bell in the Portland Metropolitan area have been futile.

Rost provides interesting background concerning the Oregon Volunteers:

On May 3, at the request of Secretary Alger, Commanding Major General Nelson Miles submitted a plan to dispatch 5,000 men to Manila to secure the Philippine capital. The force was made up of two battalions of Regular infantry, three Volunteer infantry regiments, and two Volunteer heavy batteries. All the Volunteers were drawn from California, Washington, and Oregon, and they were to assemble at a West Coast port for transport. On May 4, President McKinley directed the concentration of men to be at San Francisco. On May 13, when Dewey requested the dispatch of a garrison to Manila, all the troops were gathering at San Francisco.

Oregon was requested to provide 1,352 men, including 56 officers. The state furnished one regiment of infantry, two batteries of light artillery and one company of engineers. The character of the rank and file of the men were as follows : Average age, 24.98 years; average height, 5 feet 7.68 inches; average weight, 148.5 pounds; married, 89; students, 256; clerks, 141; lawyers, 15; bookkeepers, 15; carpenters, 29; farmers, 123; laborers, 175; mechanics, 66; teachers, 28; merchants, 34; ministers, 2; college graduates, 114; employed when enlisted, 1190; members of a church, 531. The regiment was the first to land in the Philippines, the first to enter the walled city ofManila, and the first to return to the United States. The unit served in the Philippines from August 13, 1898 to June 22, 1899, and was one of the three regiments that performed the difficult and dangerous duty of provost guard in Manila. The unit participated in forty – two battles, engagements, skirmishes, and march a total of five hundred and thirty – eight miles in a three month period from the middle of March to the middle of June, 1899. The diary of Corporal Chriss A. Bell provides a first – hand account of the Oregon regiment’s service and offers a look at how at least one enlisted man viewed his military experience.

An obituary published in The Oregonian on March 6 to March 8, 2015, however, suggests that Chriss Bell got married and had children. From the obituary of Howard Jefferson Bell, some additional information on Chriss Bell, including when and to whom he was married, his children, and some details of his professional life, can be gleaned, as well as a photo of Howard Bell that bears a striking resemblance to the description of his father above:

Bell, Howard Jefferson 104 Nov. 25, 1910 Mar. 02, 2015 Howard Jefferson Bell passed away Monday morning, March 2, 2015, at the age of 104. He was born Nov. 25, 1910, in Portland, to Chriss A. Bell and Charlotte Bennett Bell, who were married on the front porch of the family home in Gearhart in 1904. The family, which included brothers, Robert and Frederick Bell; and sister, Edna Ellen Bell, spent their summers in Gearhart like many families of that day. Their father would stay in Portland during the week and come to the beach on weekends on the “Daddy Train” while mother and the kids would spend their days clamming, beach combing and playing tennis and golf. He grew up and went to school in Portland, attended Glencoe Elementary School, Franklin High School and eventually spent time at Virginia Military Institute and Oregon State University. Admittedly not the greatest student in the world, he ultimately went into his own small business, Howard Bell Film Service, where he worked for the rest of his career. He married May Elaine Turnbull in 1938, after having met her on the tennis courts when they were in high school. Together, they raised three children, Chriss Bell of Green Valley, Ariz., Douglas Bell (Christine) of Portland and Gearhart and Patricia Bell Wollner, also of Gearhart. He also leaves eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Howard was predeceased by his parents, wife, brothers and sister… The family would like to thank all those who carefully cared for him at Necanicum Village in Seaside during his last few months. While he was there, he was able to watch the famous coastal elk herd outside his living room window, as well as a few golfers braving the cold winter sun… Being a man of few words, Howard wrote a note to each of his children describing how he wanted things handled after his death, ending with “Love to you all and will see you in Eternity.”

About the diary: The diary was the subject of a dissertation by James Stanley Rost, Portland State University shared online with free and open access by Portland State University:

Its abstract is as follows:

This thesis is an annotated and edited typescript of a primary source, the handwritten diary of Chriss A. Bell, of the Second Oregon Volunteer Infantry state militia. The diary concerns the events of Oregon’s National Guard state militia in the Spanish-American war in the Philippines, and the Philippine Insurrection that followed. The period of time concerned is from the beginning of May, 1898 to the end of June, 1899.

It was presented on November 19, 1991. As the introductory note to the thesis states,

This thesis is an annotated and edited typescript of a primary source, the handwritten diary of Chriss A. Bell, of the Second Oregon Volunteer Infantry state militia. The diary concerns the events of Oregon’s National Guard state militia in the Spanish-American war in the Philippines, and the Philippine Insurrection that followed. The period of time concerned is from the beginning ofMay, 1898 to the end ofJune, 1899…

This thesis is based solely upon an original source. The handwritten diary of Chriss A. Bell is now in the possession of then Oregon Historical Society.

Mr. Rost transcribed the diary and in his thesis writes,

The editing involved reorganizing passages into paragraphs and clarifying the meanings of words that Bell uses. All words in Bell’s diary are spelled exactly as he wrote it, except for certain cases that I will describe. Bell wrote each entry as one paragraph. For the sake of clarity, without omitting words, or placement of words, paragraphs were formed from long passages…

The diary does not look as “cluttered and reckless” as it was originally written.

Where there are obvious misspellings such as in spelling Philippines as Phillippines “sic” is used. All words in brackets are editorial additives. These brackets are used to clarify, or correct names… to correct dates, such as February 1 written as March 1; to clarify vague words such as Bell’s girlfriend Lottie sometimes being written as L, or ottie.

In Bell’s diary, only the beginning of a month and the entries of the days in that month with just a number were given. Each entry in the edited version has been written out with the month, date, and year. Sometimes in his writing Bell capitalized certain words that for him showed importance such as Mother, these were not corrected. Quotations of conversations that he heard, Bell often punctuated only the beginning of the speaking and not the end. Quotation marks have been used at both ends. In writing sentences in his entries, Bell would occasionally go on to the next sentence starting with a capital letter and not put a period between the ending and beginning of the sentences. Again for clarity and readability, periods were added where they should have gone. Finally, readers should be aware that all diary entries did not end with a period, an error corrected by the editor.

The Philippine Diary Project has retained the editorial corrections and additions as stated above.The footnotes, however, have not been retained. When, in some instances, further corrections have been deemed justified, they are added as underlined text within italicized brackets [thus] and are the Philippine Diary Project’s additions. For example, in the October 24, 1898 entry, the text states “Recollecties” which is quite obviously a reference to [Recoletos].