"The Charles R. Bell Story" was researched by Marissa Calhoun '10 as part of her independent study course work during the spring of 2009. Much of the details were uncovered in the University archives and were also derived from the testimonies of Bucknell students, staff and alumni.
Born in Rumley,Virginia [now West Virginia] on Decemberr 11th, 1827, Charles R. Bell was a former slave who fled to freedom via the Underground Railroad. As Bell states in the December 16th, 1912 edition of The Orange and Blue, "I was born a slave." Bell goes on to say in the article that he had "never known what it was to be a slave, for my master was very kind to me and treated me just as a servant." The situation for Bell changed dramatically after his master's death. Upon the death of his first master Bell was sold to another man by the name of Mr. Marner. According to Bell’s account in the Bucknell newspaper, The Orange and Blue,
"the appraiser said that on account of a broken jaw, I was worth $800. However at the sale I brought for $1,050. After the sale my new master, a Mr. Marner, took those of us he had purchased away to his plantation. Then for the first time in my life I fully realized that I was a slave." (The Orange and Blue, Monday, December 16, 1912)
Bell escaped from slavery in 1851 and fled to Canada, taking along with him his wife. Bell returned home to West Virginia after the Civil War. According to legend, on the way back to his wife and new home in Canada, Bell encountered then Bucknell University president, Justin Loomis, who asked him to work on the campus felling trees and other tasks necessary to the University’s growth and development. For the next forty years, Charles R. Bell served as a highly-regarded employee of Bucknell University.