This is my Great Grandpa Cicero Bell (right) and his son Oren. It's about the only photo I have of Cicero. He died in 1944 after suffering a stroke five years earlier. He was born in 1869 in Wayne County, Kentucky the oldest son of Martha E. Bell. He first married Mittie Ramsey in 1890 and they had four children, Frank, Oren, Leavie and W. C. By 1900 they moved to Texas. In September of 1900, eight days after giving birth to W. C., Mittie and W. C. both died of malaria and in October Leavie died too. Cicero and the two boys moved back to Kentucky.
In March of 1901, Cicero married Allie Spann, the widow of John Vickrey. She had a son, Bill Vickrey. Together they had four sons, Ben, Edd, Stan and Virgil. Stan was my Grandpa. They moved around quite a bit, living for some time in Illinois, Oklahoma, Kansas and finally Giltner, Nebraska.
Back in September, I posted an article on Cicero's Grandparents, John Silas Bell and Rutha Simpson and it was shared in some Wayne County, Kentucky facebook groups. From that, a descendant of their son Garner, Tammy Bell Wray, contacted me. She sent me some photos from her old trunk in the attic, including one of Garner and his wife Martha, and THIS photo! She told me the man with the banjo is her grandfather Bill Bell, son of Garner. Cicero and Bill were first cousins about six years apart in age. Cicero is holding the fiddle. Could he really play the fiddle?! Did he and Bill play often? Maybe they called themselves the "Bell Bottom Boys". Their "back up singers" may be distant relatives as well. Seriously, this photo is such a treasure! I'm very grateful to Tammy for sharing it with me!
From what I knew about Cicero before, I had the impression of a very serious, all-business kind of guy. He had lost a wife and 2 children, had 7 sons to raise, and moved around a lot as if he was always looking for something better. This photo creates an image of a casual, confident man. He looks very natural holding that fiddle, like he enjoys playing it. By the clothes they are wearing, my guess is the photo was maybe taken in the 1890's. That would have been early in his life, when he was with family back home in Kentucky.
The photo below of Cicero's sons may work to compare a likeness with the one above. Standing on the left is Bill Vickrey, Cicero's step-son. Next to Bill are Cicero's two sons with Mittie Ramsey, Frank and Oren. Seated from left to right are Cicero and Allie's sons, Virgil, Ben, Stan and Edd. This photo was taken at Cicero's funeral. Who looks most like his father?