Bell, Joseph H. "Joe"

1878-1953 | Anchorage Pioneer and U.S. Deputy Marshal

Joseph Henry "Joe" Bell and his wife, Ida Mae, landed on Ship Creek in the summer of 1915 to start life in the booming townsite of Anchorage. He was born in Potosi, Wisconsin on October 28, 1878, the son of William Bell and Mary McLaughlin Bell.[1] Little is known about his early life.

After being struck by gold fever, Bell joined the Klondike gold rush, and went over Chilkoot Pass in 1898. He gained a world of experience, but found no riches in his quest. He left the Klondike country in 1906 and spent a good share of his time hauling freight over the Valdez-Fairbanks trail, which provided the first overland access to most of interior Alaska.

Ida Mae Corrigan was born in 1889 in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin to a family of loggers who worked in the timber country in various parts of Wisconsin, eventually settling on a homestead in the Mineral Lake area. She was also known by her family nickname, “Dee,” because another relative was also named Ida Mae. After several years on the homestead, the lumber mills began to slow down, and the Corrigan family started to look west. When Ida was seven years old, her family moved to Buckley, Washington. This was not a good move, as the family moved from one logging camp to another five times in six years.

When Ida Mae Corrigan was sixteen, she left school and went to live with her aunt in Valdez, Alaska, and became the nanny for her children. There, she met Joe Bell, and they were married in 1908. They went to Anchorage in July 1915 and immediately set out to buy a town lot, which were being sold at the July 10, 1915 townsite auction. Ida Mae bought Lot 1, Block 22, located on the southwest corner of 3rd Avenue and A Street, for $115. He obtained work with the Alaska Railroad on a bridge crew and later with the security division. Each time he returned to Anchorage, he worked on construction of his home, which was completed in 1916.

Bell eventually became the U.S. deputy marshal in Anchorage, serving under both Marshal Harry Staser and Marshal Frank Hoffman. He was sent to Kenai and Homer during the summer months when the canneries were operating and the fishing was in full swing and was always accompanied by his family.

The Bells had a son and two daughters: Joseph, Bonnie, and Jean. Joseph, the oldest, was attending the University of Santa Clara in California when he died from a ruptured appendix in 1923. Tragedy seemed to follow the family after his death. Tuberculosis was prevalent in Alaska during those years, and many people became victims of the ravaging disease. Their daughter, Bonnie, contracted it and died at the age of twenty-six, two years after she and her husband, Stanley Parsons, were married. Their daughter, Jean, died only a few months later, near her twentieth birthday.

When their two daughters became ill, Joe and Ida Mae Bell decided to move south for the girls' sake. They settled in San Fernando, California, where Joe Bell died on January 31, 1953. Ida Mae Bell then moved to Oakdale, California where she was cared for by a dedicated cousin, Patricia “Pat” Graham, until her death in 1971.


[1] Draft registration card, Joseph H. Bell, Local Board No. 10, Anchorage, AK, December 10, 1918, National Archives Microfilm Publication M1509, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Roll AK1, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line], (accessed July 18, 2016); and Joseph Henry Bell, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line], (accessed July 18, 2016).


This biographical sketch of Joseph H. "Joe" Bell is based on an essay which originally appeared in John Bagoy's Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage, AK: Publications Consultants, 2001), 35-36. See also the "Joe" Bell file, Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 1, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK. Edited by Mina Jacobs,  2012.  Note: edited and revised by Bruce Parham, July 18, 2016.

Preferred citation: Mina Jacobs and Bruce Parham, eds., “Bell, Joseph H. ‘Joe’,” Cook Inlet Historical Society, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940,

Major support for Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, provided by: Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Atwood Foundation, Cook Inlet Historical Society, and the Rasmuson Foundation. This educational resource is provided by the Cook Inlet Historical Society, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt association. Contact us at the Cook Inlet Historical Society, by mail at Cook Inlet Historical Society, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, 625 C Street, Anchorage, AK 99501 or through the Cook Inlet Historical Society website,