College of Agriculture


Bell Family

The Bell family has a long history in Chico. It was Claudine and Helen's grandfather, Hugh Thomas Bell who left England for the United States in 1856. He found his way to California by 1858. Hugh Thomas Bell finally settled in Butte County in 1865. In 1869 he returned to visit family in England and in 1871 he married Eleanor Ivison. Mr. and Mrs. Bell returned to Chico in 1871. Mr. Bell purchased his first parcel of land in Chico in 1875. Hugh and Eleanor Bell had eight children, four boys and four girls. Bell Road is named after this early pioneering family.

Three of Hugh and Eleanor's sons, Frank, Fred, and Ivison remained on the family farm. Ivison and his wife Bertha had three children, Hugh Thomas (named after his grandfather), Claudine and Helen. It was Tom who significantly expanded the Bell Ranch. Ivison asked his son Tom whether he wanted to raise sheep, grow crops or run livestock. Tom decided to be a cattleman and with the help from his father started a small string of cattle. Over the years, Tom continued to improve and farm the original family property on Bell Road and expand his land holdings to support his cattle operation. Tom eventually ranched more than 16,000 acres including land in Northern California and Southern Oregon. In 1975 the Bell Ranch was accepted into the One Hundred Year Club of the State of California, recognizing the ranch had been in continuous operation for 100 years.

The Bell family relationship with Chico State started early with members of the Bell family attending the original Chico Normal School. Claudine and Helen's aunt Ada attended Chico Normal School in 1889. Both Claudine and Helen received their education at what is now Chico State.

The relationship between the Bell family and the College of Agriculture was formalized in 1987 when, upon Tom Bell's death, and endowment was established to support the animal science program at the Paul F. Byrne Memorial Agricultural Teaching and Research Center. Since 1987 that endowment has funded more than $23,000 in scholarships awarded to nearly 50 students pursuing their education in animal science. Since being established, the H. tom Bell Endowment for Excellence in Animal Science has more than doubled in value and the number of scholarships awarded annually has grown from one to as many as five.